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Graduate jobs

Man in graduation robes walking past Heslington Hall

This page will help you understand the different types of graduate jobs and where you can search for them. When you’re ready to apply, use the job hunting toolkit to help you through the process – it covers when to apply, understanding job adverts and answers common myths about applying for graduate jobs.

What's the difference between graduate schemes, graduate jobs and entry-level jobs?

Graduate schemes 

Graduate schemes are work-based training programmes for graduates.

They are usually available with large organisations and last from anywhere between one and three years, and sometimes longer. They usually result in a job with the company afterwards.

The programme will vary depending on the employer, but could include training, mentoring and a lot of hands-on work. Graduates are sometimes rotated around an organisation. Many graduate schemes pride themselves on giving a lot of responsibility to their graduates.

Graduate schemes are available in a range of sectors. Many allow graduates from any degree to apply, but some are more specialist and require certain qualifications.

They are very popular and the recruitment process can be competitive, often including a multi-stage process with online tests, telephone interviews and assessment centres.

Companies with graduate schemes tend to do a lot of promotion on university campuses. For example, you’re likely to find many attending job fairs.

If you want to get onto a graduate scheme you’ll have to apply early. Many advertise during the autumn and have deadlines around January. Some close earlier and a few advertise later. Most schemes start in the summer you graduate.

Benefits of graduate schemes:

  • Structured training programme to help you develop
  • Likely to be in a ‘big name’ company which will look good on your CV
  • Generally higher starting salary than other graduate jobs

Arts and Humanities students: Are grad schemes for you? 

We sometimes hear that students on Arts and Humanities degrees feel like grad schemes are not for them. This isn't true, and we've spoken to employers about why they value students with these degrees. Watch our Are grad schemes for you? videos.

Graduate jobs

A 'graduate job' refers to any job that a recent graduate (from an undergraduate or postgraduate degree) is qualified for. You may hear graduate jobs called 'direct entry jobs' or 'immediate vacancies.'

The vast majority of graduates go into graduate jobs rather than schemes. There are many more available and, unlike graduate schemes, you will find positions in all kinds of organisations, both big and small.

Graduate job vacancies may be advertised exclusively for recent graduates or they may be open to any suitably qualified person.

They differ to graduate schemes in that they are not structured training schemes. Instead, the successful candidate would be expected to do the job from their first day. This doesn’t mean there wouldn’t be training opportunities, but they wouldn’t be structured in a formal training programme.

Most students apply for graduate jobs one or two months before they finish their course - much later than the application deadlines for grad schemes.

Benefits of graduate jobs:

  • Available in a range of organisations both large and small
  • If you’re not sure what to do, you’re not committing yourself to a year-long training programme like a graduate scheme
  • Working in a small organisation may give you the chance to progress quickly

Entry-level jobs

The term ‘entry-level job’ is generally used to describe a job for someone with little relevant industry experience.

You may see graduate jobs described as entry-level but you might also see non-graduate jobs (jobs which don’t require a degree) described in the same way.

Non-graduate jobs may be suitable for graduates who want to:

  • build up experience because they don’t feel qualified for the graduate jobs they’re interested in
  • find out more about a particular sector
  • work while studying
  • work in particularly competitive sectors where graduate schemes and graduate jobs are limited

Where can I search for jobs?

Graduate schemes

Job websites

Graduate schemes are advertised on a range of websites, including: 

Each year more than 300 graduate vacancies are advertised through Knowledge Transfer Partnerships (KTP). These are roles for graduates lasting between 12 months and three years and are part-government funded. In KTPs, graduates work in businesses on projects using their expertise from their studies. They also get support from academics working in a similar area. Find out more on the University of York's KTP pages.

Job fairs and employer events

Many big organisations with graduate schemes attend university job fairs and sometimes run separate events on campus. 

Events are a good way to learn more about a graduate scheme and make a good impression with a potential employer.

We run a number of large job fairs every year and a range of smaller events with top graduate employers. Find out what’s happening on our events page.

A number of student societies also run events with employers. Browse the list of societies on the YUSU website.

