Options for international Students that aren't a Graduate Scheme

Graduate jobs

May 05, 2020

As an international student, it is imperative to figure out your next step after graduation in advance. One of the most prominent options is presented by the graduate schemes or traineeships that the big companies post. Companies in the business, finance, audit, insurance, engineering fields recruit graduates through such schemes and open applications as early as October of the previous calendar year. These schemes often have great salaries, provide extensive training and experience and make it easier to secure a work permit VISA.

Securing a job in one of these coveted graduate schemes is a feat, but these schemes are also highly competitive.

According to Universities UK International, in 2017–18, there were 458,490 international students studying at UK higher education institutions, accounting for 19.6% of the total student population in the UK.

It is likely that a majority of these students are also hunting for the same opportunities that provide a work permit. So they start applying in October and then wait to hear back on their application. As a graduate on a student visa, you don’t have a lot of time to figure things out. 


Therefore, it is important for you to know that these aren’t the only options available to you. Let us explore the other available routes:

Paid internships

Under the wide umbrella term of ‘internships’, you can find internships that vary in length from a fortnight to a year. Certain specific internship schemes operate in the same way as graduate schemes - they offer a Tier 5 Visa, which is the Youth Mobility Visa. It lets you engage in work experience, training, academic research, fellowships as well as internships. With this Visa, you can live and work in the UK without restriction for up to 24 months, depending upon the scheme. 


If you perform well as an intern, you might even secure a full-time position at the company! 


Seek out your entrepreneurial side

Whether you have a business idea or want to freelance, self-employment is always an option for an entrepreneurial person. If your business idea has commercial potential and you have the passion to drive it, you can reach out to your University’s career services and inquire about any entrepreneurship programmes they run. For example, the University of Bristol Careers Services team has a Basecamp Enterprise Team that provides support to those interested in start-up and entrepreneurship.


Plenty of Universities in the UK run programmes that help you crystallise the pitch for your venture, connect you to funders or investors as well as mentors and facilitate in the process of launching your idea. 


Smaller companies

Often students believe that the only way to stay and work in the UK is through the grad schemes offered by the likes of KPMG and Deloitte. While smaller companies and start-ups don’t have a graduate scheme, they can be excellent employers and an excellent workplace - they offer more personal and less hierarchical work environment. The thrill of being a part of a company in its growth phase is an added perk. In some fields like journalism, media, law, etc, graduate schemes aren’t as popular. The best way to crack into these fields is through networking with smaller organisations who are willing to have international experience on their team!


Further education

If academics interest you, further education is always an option. A Masters degree or a research degree can be handy if you are confident of specialisation or your general academic area of interest. Research degrees are much more rigorous than an undergraduate degree. There’s also the option to pursue professional training or course. 

A word of caution, however: studying any degree in the UK as an international student takes time and money, so do not think of an advanced degree as a back-up option to fall on or to stall for time. Only go down this path if it really, really interests you. 

The bottom line is this: graduate schemes can provide a great launch board for your career. They present a relatively smooth way of securing a Tier 2 Visa and that is of monumental importance as an international student. But a traditional and typical graduate scheme may not suit your aptitude, skills or passion. Always stay open to other possibilities. 

Featured Image Credits: Photo by Studio Republic on Unsplash

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