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Graduate jobs

Develop your career after graduation

Graduate Jobs and Graduate Schemes

There are two main types of graduate employment in the UK: graduate schemes and graduate jobs. They are both valuable opportunities where you can use your degree. However, the structure and application process can be quite different.

Graduate Schemes

Graduate schemes (or programmes) tend to be with larger organisations. They are usually structured training programmes of around 18 months to 2 years. Employers tend to recruit a large number of candidates each year. They are competitive and involve several stages in their recruitment process.

You usually need to apply for graduate schemes a year before they start. Applications start to open in August or September and close as early as October to December. These roles will then start in the following summer/autumn.

They are common in sectors such as:

  • Business
  • Finance
  • Engineering
  • Retail
  • Law
  • IT

Graduate schemes can also be found in some non-for profit sectors, such as the police, social work and teaching. They are less common in the creative sector such as media. 

Entry requirements vary, but employers often ask for a minimum degree classification of 2.1 or 2.2.

Many graduate schemes, like accountancy and management, are open to any degree discipline. Some graduate schemes, such as engineering, IT or science, will need specific degree subjects.

Graduate schemes are usually advertised widely. You can also speak to graduate recruiters at events. Here, you ask them about their roles and potentially develop contacts.

For more information, see the Debut Careers' Guide to graduate schemes.

Graduate Jobs

Graduate jobs also offer training and support, but they can be less structured than graduate schemes. Recruitment for graduate jobs can take place all year round.

Vacancies may be based on business need rather than having a set number of graduates they hire each year.

Jobs usually start immediately and have a simpler and shorter recruitment process. They also tend to be less competitive than graduate schemes.

Graduate jobs can be less widely advertised, so you may need to do more research to find them. They can be found:

  • directly on employer websites
  • on popular graduate job sites seen in the advertised vacancies sections
  • on sector specific websites or recruitment agencies, as listed on our Explore Occupations pages.
  • through contacting employers directly

Want more help finding opportunities? Book an in-person or online appointment via MyCareer with an Information Adviser.

Making sense of the options

Find out more about:

  • what graduate schemes involve
  • how to find them
  • how to get onto one

Advertised Vacancies

There are many ways to start your search for roles. The key for graduate schemes or large employers is to start early as many will recruit a year ahead. Small and medium companies may advertise all year round, based on business need.

Use the following lists to find graduate vacancies.


Finding hidden opportunities

You can approach many employers directly, even when they aren't advertising a vacancy. This is sometimes called a speculative application.

Find an employer that you're interested in and send them a tailored CV and cover letter or email.

Make sure you:

  • express your enthusiasm for the sector
  • show you have researched the company and explain why you want to work for them
  • be clear about why you are contacting them, and the type of opportunity you are interested in
  • highlight what you can contribute, your skills, experience and knowledge.

Try to identify a contact name to address your cover letter to. You can try calling to find out who's responsible for recruitment within the organisation or a key contact in the department you want to work in.

It’s useful to follow up a speculative application with an email or phone call, around 5-7 days afterwards, to show you are serious and motivated.

For more advice, see TARGETjobs: Making speculative applications for graduate jobs.

Social media

Many employers use social media to recruit students and graduates.

Employers use LinkedIn, Facebook, X (formerly Twitter) and Instagram to:

  • share opportunities
  • source and headhunt candidates
  • share information and communicate with students
  • research potential candidates online

Social media can be a useful way of finding job opportunities. You can follow companies online, make contacts and keep up to date with recruiters. It can also give you an insight into an organisations culture and the type of candidate they’re looking for.

Be careful when posting on social media sites. 70% of employers use social media to screen candidates before hiring. Anything you put on social media should be something you'd be happy for a recruiter to see.

Job offers have been withdrawn from people who posted inappropriate comments about the company online. Find out more on this study from CareerBuilder.

See these websites for more advice on using social media in your job search:

Graduate salaries

To find information about starting salaries, complete our Discover your Earning Potential Pathway on MyCareer. This will allow you to access the pay index which can show you:

  • your potential salary based on your degree
  • how much your pay will be after deductions
  • how salary varies across different roles, industries and locations

The following resources offer salary advice and can help with your research:

For information on how to negotiate a salary with an employer, visit Handling job offers.