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Graduating from university is an exciting part of life, but it can be daunting too. You are faced with the question of what to do next? And there are many paths you can take. You may be thinking, 'what is a graduate job' and how is it different from a graduate scheme, an internship and an entry-level job? You may also be looking for information on how exactly you go about applying and finding these type of roles.

At STEM Graduates, we specialise in finding candidates their dream jobs in a variety of industries. So, to help you navigate the next stage of your career, we have put together some helpful definitions, as well as some hints and tips, on how to find the perfect graduate role for you.

What is a graduate job? - A definition

A question many new graduates ask is, “what is a graduate job?”  According to the Office of National Statistics and University of Warwick, a graduate job is defined as those occupations identified that “normally require knowledge and skills developed on a three-year university degree to enable them to perform the associated tasks competently”.

These two institutions also define a graduate as someone “who is aged between 16 and 64 not currently enrolled on any educational course and who has a level of education above A-level standard”; a recent graduate is someone who finished full-time higher education five years ago or less.

Of course, what defines a graduate role is likely to change as industries develop and employers define what they need from their workforce. For example, some highly skilled jobs are now changing their routes into employment by offering higher apprenticeships or even graduate apprenticeships, so the pathways into graduate employment are becoming ever more varied.

The routes available to you may differ depending on what you have studied; for example, some professions require you to be admitted into a professional body such as the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors, while others do not.

Looking for a graduate job? Take a look at our graduate jobs board!

What is a graduate scheme?

A graduate scheme is generally defined as a structured training programme run by an employer to develop the next generation of talent for their organisation. Most graduate schemes last somewhere between a year and three years and can be in a number of different disciplines across an organisation; including, but not limited to... human resources, finance, marketing, logistics, research and development, operations and management.

Typically, graduate schemes are run by medium to large organisations in the public, private and non-profit sector. The UK government has a number of graduate schemas that encompass most aspects of its operations. The most well known is the Civil Service Fast Stream. Many top FTSE 100 and 250 companies have a number of STEM graduate schemes.

The best graduate schemes are highly competitive and are often oversubscribed. Some organisations have rigorous selection processes that include several rounds of interviews and tests. However, for many, the experience they gain is invaluable. The vast majority of those who complete graduate schemes are either employed within the company they have trained in or go on to find meaningful employment elsewhere.

If you do wish to pursue a graduate scheme placement and are successful in your application, you can expect to be handed responsibility straight away and gain real hands-on experience within the industry your scheme is in. Graduates schemes also tend to be well paid (in comparison to entry level positions) with wages ranging from £20,000 to £40,000 or more, depending on the role, organisation and location. Some schemes will require you to work across departments and at different offices, with some expecting their graduates to travel and possibly work abroad for all or part of their scheme, so you will need to be flexible. Many graduate schemes require recent graduates to have at least a 2:1, but some will take on graduates with a 2:2 level qualification.

Check out the latest UK graduate scheme openings.

What is an internship?

An internship is typically defined as a period of work experience offered by an organisation lasting for a limited period of time (i.e. usually one month to six months). Some internships are paid, while some are not (more on this later). There are many benefits in doing an internship, such as:

  • Gaining invaluable work experience in a relevant field and learning from those already doing the job you aspire to.

  • Getting a taste for the job itself. If you are not sure what you would like to do, it can be a great way of finding out if the area you are doing an internship in is the right career for you.

  • Securing a job. Some employers use internships as a way to assess and recruit employees. It also looks great on a CV to have experience working in a well-known organisation for other potential future employers.

You do not always have to be a graduate to undertake an internship. You can still be a student or be a non-graduate. Many internships take place over the summer holidays, and a good internship will be structured to help you gain the most out your time there.

Recently, there has been a clampdown on unpaid internships, if you are classed as a worker, as most interns are, then you will be entitled to at least the national minimum wage. However, there are some instances where you may not be classed as a worker but as a volunteer – if, for example, you are working for a charity or if you are shadowing someone. Find out more about your rights to pay while doing an internship.

At STEM Graduates, we only advertise internships that are paid.

What is an entry level job?

Now that we've answered "what is a graduate", it's time to look at entry level. An entry-level job is generally defined as a role for someone with little relevant experience or qualifications in the industry the role is in. Entry level roles are often open to anyone and you don’t necessarily need to have a degree – though some employers do require a degree for an entry-level role, depending on the position.

Entry level roles are open to graduates and having a degree may give you an advantage. Not all employers can or want to offer graduate schemes and recruit through entry-level roles instead. These jobs can be a great way to get your foot in the door, especially at smaller organisations and in emerging industries. It can also be a good career path if you want to take a different road from what you have studied. However, not all entry-level jobs are the same, so don't sell yourself short and think carefully about whether it's the right role for what you want to do.

What is the difference between a graduate job and entry-level role?

The difference between a graduate job and an entry-level role is not always clear. Some graduate jobs are entry-level roles, while others might not be. Generally, the difference is, a graduate job is a position that needs a minimum of an undergraduate degree for a person to be considered, while an entry-level role can be open to someone who does not have a degree.

Apprenticeships for degree holders

Over the past few years, apprenticeship have become popular with employers, those entering the job market and those changing their career. You may be wondering if it’s possible to do an apprenticeship if you have a degree? The answer is yes, but there may be restrictions on what you can do. For example, if you have a degree in graphic design you may not be allowed to do a graphic design apprenticeship but may be able to do something similar, such as a digital marketing apprenticeship. Having a degree may also affect the funding that is available. However, an apprenticeship can be a great way to get into a competitive industry or if you want to move into a career away from the area that your degree is in.

Find out more about apprenticeships.

Where to find graduate jobs?

Now you know what a graduate job is, and all the other names they can come under, such as graduate scheme or entry level role, you now need to find a job.  One of the best places to find a graduate job, especially if you studied a STEM subject, is on our jobs board.  Also, if you sign up to our newsletter, you can be one of the first to know when a suitable graduate job is posted.

Other places to find a graduate job include:

  • Linkedin and other social media platforms

  • Online jobs boards

  • Individual organisation’s websites

  • Through search engines

  • Career fairs: our sister company STEM Women offer a number of female-focused career events across the country. Click here to find out more

  • Word of mouth

  • Newspaper and professional trade journals

  • Your university career’s services



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