What Is the Difference Between a Graduate Scheme and an Entry-Level Role?

Some graduate jobs might be classed as entry level roles, while others might not be considered the same, so if you are starting to think about applying for jobs after university, this distinction between graduate and entry level roles will be good to understand.

Generally, the largest difference between them is that a job within a graduate scheme is a position that needs a minimum of an undergraduate degree for a person to be considered, while entry level jobs can be open to someone who does not have a degree. Graduate schemes are more for people that want to fast track their career into a specific industry, but not necessarily a specific job, as graduate schemes can consist of rotating through several departments of the business.

What are the Benefits of a Graduate Scheme over an Entry-Level Role?

  • You can use graduate schemes to get into larger companies that are often harder to work your way into. Big name companies look good on your CV and can be a great way to kick-start your career development.
  • Those on graduate schemes can expect a very structured, tailored training programme that can include more responsibility than if you came in at entry level. This also includes the opportunity to gain professional qualifications whilst you train and work.
  • Within some graduate schemes you can also have the opportunity to rotate throughout the business to get exposure to all areas of the company. This can be a huge benefit if you aren’t completely sure on the sector you want to get into, and it really helps new employees understand the company they are working for and get more exposure. However, remember that not every company automatically offers their employees on their graduate scheme a job once the programme has finished.
  • Generally graduate schemes will offer their graduate employees a better salary than if you joined the company at an entry level role.
  • Graduates on graduate schemes usually get a mentor, and access to senior management which can help support your progression.

What are the Benefits of an Entry-Level Role over a Graduate Scheme?

  • Graduate schemes usually have a set application window, where you can only apply for them, for example, between October – December. Whereas you can get into entry level jobs throughout the year.
  • Because of how prestigious some graduate schemes can be seen as, they often encompass a rigid and competitive application process that means there are a lot of hoops to jump through before you even get to talk to a recruiter at the company. Graduate schemes also, usually, have a set number of places they can fill, whereas entry level roles can be more flexible and you can build a better rapport with the recruiters during the application process.
  • Many graduate schemes will expect a 2:1 or above, and whilst some graduate schemes will accept a 2:2, entry level roles will be more lenient in your degree classification or if you’re applying without a degree.
  • Whilst the programme might not have a structured training aspect to it, your progression and focus within the company can be more individually tailored to your strengths and weaknesses and what you want.
  • Only a set number of companies offer graduate schemes, whereas every company, depending on the time, will need new hires. A lot of businesses need talented young hires that they can train and work up to managerial roles.

As to whether a graduate scheme or an entry level role is best suited for you, it is completely down to what you want out of your career and what you value in a company. If you are unsure on which pathway is right for you, book an appointment with Henley Careers and they will be able to give you more details on graduate schemes and entry level roles, and listen to your thoughts to help you understand and come to a conclusion about what you want for your professional future.

You can find out more about the graduate recruitment cycle and how to prepare for it in our online course, Career Smart. It’s exclusive to University of Reading and Henley Business School, and runs over the summer. Find out more.