There is often a lot of confusion about the differences between a graduate scheme and a graduate job. You might use the words interchangeably, but in UK graduate recruitment they mean different, things. Both offer excellent opportunities to start your career, but there are some key differences between the two. Read on to find out how they differ.
A graduate scheme is a structured programme offered usually by large companies, although some smaller companies and public sector organisations do offer them too. They are designed to give graduates a range of experiences across different areas of the business. These schemes are usually two or three years in length and involve rotations across various departments within the company. There will often be a cohort of multiple graduates moving through the scheme together. Graduate schemes often offer training, mentoring and support to help graduates develop their skills and knowledge. These schemes are highly competitive, with many applicants vying for a limited number of positions.
Although all employers vary, graduate schemes typically recruit in the autumn of your final year of university, with applications opening as early as August and closing in November. Assessment centres and interviews usually take place between November and January. Successful candidates start their schemes in September of the following year. As they are structured programmes, employers will recruit for these each year and follow a similar timeline each time.
Some graduate schemes do have a second-round of recruitment in the Spring or Summer.
On the other hand, a graduate job is a permanent position offered to graduates by an organisation. Unlike graduate schemes, these jobs do not usually involve rotations across different departments or structured training programmes. Instead, graduates are usually placed in a specific role within a company and are expected to develop their skills and knowledge in that area. Graduate jobs are still competitive, but they tend to have a less structured and shorter application process than graduate schemes. For example, it is unlikely you will take part in an assessment centre. A CV and cover letter or short application might be all is required to be considered for interview.
Graduate jobs are often recruited for throughout the year on an as-needed basis. So, an employer might not recruit for the role every year. As they have a shorter application process, jobs tend to be immediate start. If you are currently studying, you would want to start applying three months before you are available to start work at the earliest. Graduate roles aren’t always advertised or advertised as widely as graduate schemes and you may have to work harder to find them. For example, though networking, word of mouth or speculative applications.
What if I have missed out on a graduate scheme?
Whether you applied to graduate schemes and were not successful or were focusing on your studies and missed the Autumn window, it is important to remember that there are still plenty of opportunities available if you have missed out on a graduate scheme. Contrary to what it may feel like, graduate schemes make up a very small proportion of graduate recruitment. Graduate schemes and graduate jobs both offer a good start to your career, and one is not necessarily better than the other. Lots of great employers offer interesting graduate jobs and some companies that offer graduate schemes, might also offer entry-level graduate roles too.
However, it is also worth pointing out that graduate schemes are not limited to applications from final years only. Most graduate schemes allow recent graduates (graduating in the last year or two) to apply as well. So if you have missed out on the Autumn graduate scheme window, you could try again this coming Autumn after graduation.
Whether you choose a graduate scheme or a graduate job will depend on your personal preferences and career goals. It’s important to consider both options and research the companies that you are interested in.
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