Alternatives to graduate schemes

5 minutes

A graduate scheme is a structured training programme that’s designed to propel graduates through the early stages of their career. If you haven’t had much luck with your graduate scheme applications, there are a number of other options for you.

A graduate scheme is a structured training programme that’s designed to propel graduates through the early stages of their career. On a graduate scheme, you’ll become accustomed to working with different departments and projects, with the intention of gaining experience and learning about the various areas of the business.

Graduate schemes can be a great starting place for people who want a more varied approach to their careers. However, with some of the world’s largest companies offering graduate schemes, the competition for places is fierce. So, if you haven’t had much luck with your graduate scheme applications, check out the following list to find an alternative option to kickstart your career as a graduate.

Graduate jobs

A graduate job is specifically intended for someone who has recently completed their university degree. Due to a slightly more relaxed application process, graduate jobs are quite often a perfect alternative for those wanting a slick entrypoint into the working world. Although still competitive, you’ll come across a wider variety of graduate job openings throughout the year. This is down to the sheer volume of companies looking to fill their vacant positions with talented graduates.

As graduate jobs don’t have the same structure that graduate schemes are typically associated with, they give you experience in a specialised area and allow you to progress quickly during the early stages of your career. That’s why for many, a graduate job is the ideal option for graduates who already know which role and industry they want to work in.


Nowadays, apprenticeships are a viable option for graduates who see their continued learning and development as a priority. Apprenticeships are highly advantageous as they provide people with a clear path of progression. With a structured training programme in place, you’ll be able to develop new skills, learn about a specific industry and earn money all at the same time.

The only catch for graduates is that you cannot go through any learning material that you’ve studied before, as you’ll be considered to be overqualified. Therefore, apprenticeships are more suitable for those who are looking to start a career that’s different to what they studied at university. If you want to further establish yourself in a specialised profession, then postgraduate degrees are always an option for some career pathways.

Paid internships

Internships can be a great way to see what it’s like working for a company you’re interested in. They’re similar to graduate schemes in regards to the fact that you’ll gain work experience and receive some form of structured training, but are generally completed on more of a temporary basis.

In fact, some companies might only require their interns to work a couple of days a week. Not only will this scenario give you a fascinating insight into the typical responsibilities associated with the role you’re going for, you’ll be able to explore other possibilities at the same time. Performing to a high standard and impressing the employer might just lead you to receiving a full-time position with the company. If not, you’ll have gained the skills and experience needed to go on and start a full-time job elsewhere.

Start-up company

While graduate schemes are generally put on by established companies who have a sizable budget to play with, start-ups are quite the opposite. Both paths come with positives and negatives and are often suited to different people. Graduate schemes provide you with a more structured approach to learning, while start-ups allow you to get instantly involved on your first day. In a start-up company, you’ll be closer to the core of the organisation and play a more active role in the day to day running of the business. With less structure and hierarchy than bigger companies, you’ll gain experience and work in a number of different roles.

So, if you want to grow alongside a company, working for a start-up might be for you. As start-ups don’t typically advertise vacant positions, you’ll have to reach out to them. By being proactive and sending over your CV and a message about why you want to work for them, they’re likely to consider you when a job vacancy opens up.


Going solo and freelancing is always an option for those seeking viable alternatives to graduate schemes. Perhaps, you even started freelancing when you were at university and are now ready to expand. To sustain a living as a freelancer you’ll have to complete work for a number of clients consecutively. As a result, freelancing doesn’t come with the same benefits and security that you get with permanent employment.

However, freelancing will allow you to be flexible and work on your own schedule. To be successful in the freelance world you’ll have to develop a number of other skills. For example, you’ll have to know how to market yourself to attract clients and then communicate effectively with them to ensure that each project is completed to the expected standard.

Start a business

Starting a successful business is a challenging way to start your career as a graduate. However, if you’re entrepreneurial by nature and full of business ideas, then going for it and starting a business might be the right option for you. In this scenario, you’ll be on your own without the structure of a graduate scheme, which means you need to be a self-starter.

You probably don’t have too many responsibilities as a graduate, making it the best time to take risks. Even if you fall short of success, you’ll have gained a fresh outlook and developed a number of skills that you can take into your next venture.

Temp jobs

Similarly to interning, temporary jobs give you the opportunity to work for companies on a short-term basis. They act as a great introduction to the working world for those who want to try out a number of different roles in a variety of industries. By taking on different jobs, you’ll soon get a better idea of what you want to do for the foreseeable future. There’s also the chance that you’ll impress an employer and be offered a full-time position.

If your continued learning and development is a priority for you, then Pareto can help. We Pair graduates with top employers to accelerate the start of their careers.

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