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Graduate job market


Graduate schemes, or graduate programmes, are just one of the ways LSE students enter the graduate job market. Widely advertised by large employers, they actually make up only a small proportion of graduate jobs.  

See below for some information on the different routes into the graduate job market and about different work experience opportunities.

Graduate jobs and work experience

Graduate schemes

In the UK, a graduate scheme, is a structured work-based training programme offered by many large employers and is often designed to identify and develop the future leaders of the organisation.

Typically lasting 12 to 36 months, the majority are open to graduates from any degree discipline, though certain core requirements such as numerical ability might be required and tested during the recruitment process. Their defined time frame and structure is what distinguishes them from 'graduate jobs'; a term used for other entry-level roles that require people with graduate level education. 

Some schemes will be specific to a job role (HR, marketing, retail, sales, strategy, finance) while others might involve rotation through different business functions and locations, to give you a holistic view of how the company operates and help you identify where you might want to work when transition off the scheme and into a permanent position. 

Graduate schemes are competitive, and employers typically recruit up to one-year ahead, starting early in Autumn Term – and sometimes over the summer – so it’s important to check their deadlines and processes. You would therefore typically apply at the start of your final year of study, but you can choose to wait and apply after you graduate, joining the subsequent year. If you are unsuccessful in your first applications but are still drawn to a particular scheme, consider taking six to 12 months to gain some experience and develop your skills before then re-applying. This could be through volunteering, internships, other work experience. Most organisations will be very happy for you to reapply and will give clear guidelines on length of time they will accept between different applications.

Some graduate schemes, particularly in professional services firms, may also require you to undertake professional qualifications while working. When researching different schemes, make sure you understand the structure of the programme and the opportunities available to you including whether you are guaranteed a permanent role at the end of the scheme.

Graduate jobs

Most LSE graduates apply for 'graduate jobs'; a term used for entry-level roles open only to people with a degree. You’ll find interesting opportunities in large companies, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and start-ups, in the public, private and not-for-profit sectors.

Graduate jobs will often include training and development opportunities but might be less structured than graduate schemes and typically won’t be of a set duration. You will also find there is more flexibility on when to apply for graduate jobs; opportunities will tend to be advertised throughout the year, recruitment will often take place closer to the time of hire so you might find the overall process less pressured and appreciate more time to prepare.

Graduate schemes are heavily advertised on graduate job websites such as Milkround, Prospects, Guardian Jobs and TARGETjobs – and directly on the websites of large organisations. You’ll probably want to adopt a broader search strategy when looking for other graduate roles, so we’d recommend that you check out a range of sites including our own jobs board, CareerHub, LinkedIn, Indeed, Times Top 100, sector specific websites and magazines, and, again, companies’ own websites. You will be able to identify jobs by looking at the role requirements and will find some job titles featuring heavily, such as Analyst, Assistant, Associate, Coordinator or Officer. 

Whether you are applying for a graduate job or scheme, employers will often expect you to have some practical experience. This might emcompass society involvement, work experience/internships, part-time work or volunteering. It’s important to be very clear of individual requirements as certain employers will expect at least some relevant experience in their particular sector.

International opportunities

If you are looking for a career outside of the UK, you can learn more about opportunities around the world through Student Circus. Attending careers events with international employers – including our Careers in BrusselsCareers in China (Mainland and Hong Kong) and Careers in the US and Canada programmes – and researching LSE alumni by ‘Where they live’ on LinkedIn or through the LSE Regional Alumni Groups will also be very useful. 

Internships and work experience

‘Internship’ is a term used to describe a fixed period of work experience, usually paid and structured, within an organisation. Internships can vary from a few weeks to a year, and they are often used by large companies to identify candidates for permanent roles.

Interns will typically have opportunities to work on real projects and can gain very useful insights into a company or sector. Although many students undertake internships while studying, increasingly students – both undergraduates and postgraduates – apply for internships after graduation to build their knowledge of the sector and organisation, further develop their transferable skills and increase their chances of securing a permanent graduate position. In financial services, these are sometimes referred to as ‘off-cycle’ internships.  

The words ‘internship’ and ‘work experience’ are often used interchangeably by employers. Traditionally work experience refers to a short period of time spent within a company and will offer you practical experience as well as the opportunity to learn about the company’s culture. 
Multi-national companies often offer structured internships, advertised up to one-year in advance of the commencement date, whereas other organisations are more flexible and able to offer students and graduates opportunities for work experience throughout the year.  

Work experience and internships are not always advertised by employers, so we recommend you take a proactive approach. You'll find some useful information on how to go about this in our sections on speculative applications and networking.

Part-time work

Part-time work is a great way to develop your skills and build valuable experience that can help you secure a future graduate opportunity – and earn some money along the way!

Employers look for graduates with transferrable skills, such as communication, teamwork and problem solving, and part-time work is a great way to build these capabilities and help you provide evidence of them in your applications and during interviews.

Typical part-time roles can be found in events and hospitality, administration/co-ordination, project work, tutoring and translation work – you could reach out to a temporary work agency (known as a ‘temp agency’) to find opportunities. Keep a log of the skills you use and experiences you have – it will be a useful reminder when you start applying for permanent jobs.


If you’re interested in launching your own business – now or in the future – you’re not alone; LSE ranked fourth in the top 15 universities for generating start-ups in the 2020 ‘State of Student Startups’ report.  

Check out the LSE Generate programme, which is dedicated to supporting students as they build their business from scratch and helping you to develop your entrepreneurial skill set. Read more about careers in entrepreneurship in our sector guides.

COVID-19 and implications

LSE Careers is working closely with our employer partners to keep up to date with the graduate employment landscape in the light of COVID-19.


Related pages

How to find work

How to research careers

How to research careers

How to research careers