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Graduate scheme vs Graduate jobs: life after university

22nd October 2021

by Holly Cherry and Lily Rogers


If you asked students their post-university plan, most would be uncertain. But what will always remain is that ‘shock to the system’ feeling brought by the transition from university life to the working world. Does the ‘safe’ university bubble mean graduates can struggle to throw themselves into working life? Some students stay in education taking Masters degrees and PhDs, whilst others opt for a graduate scheme. The other option is straight into the world of work – so what’s the best idea?


We could argue a graduate scheme provides you with a more ‘focused’ experience and offers clarity on what to do next. Over the course of a scheme, graduates should expect high quality and structured training, so it could be considered a good way to ease graduates into the world of work. The way they tend to be structured gives exposure to different aspects of a business and after years of studying a single subject this variety may seem appealing. The nature of a graduate scheme is highly competitive and is usually with an established business with a long and challenging recruitment process, so to have this on the CV is impressive, but depending on requirements and character of the graduate, perhaps the structure of a graduate scheme can feel confining.


Graduate scheme applications must be made at the beginning of a student’s final year, applying a lot of pressure during a busy time. So is a graduate scheme limiting in targeting the most organised and focused students and those that are ‘on it’ in January? Or do these schemes wish to filter in those that are highly organised as the expectation does not yield, even after being accepted. I have heard of long hours and weekend working on many graduate schemes, and intense competition to secure a long term job offer. There is no such thing as permanent job security however, so will all the effort definitely pay off?


Whereas in a graduate scheme the experience is varied, in a graduate job the selection of employer is varied. Does genuine experience rival an intense programme of training? A graduate job might be less structured than a graduate scheme, but the graduate will often experience more interaction from a variety of stakeholders as part of a big team, rather than spending most of their working life with other graduates. Also as you can choose from a wider range of businesses, there is more freedom to choose where to live, so work can be built around life rather than the other way round!


Graduate jobs aren’t as extensively marketed to students as graduate schemes, so more effort must be put into finding work. Thankfully though, applications can be after final year, preferred by some students who would rather less disruption to their studies. Most graduate jobs offer an immediate start that provide hands-on exposure to the world of work, which may be better suited to graduates that are keen to get on with gaining practical experience. As usual, it’s down to the individual as to which way is best! Your life at work is long and it’s best to not pigeon-hole yourself too early.


Our personal view? No matter what, always do your research, not just on graduate prospects but also on yourself, and the best working lifestyle for you. From my (Lily) personal experience, the thought of applying for schemes so early on felt overwhelming. Going straight into the world of work has helped me land on my feet, especially after all the emotions I’ve felt after finishing my studies. It’s also allowed me to live with my friends in a city I love, and provided me with a wonderful support network. However, many of my friends have gone down the graduate scheme route and absolutely love it. They have made incredible connections and live in places they may not have been able to otherwise. It is not a one size fits all and both can give you amazing experiences. Keep an open mind and the rest will follow!

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