Our Guide to Graduate Jobs 2024

Future-proof your career, wherever and whoever you are.

As your university days come to an end, you’ll start thinking about what it is you want to do next. Whether you’re looking for graduate jobs, graduate schemes or graduate programmes, knowing the difference between these, who offers them, when applications open (and close) and how they’ll benefit you will go a really long way.

Want to know how the graduate landscape works?

We’ve compiled this guide to help you choose between a grad job and grad scheme.

What is a graduate job?

Graduate jobs are for university students who are looking for their first permanent job at a company or organisation once they get their Bachelor’s degree.

These jobs give first-hand insight into an industry while allowing you to build relationships with colleagues, take on responsibilities and develop soft and hard skills that are vital in today’s competitive job market.

What can you expect from a graduate job?

A graduate job involves working at a specific company, team and role. Your responsibilities depend on your industry and sector. If you work in content marketing, you might blog as a copywriter or become a social media star, making TikTok reels to power the company’s socials.

If you work in software engineering, you’ll use your programming and coding skills to create the back-end elements of a website so front-end developers and end users can navigate it correctly.

Graduate jobs do not have a fixed structure. Nor do they involve rotations across multiple departments. They’re less competitive than graduate schemes, and don’t require you to attend any assessment centres. A CV, cover letter and interview will be enough to get you the position.

How long does a graduate job last?

As long as you like. The sky’s the limit. These are permanent positions, so you decide how long you stay. If you enjoy the company and feel like you’re constantly learning, you might stick around and work your way up to a senior role. If not, you’ll move onto something else.

Fixed-term contracts

Some graduate jobs are advertised as fixed-term contracts. These are usually maternity covers or interim positions where you’re hired to help out during busy periods, like campaign seasons.

When to apply for a graduate job?

There’s no set deadline when it comes to graduate job applications. These roles are advertised all year round - as and when needed, with shorter application windows and start dates. 

If you’re in your final year at university, it’s best to apply for grad jobs three months before you graduate so you won’t have any conflicting schedules with your studies once you get the role.

Your application checklist:

  • Create an effective graduate CV - be specific about your experience, emphasise what impact you made on a business rather than just your responsibilities and add numbers to back it up.

  • Write a smashing graduate cover letter - don’t forget to add a sprinkle of personality!

  • Pull together your application documents - this includes a tailored CV and cover letter for each role. Plus, any forms you’ll need to fill out.

  • Start preparing your graduate interview questions - research is key!

    Not sure where to start with your application? Discover how to get a graduate job with no experience.

Do graduate jobs require degrees?

Not anymore. Once upon a time you needed a degree to secure a graduate job after university. However, lots of employers are choosing to focus on skills and attributes instead of a degree classification to reach a wider talent pool, meaning degrees aren’t necessary. 

According to the Institute of Student Employers, less than 50% of employers now ask for a 2:1 qualification. Santander has removed the 2:1 classification from its graduate programme and Kellogs has cut the need out for a degree altogether!

Are graduate jobs paid?

Yes. Salaries for graduate jobs tend to be lower than graduate schemes, ranging from £18,000 - £24,000 a year depending on your experience, employer, and location. London-based companies tend to pay more than regional ones due to the higher cost of living in the capital.

Remember, the harder you work and the more experienced you become, the sooner you’ll get a promotion and climb up the salary ladder. Pretty sweet!

What if I miss out on a graduate job deadline?

If you miss the boat with graduate job applications, or happen to be unsuccessful this time round, don’t panic. Look out for other roles at the company. 

Lots of companies hire internally before advertising to the wider public. So once your position becomes available, you’ll be the first to know and can then make the switch.

In this video, Youtuber Jac Williams discusses how to get a graduate job with little to no experience:

What is a graduate scheme?

A graduate scheme is a structured programme offered primarily by larger organisations to help university graduates kick-start their careers. These schemes are usually between one to three years long and allow you to rotate around different areas of a company to get a real feel for the business.

