Graduate schemes in the UK – everything you need to know

One of the many advantages for students who complete a degree is being able to access a new career through a graduate scheme. 

Here Amy Knott, one of Arden University’s Outreach and Recruitment Advisors, outlines everything students need to know about these important and, in some cases life-changing, graduate schemes.

What is a graduate scheme?

According to Prospects, a graduate scheme is ‘a structured training programme run by an employer to develop future leaders of their organisation’. They usually begin in September/October time (after you graduate) and will typically last for between one and 3 years. These schemes often give graduates the opportunity to get involved with projects in various different teams and departments to give the graduate the opportunity to ‘dip their toe’ in several areas to see what they like and are good at; giving fantastic professional development and networking opportunities. If the graduate excels, the company may offer them a permanent position at the end of the scheme. Many organisations across many sectors run graduate schemes; and every year, The Times compile a list of the Top 100 Graduate Employers.

Applying for graduate schemes

Applications for graduate schemes usually have deadlines of the November/December before the graduate scheme begins, but some companies do recruit throughout the year and some do close early if they have lots of applications – so the advice is to always apply early! Different companies will have different eligibility criteria and application processes that they usually advertise well on their websites, but in general:

  • Graduate programmes generally expect applicants to have a 2:1 or higher but some are more flexible
  • Most application processes will start off with an online application; and then psychometric tests, assessment centres and interviews may follow
  • Taking time to research the company and practice interview questions are key preparation tips for the application process
  • You can find websites that list deadlines for when larger companies’ graduate schemes close to applications each year, such as the Bright Network

COVID-19 and graduate schemes

Graduate schemes, like everything else, have been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Graduate training scheme numbers are down in 2020 compared to previous years, but the good news for those interested, is they have been less affected than other areas of the job market. For those still recruiting, graduate employers are running their interviews and assessment centres – and therefore their entire application process – virtually; and graduates starting schemes this year will have likely done so from home (or at least will be working from home now). 

Support at Arden

Arden students gain access to a bespoke careers portal via our online learning platform iLearn where they can search specifically for graduate schemes using the Job Search Engine, and they can also sign up to weekly emails that promote latest graduate scheme opportunities and information. They can also use the portal to practice interview techniques; create and check their CV; learn about assessment centres; practice aptitude tests; research companies and more to help with applications to graduate schemes. 

Other websites that include information and promote graduate schemes include:




Give a Grad a Go