Difference Between Graduate Schemes and Graduate Jobs

Graduate jobs

October 03, 2021

As an international student in the UK, you’ll attend career events, webinars, and orientation sessions. At these sessions, you will be told that in order to land a suitable opportunity post-study, your best option is to apply for graduate roles. 


These opportunities will include graduate schemes, graduate jobs, contract jobs, among other entry-level roles, like the ones listed on our platform, that also sponsor the Skilled Worker Visa. But the nomenclature of these different types of opportunities can be very confusing. We often hear from students that they don’t immediately understand the difference between Graduate Schemes and Graduate jobs. After all, aren’t both of these opportunities for students graduating from university?


While both these options are open to students graduating with a university degree, there’s a big difference in how the two opportunities are structured. Let’s find out. 


Graduate Schemes


Graduate Schemes are usually time-limited, structured programmes started by firms or organisations for hiring fresh talent in large numbers. 



Graduate schemes have a well-defined recruitment cycle: they are advertised usually for months & aim to hire new grads in bulk. 


Training component
Graduate schemes usually have a set length, anything from six months to three years or more. They can involve professional training and with many, you will come out with a professional qualification, for example in social work or accountancy. Many graduate schemes also involve working on rotation, meaning you spend time in different parts of the organisation to get a feel for what you like best. 


Competitive Application Process

Grad schemes are very competitive and highly sought-after for the reasons listed above. This means the application process can be tough and quite rigid, as there are a limited number of places available each year. You can expect to have to take psychometric tests and attend assessment centres and so on.


The Role

A graduate scheme runs like a programme that runs for a pre-determined period of time, like for 12 months, up to a maximum of 36 months. After that, there’s no guarantee of a job, so you have to prove your skills on the job.



Many grad schemes mention that they will prefer candidates with a 2:1 or above, but this isn’t always the case. Often, they’re happy to take students with 2:2s as well.


Graduate Jobs


Graduate Jobs require you to have graduated already. This, in turn, means that the time period when you apply and when you secure the position is very narrow. The application process reflects that. These opportunities are opened on a need-basis: unlike graduate schemes, there are often only a handful of vacancies available. 


Advertisement of jobs

Graduate jobs may not be as heavily advertised. On top of it, grad jobs that sponsor the Skilled Worker Visa will be even harder to find. This is where Student Circus can help you save time by listing down pre-filtered job opportunities that are guaranteed to give you a visa if you land the job. In order to make an impression, we recommend that you network & establish a rapport with the professionals in your field who could be your future colleagues or managers. 


No regularity

Because Graduate Jobs are opened on a need-basis, there’s no guarantee if a company will have vacancies in a particular year (unlike grad schemes with guaranteed intakes). 


Training Component

Graduate jobs are less structured than grad schemes, so the training component may be shorter (if any). Most of the learning happens on-the-job with hands-on work. 


Employer Profile

You can find graduate jobs in a variety of organizations, from startups to big businesses, SMEs, and so on. They may have a slightly different recruitment process but the process will be much less rigorous than grad schemes. 


Good news

Because employers can have a need to hire graduates any time during the year, the graduate jobs are advertised throughout the year, as opposed to grad schemes that are open for specific application windows. You should make use of this time & apply for grad jobs all year round.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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