What is a graduate programme?

So what is a graduate programme or graduate job? Isn’t it the case that any job done by a graduate is a ‘graduate job’? Well there’s a little bit more to it than that, within the graduate recruitment industry, a graduate job is a very specific thing.

Firstly, as you’d expect, it’s a job offered by graduate recruiters – companies large enough to need a constant flow of new talent that can be trained up for management roles in the future. Secondly, the job is almost certainly going to be a place on a formal graduate training programme (also known as a graduate scheme).

These programmes are a way for recruiters to build up what is known in HR parlance as a ‘pipeline’: a group of high-flying graduates who are expected to aspire to leadership positions. These schemes are highly structured, typically over two years, and focus on training and development, sometimes leading to a professional or postgraduate qualification.

Employers can run more than one type of training programme within their organisation. For example, investment banks typically run separate streams for their operations, sales and trading, investment banking and technology roles, among others

Engineering employers can run a management programmes or finance schemes alongside their engineering training. Accountancy and professional services firms will specialise in training graduates in particular areas of work such as tax, audit, assurance or advisory.

How to find a graduate scheme

Graduate employers promote their graduate jobs, schemes and training opportunities on gradirelandand in sector-focused careers publications like gradireland Finance, Engineering, IT, Law etc. These publications can be picked up free from most university careers services or departments, or you can download the latest editions on our graduate careers publications page.

The advantages of training schemes

Graduate schemes enable new recruits to settle quickly into a professional work environment, receive relevant skills development and get hands on experience, either working in a specific role within an established team, or through working on a number of assignments in different areas of the organisation over the duration of the programme. If an employer has a large graduate intake, it is more than likely that you will have opportunity to network and socialise with your peers.

The golden rule of graduate schemes: apply early, even if the employer has an ‘open’ or ‘ongoing’ recruitment process.

You may have opportunities to work overseas or at different locations in Ireland, or you may be based in one place. If you would prefer not to travel and you like a regular home life make sure you are aware of how much mobility is expected when you consider careers and employers.

Training in career areas such as engineering, accountancy, human resources, law, construction, management and property is often accredited by a relevant professional association. This type of support will assist you in qualifying to practise professionally.

Getting onto a graduate scheme

The majority of training schemes have application deadlines between November and December for programmes starting the following September/October. You need to do your employer research and be ready to apply early during the first term of your final year.

An increasing number of employers have ‘ongoing’ or ‘open’ recruitment processes meaning that, in principle, they take applications year round. Despite this seeming flexibility, you are still advised to apply early. While these recruiters don’t give a hard and fast deadline, they may make offers from the start of the application period and they may close their scheme once they have filled all their vacancies. Some employers do give a specific closing date, but also state that they will close their recruiting process as soon as they have filled their spaces.

For recruitment success, make sure you’re clued-up on the applications and interview methods used by employers (check out our employer hubs for employers with tips to get hired). Many large graduate employers use online application systems to sort prospective candidates for their schemes and training opportunities. If your application is successful you may then be invited to an assessment centre or interview. Be prepared for psychometric tests – they can crop up in online applications and at interviews and assessments.

On the 25th of April, gradireland will host its annual Graduate Recruitment Awards at Dublin’s Mansion House and the following companies are nominated for the Best Graduate Training and Development Programme:

Best Graduate Training and Development Programme – Specialist/Professional Training Programmes sponsored by


Shortlisted organisations

Best Graduate Training and Development Programme – Business/Management Programmes sponsored by 

Shortlisted organisations

*A version of this article first appeared on targetjobs.co.uk

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