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20th Jul, 2023

Olivia Maguire
Olivia Maguire
Job Title
Content Marketing Lead

Understanding graduate salaries and schemes is crucial for teachers and careers advisors in guiding students towards successful careers. In this article, we look at the average UK graduate salary, the nature of graduate schemes, and examples of companies offering such programmes, so you can provide students with valuable information, and inspire confidence to help them take the next step in their careers.

What is a graduate scheme?

A graduate scheme, also known as a graduate programme or training scheme, is a structured training and development programme offered by organisations to those who have graduated (typically from a university) with a degree. While some companies will accept those who completed their degree a while ago, most graduate schemes are for fresh graduates.

Schemes typically span from one to three years and aim to provide graduates with the necessary skills and experience to kick-start their careers. They often combine on-the-job training, mentorship, and rotational placements across different departments, allowing graduates to gain a comprehensive understanding of the organisation and industry.

What can students expect to earn when starting a graduate scheme?

The average graduate salary in the UK ranges from £20,000 to £30,000 per year. It's important to note that these figures can vary significantly based on the industry and field of study, location, company size, and job market conditions.

For example, the average graduate salary in hospitality is just over £20,000; sales and retail are around £28,000; law graduates can expect to start on £25,000; and engineering graduates earn around £27,000.

What companies offer graduate schemes?

Many companies in the UK offer graduate schemes. Here are a few examples:


PwC offers a comprehensive graduate scheme across various specialisms, including audit, tax, consulting, and technology. The programme provides structured training, professional qualifications, and exposure to a wide range of clients, allowing graduates to progress rapidly within the company.


Unilever's graduate scheme provides opportunities in areas such as marketing, supply chain, research and development, and finance. The programme offers hands-on experience, international assignments, and a clear career progression path within the organisation.


The NHS Graduate Management Training Scheme is designed for graduates interested in pursuing a career in healthcare management. It provides a combination of practical placements, academic learning, and mentorship, enabling participants to develop the skills required for leadership roles within the NHS.

What is the career progression like?

Graduate schemes offer excellent career progression opportunities, with many being fast-track routes to management.

After successfully completing a scheme, graduates may progress to more senior positions within the organisation, but the form and speed of career progression will depend on the company, industry, and the individual's performance and ambitions. Many organisations provide structured development plans, mentorship, and ongoing training to support graduates in their career advancement.

What qualifications do students need for a graduate scheme?

The qualifications required for entry to a graduate scheme vary depending on the company and industry. While a bachelor's degree is generally a prerequisite, some companies may accept candidates with equivalent qualifications or relevant work experience.

Some organisations may require graduates to have a specific degree classification, and many will only take applicants with a 2:1 and above. However, more organisations are recognising that talent and potential is determined by more than just academic grades. For example, in 2022, PwC removed its 2:1 criterion for graduates and interns, stating they wanted to “further diversify graduate intake through broader access to talented young people, who may not have the top academic achievements but have the attributes and all-round proven capabilities for a career with the firm.”

Certain industries, such as finance and engineering, will require specific degrees or certifications, whereas others will accept applicants with any subject. It is essential for students to research individual companies and their requirements before applying for a graduate scheme.

Will they be guaranteed a job at the end?

While a graduate scheme can significantly enhance a student’s employment prospects, it does not always guarantee a permanent job offer at the end.

However, many organisations aim to retain their high-performing graduates upon completion of the programme. The decision to offer permanent employment depends on various factors, including business needs, performance evaluations, and the availability of suitable positions.

Regardless of a guaranteed job offer, participating in a graduate scheme equips individuals with valuable skills and experience that can enhance their employability.

How can Reed help students secure a graduate placement?

Reed is committed to supporting school leavers and graduates in their career journey. We offer a range of services to assist individuals in taking the next step, such as dedicated consultants who work across 20 specialisms and who can support students with finding the best graduate schemes to suit their needs.

We can also provide support with interviews and CV and cover letter-writing, to ensure students stand out from the crowd in today’s competitive job market.

For those looking for their next role, get in touch with one of our expert consultants today.

If you are a teacher or careers advisor and want to keep students informed about the world of work, download our free student careers guide, complete with all the tools you need to deliver effective careers guidance.