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Is A Graduate Training Scheme Right For You?

By Ella Patenall

Updated July 17, 2018 Updated July 17, 2018

By Kate Jones

In a time when significant numbers of graduates are struggling to find graduate-level employment, landing a place on a decent graduate training scheme has never been more important. In the UK, starting salaries begin from as much as £39,000 for law graduates, while the supermarket Aldi offers its graduate recruits up to £42,000 per year.

Globally, the competition for places on good graduate training schemes is fierce, and having a solid degree is just the start. Most employers have tough expectations above and beyond your grades and you’ll need to prepare for several grueling rounds of interviews before the job is finally yours.

Of course, there are jobs available outside of the graduate training scheme structure, but, for those who do head down this path, the rewards are generous, including a great salary and benefits, a formal learning and mentoring pathway to kickstart your career, and potential opportunities to travel the world. These programs aren’t right for everyone though, which is why we’ve put together this quick guide to help you decide what’s best for you.

Things to think about before you join a graduate training scheme

If you’ve made the decision to put your career first for the next five years or so, a graduate training scheme may well be an excellent choice for you. But, if there are other areas in your life that take precedence, you should tread carefully.

The demands placed on new recruits are usually pretty high - you may be expected to work long hours in the evening or even during weekends, travel extensively, or even relocate as and when the business requires you to.

It’s also important to consider whether working for a large organization will suit you. Does the idea of a formal, well-planned career sound like your sort of thing, or does the thought of it make you feel trapped? Do you long for security, status and a fat salary, or would you prefer to keep your options open? Are you comfortable with bureaucracy and hierarchy, or more free-spirited and entrepreneurial? Answers to these questions will likely dictate how suitable you are for the rigid confines of a graduate training scheme.

If it’s not for you, what are the alternatives?

If you’re put off by the commitments expected from graduates taking part in a dedicated training scheme, don’t worry - there are many exciting and equally worthwhile alternatives for you to consider.

Entry-level jobs outside of training schemes

There are lots of companies looking for graduates to join their ranks in entry-level positions which sit outside of formalized training schemes. If there is a specific location you want to live in, or you know exactly what job you’d like to do, this could be a great option.

Start-ups and SMEs

If you’re a creative thinker with an entrepreneurial spirit, taking a job with a small firm or even a start-up could be the right choice. While this could potentially be a riskier move, as larger, more established businesses are less likely to fail or need to make you redundant, your first job out of university is arguably the best time to take a chance. If it pays off, you could be a key figure at the next million-dollar company.


Taking a job is a big commitment. You’ll be expected to dedicate five days out of seven to your employers, typically with little scope for flexibility during working hours. If you’re simply not ready to take the leap into full-time contracted work, why not consider freelancing? Choosing your own hours and working on projects you enjoy can be highly rewarding, especially for those in creative fields. It will leave you more financially vulnerable, however, as periods without regular work are possible.

Whatever you decide, be sure to ask yourself this: what do you want to do? Make your decision based on your own needs and desires rather than the expectations of others. Wherever you end up working, your first job after university is all about self-improvement, even if sometimes that means making mistakes and learning from them. You won’t be making a commitment that will decide your entire future, so use your first job to get a better idea of what you like doing and which roles aren’t your thing.

Kate Jones writes for Inspiring Interns, which specialises in finding candidates their perfect internship. To browse our graduate jobs London listings, visit our website.

Lead image: DFID (Flickr)

This article was originally published in February 2018 . It was last updated in July 2018

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