Graduate jobs

Job websites

Graduate jobs are advertised on a range of websites, including:

  • General job websites like Indeed, LinkedIn, Adzuna and the government’s Find a Job service
  • Handshake, the University’s job board
  • Sector-specific job sites, which may have fewer, but more relevant vacancies - check the Job sector pages for suggested sites
  • Directly on company websites and their social media accounts
  • Professional bodies and trade associations

Job fairs and employer events

Employers who are keen to recruit graduates often attend job fairs and events on campus. These events are a chance to find out more about job vacancies and meet and impress potential employers.

Hidden job market

Many jobs are never formally advertised - anywhere between 30 and 70% of jobs, depending on the sector. Why? It is costly and time consuming to advertise, shortlist and interview for a vacancy.

Instead, organisations might wait for the right candidate to apply, hold a bank of CVs from people who have approached them or use their networks to find the right person.

This is called the hidden job market.

Applying for a job that hasn't been advertised 

As a graduate, you could get a job by networking and sending speculative applications.

Recruitment agencies

Some graduates use recruitment agencies to find jobs. Recruitment agencies are essentially middlemen, employed by companies to find suitable candidates to fill job vacancies.

Many employers use recruitment agencies – some even use them exclusively, meaning you may find vacancies through recruitment agencies that are not advertised elsewhere.

Recruitment agencies generally fall into three categories: high street agencies, which deal with a variety of work and tend to focus on local opportunities; specialist agencies, which deal with a particular job sector and are more likely to advertise national and international vacancies; and online agencies, which vary in the level of service they provide. You can find agencies on Agency Central.

You should never be charged for using a recruitment agency. They make money by charging fees to employers. Read more about recruitment agencies.

If you’re interested in jobs in science, there are a number of specialist agencies. Read more on our information for science students.

Job hunting in a reduced labour market

The labour market (ie available jobs and the recruitment to roles) can vary, depending on a variety of issues. This can be due to a recession, the decline of particular job sectors and industries or other restrictive conditions (such as the Covid-19 pandemic).

It may be harder to find and secure the job you want, but it doesn't mean it's impossible to get a job. It just means you may have to be a bit more creative in your approach, persistent in your job search and prepared to make adjustments, if necessary.

You may have to take up opportunities that may not be exactly what you want, if it means giving you a chance to work for an employer you're interested in. Many employees move between roles within the same company, using their experience in one job to learn more about the organisation and the opportunities available within it. 

Keep up to date with the latest labour market information to identify areas in decline and where there is growth. 

Networking and making contacts become even more important than ever in helping you identify potential job openings that are not necessarily being openly advertised.

Managing my mental wellbeing while job hunting

Job hunting can be stressful. It takes time, effort and can involve multiple rejections. You may also be finding the changes of the last couple of years have affected your wellbeing.

There are some things that you can do to make it easier on yourself.

  1. Set yourself achievable tasks. You can’t control the jobs market but you can control your own approach. Be realistic about what you can achieve and set yourself a timeframe. For example, ‘I will spend two hours a day researching opportunities’ or ‘I will use CareerSet to check my CV and respond to the suggestions by the end of this week’.
  2. Know where to find help. Careers and Placements is open for messages, drop-ins and appointments. Find out more on our  page.
  3. Take care of your physical health - ensure you have regular breaks from job hunting, get enough sleep and exercise and eat well.
  4. If you feel that you are becoming quite depressed or anxious, please seek professional help. Details of who to contact from the University and also additional sources of help may be found on the Wellbeing pages.
  5. Don’t be too hard on yourself. The jobs market is improving but is still in a state of flux, and others are in the same situation as you. You are doing your best and every application you write will develop your skills and hone your technique further. Remember every successful person will have many failed attempts behind them - the key is to believe in yourself and don’t give up.

Further information and support

  • CV and application advice - learn how to put together your CV and how to prepare for interviews
  • Job sector pages - overview of how to get into some of the most popular career areas, including relevant job websites
  • York Profiles and Mentors - reach out to York graduates to find out more about the recruitment processes in their industries
  • Talk to us - overview of our appointments, including mock interviews and careers advice
  • Graduates into Work - programme for unemployed and underemployed graduates living in North Yorkshire (outside of the City of York boundary)

Job hunting toolkit

Understand job adverts, tips on searching, learn what employers are looking for.

Advice for international students

Learn more about working in the UK after graduation.

Working for smaller businesses

Learn more about small and medium sized organisations.

Understanding labour market information

Learn how researching the job market can help you find a job.