You might spend three months in finance, another three in marketing and half a year in HR. Or spend a whole year in one department and a full year in another.

The point of a graduate scheme is to teach you everything there is to know about an industry and help you make informed career decisions as to whether you want to work there or not.

Graduate schemes are paid, full-time positions that give you the same workplace benefits as any other employee. They offer mentorship, support and training which lead to professional qualifications that you can showcase on your CV to help boost your employability.

If you work hard, you may even go on to secure permanent employment with the company! So make sure you give it your all. You never know where it could lead.

How much will you be paid?

With a graduate scheme, you can expect to earn anything from £25,000 a year upwards, though it all depends on your employer. Aldi, for example, have a very generous starting salary for their grad schemes, starting at £44,000 a year!

How to apply for a graduate scheme?

If you want to apply for a graduate scheme, the first thing you’ll need to do is put a CV and cover letter together. Make sure you tailor your application for every single role you go for. Employers can smell a generic CV a mile off. So play your cards right! 

Before sending out your application, take a pen and paper and make a list of all your skills and qualifications to date. If you’ve never worked, you might still have some transferable skills you can bring to the table through volunteering or extra-curricular activities.

By evaluating your skills, you’re in a stronger position when it comes to choosing a career path and seeing which roles align with your abilities and interests.


Graduate schemes are super competitive. While some employers accept students who achieve a 2:2, those with a 2:1 have the best shot of bagging a place. 

Always make sure to check every job advertisement before applying.


Did you know that lots of businesses offering graduate schemes also offer internships? If you don’t quite make the cut, it’s always worth doing an internship first. Companies tend to keep things in-house and hire for their graduate roles from their current pool of interns.

By doing an internship, you’ll actually increase your chances of a full-time gig. Not reduce it.

Get the full-lowdown in our guide to internships.

What happens on a graduate scheme?

The aim of a graduate scheme is to train you up, with a view of turning you into a permanent employee. So the training you’ll receive will focus heavily on professional development and reflect what’s expected from the role. Tasks will be challenging. But they’re there to test you.

And prove your capabilities. Making it 100% worth it.

While your responsibilities depend on your employer, industry and role, much of what you do will revolve around pitching ideas to senior colleagues and helping the company win new business. For example: marketing a product through social media. Or networking with clients at events. 

Which employers offer graduate schemes?

Though it’s less common for smaller businesses to advertise graduate schemes, larger companies in HR, finance, retail, law, consulting, engineering, recruitment and healthcare will always offer them.

For example:

What is the difference between a graduate job, graduate scheme and graduate programme?

Graduate jobs. Graduate schemes. Graduate programmes. They all sound wildly similar - don’t they? Which is why we’re here. To break all these post-university options down and make sure you’re picking the right one for you.

But before we go any further, it’s important to note that graduate programmes are the same as graduate schemes. The only difference is their names. Phew

And now that we have this out the way, let’s get onto the important stuff…

Graduate jobs VS graduate schemes

Graduate jobs and graduate schemes both offer university leavers the chance to work at a company and build skills while developing industry contacts and earning a good salary.

However, while graduate schemes are structured and cyclical, allowing you to move around different departments and trial different tasks, graduate jobs have you stay put, working in one department and team.

The application process of a graduate scheme is also a lot stricter than a graduate job. With a graduate job, you’ll send a CV and cover letter, then get shortlisted for an interview. Graduate schemes have multiple stages: assessment centres, psychometric tests.

Not to mention interviews (yes, sometimes more than one)...

Graduate jobs VS graduate schemes: Which to choose?

When it comes to choosing between graduate schemes or graduate jobs, it’s important to pick one that aligns with your career goals. 

If you’re sure about an industry, but not the role, a graduate scheme would suit you best as it’ll give you a well-rounded view of different areas within the business. 

However, if you’re absolutely certain about what you want to do after university, a graduate job would be better as it’ll cement your knowledge and experience right from the start.