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Graduate schemes explained

Graduate schemes explainedFind out how graduate schemes can kickstart your career.

What is a graduate scheme?

A graduate scheme is an on-the-job training scheme for recent graduates. Employers use them to try to recruit the best graduates each year, which means that they normally offer better salaries and more development opportunities than other graduate jobs, but are also highly competitive. They're most common at large companies, especially in areas like finance and engineering which need lots of graduate-level employees.

If you complete the training successfully, you'll normally get a permanent job at the end, and you might also get a qualification. Schemes often last for around a year, but could be much shorter or longer.

Finding graduate schemes

Many large companies run graduate schemes, so if there is a place you are particularly interested in working, look on their website or get in touch directly.

For more general graduate scheme searches, look on job websites - especially those with a graduate focus, such as TargetJobs, Milkround or Prospects. It's also worth registering with a graduate recruitment agency, who will help you to find opportunities and get through the application process.

Employers who run graduate schemes will often come to university careers fairs. This gives you an opportunity to find out about some of the schemes that are available and talk directly to employers about what is involved.

How to apply

You'll apply for graduate schemes in your final year of university. The exact deadline will vary: some schemes have deadlines as early as October or November, so it's important to make sure you check the deadline carefully and prepare well in advance. Save the Student has a list of deadlines for popular graduate schemes. Try to apply as early as you can: if a scheme is very popular, aplications might close early.

The application process for graduate schemes is normally longer than for other jobs, involving multiple interviews, tests and assessment days. As you'll be applying while you're still at university, make sure you make full use of your university's careers service throughout the application process.

Try to avoid applying for lots of different graduate schemes in the hope that one of your applications will be successful. It's better to pick a small number of schemes that you're really interested in and putting extra effort into each application, since the process is so competitive. Make sure that your CV, cover letter and application are tailored to the specific requirements of each scheme.

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