If you have started to think about jobs after graduating, you have probably come across many employers who are offering graduate training schemes. But what are they and why should you apply to them?

These schemes are predominantly found within the finance, management and engineering industries. They offer a tailor-made route into the profession for capable graduates. They are designed to give you a fuller understanding of the profession and company and help you develop your technical skills, support you during studying for professional qualifications, build your commercial knowledge and soft skills as well as give you opportunities to develop your professional network.

However, have no illusions, they are hard work. Competition can be fierce to get onto them and a lot will be expected of you during the scheme. You will also be expected to balance working full-time and studying. But these schemes are well respected and the benefits are manifold.

What are the benefits?

Firms with graduate training schemes usually have one intake a year (often two, autumn and spring), with a September start date. At this time there can be from 20 to as many as 550 graduates starting (this depends greatly on the size of the company). This can produce an almost university style atmosphere and a good way to start building those vital professional relationships.

This structured programme can often mean it is easier to settle into departments as you may have met some of your colleagues already. It is also common to have a ‘buddy’ scheme in place where graduates have access to recent trainees to ask their advice. In addition to a mentor, which is a more senior member of staff who can help with more career related queries.
Study support is often built into these programmes, with staff available to give advice on exams and studying as well as days off to ensure that you pass your professional qualifications.

Other support which may be offered is financial. Companies may cover the cost of course materials and fees for exams, tutorials, and institutes. This may be in addition to a competitive salary and benefits package.

What to expect

Graduate training schemes can vary in length. Accountancy graduate training schemes generally last three years, whilst banking schemes tend to last for two and training for patent attorneys can take as long as six years. Often, schemes will involve a number of placements within different departments. This can be useful because it can help you decide where you would like to end up, but also provide an overview of how the different departments function together. These placements can be across the UK and sometimes abroad.

The programme will usually start with an induction period where you are introduced to the company, the type of customer or clients they deal with and the type of projects they are involved in. You will then embark on a number of placements which will have training opportunities integrated into them, focusing on both technical and soft skills. You will be given time to study but also a fairly large amount of responsibility early on, which may be quite daunting.

A work/life balance can be difficult but possible. However, during periods where assignments and exams are coming you may be expected to spend around 20 hours per week on your studies.

Social events are common especially amongst graduates from the same intake but you will be given opportunities to interact with more senior staff as well. Many companies value these events because they give you a chance to build your work relationships across different departments and levels of seniority.

The application process

The application process for these schemes can be quite tricky. Companies will usually ask for a 2.1 from your degree and possibly from certain disciplines depending on the scheme, they will also ask for you to have 280-320 UCAS points.

Alternative routes are available: PwC for instance, ask for these requirements, but also offer a route for those who can demonstrate through extracurricular activities that they have the skills and characteristics they are seeking.

The application process may entail an online application initially, followed by interviews, assessment centre sessions and possibly psychometric testing. During these occasions you should demonstrate your communication skills, behaving professionally with other potential applicants and the company staff at the event.

Remember this process is as much about you deciding whether the company is right for you as the company deciding you are right for them.

Most companies will have one intake period, usually during the autumn (October – December) for graduates to start the following September. Some companies have ongoing recruitment and it is worth applying early for these positions as they will fill them up as and when good applicants come along.

How to find a graduate scheme

Many of the employers who recruit graduates into these schemes can be found on campus. They will usually attend careers fairs but will also host their own presentations and ‘meet & greets’. If they are not visiting your university they can also be found at the larger regional fairs, open to anyone looking for graduate opportunities.

Further information can also be found at your university careers centre, where the trained staff should be able to help you find a scheme and provide advice on your CV and the recruitment process.

Many graduate training scheme positions can be found through our job search function. 

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