A question careers advisers are often asked is ‘What’s the difference between a graduate scheme, internship and job?‘ In this post we outline the differences, and give some advice on what to consider before deciding which option is best for you.

Graduate schemes

Graduate schemes are often advertised by large employers and typically last between 18 months and 2 years . They normally offer relatively high starting salaries and the opportunity to experience working in different departments, which means they are popular with students and graduates, and therefore very competitive.

The majority of graduates schemes are open to final year students as well as graduates to apply for. Applications usually open in late summer or early autumn and schemes often close when employers have the desired number of applications so the earlier you apply the better. Graduate schemes are most popular in areas such as business, finance, marketing, sales and management consulting and less common in areas like the arts, publishing and heritage industries.

Although it is always helpful to have relevant work experience for the scheme or industry you are applying for, many employers offering graduate schemes will be open minded when it comes to considering your other activities such as part-time jobs, voluntary work and hobbies and interests outside of your degree.

A common misconception is that you need a 2:1 or above to apply for graduate schemes but this is not always the case. Schemes that accept candidates with a a 2:2 include EY, Nationwide, Network Rail, GCHQNHS, M&S and Jaguar Land Rover.

Use the following websites to find graduate schemes:

Some graduate schemes do not appear on sites like the ones above, so it is important to do your own research to find these. Some schemes which have been popular with Arts and Law students in the past include: The National Graduate Development Programme, The Civil Service Fast StreamTeach FirstCharityworks, Cancer Research, Think AheadFrontline, BBC, Ambassador Theatre Group and GCHQ.

Don’t under estimate the importance of creating a tailored, well-researched application. With employers receiving 100s or sometimes 1000s of applicants for each scheme, it is worth putting in the effort to make your application stant out. An employer will want to see you have fully researched what they do, their particular scheme and what makes your suitable for it.

Graduate jobs

An ‘entry-level’ or graduate job is any job that requires a degree.  For the majority of graduates, their first job out of university is an entry-level one and these opportunities can be found in all industries and for all employers – including those that offer graduate schemes.

The majority of entry-level jobs are open to anyone with a degree, regardless of when they graduated and so they aren’t exclusively for final year students. However, if you see job titles such as ‘Graduate Teaching Assistant’ or ‘Graduate Trainee’ it shows you that the employer offering the vacancy is interested in recruiting a recent graduate (or soon to be graduate).

Jobs will either be temporary (or sometimes referred to as ‘fixed term’) or permanent and are advertised all-year round. Apply for jobs 1-2 months before you are ready to start work – autumn term is too early! 

In general, temporary jobs tend to be less competitive than permanent ones, so if you want to find a job quickly, applying for temporary jobs can be a good strategy (along with recruitment agencies).

Although vacancy sites such as Prospects, Indeed and TARGETjobs advertise jobs, these are often used by employers offering graduate schemes –  you will not find many opportunities with smaller or medium-sized companies on them. Use industry-specific websites instead – visit our insight pages and select ‘Insight guides’ for a list of the best websites to use. Remember too that lots of employers won’t advertise vacancies anywhere other than on their own website, so searching for employers in your local area or where you wish to move to can also be helpful.

 Graduate internships

Like some jobs, graduate internships are temporary positions and can be offered by both large and small employers in a range of industries. Unlike jobs though, employers that advertise a graduate internship are looking to fill the vacancy with a recent graduate.

Graduate internships are advertised all year round but most final year students will need to apply in spring or summer term if you want an internship after your course has finished. Internships like these can sometimes result in a permanent job offer, however their short-term nature makes them most popular with graduates who want to get some experience before committing  long-term.

If graduate internships appeal to you take a look at these sites: Careers Connect (exclusive opportunities, internships and jobs all over the UK and abroad), Graduate Advantage (West Midlands), Graduate Talent PoolStep and Inspiring Interns.

Got a question about graduate schemes, internships or jobs? Get in touch via our website.