So what IS a graduate job?

Whichever year of your degree you are in, you will hear the words “graduate job” all the time. So what does it actually mean, and how do you know if you are applying for a graduate job or not?

Skills and Attributes

Firstly, it might seem obvious to say that a graduate job is a job you get after you graduate, but the key element is that it is a job which follows on in some way from you studying a degree at university. This means that it should be a job which will demand specialist and/or general transferable skills that you developed during your degree, and the kinds of attributes and aptitudes that come from having studied for three or more years.

Specialist skills could be technical ones, such as lab work or programming, creative skills like design, or business analysis skills for example. General transferable skills are things like teamwork, critical thinking, communication skills, analysing information and problem-solving that turn up in every job and are developed through every degree programme in some way. Attributes and attitudes are qualities like independence, reliability, imagination, a positive attitude to work, commercial awareness, confidence, flexibility and resilience, and which are needed to do a good job in a professional and credible way.


Types of graduate job

Thousands of companies, big and small, look for graduates to join them and many of them will do so through what are known as graduate schemes, usually 18-36 months of training in the core skills and activities of their business. They are structured programmes that might involve rotation through different departments or gaining professional qualifications. These employers feel that having studied at university means you are well-prepared to take on such a training, even if it’s not directly related to your degree subject – which in many cases it won’t be. These large scale schemes for graduates are more common at bigger companies, but lots of SMEs take on one or two graduates a year, and will still give you the same training but on a more individual basis.

Another way to look at whether a role is a graduate job is to see if it falls into one of these three categories. Traditional graduate jobs are those where a degree has always been necessary, like the law or medicine or teaching. Modern graduate jobs might include those in any kind of management role, and the newer sectors like IT. New graduate jobs are those where you often find a specialist degree is a way into the profession which might also be accredited, such as physiotherapy, nursing or management accounting.


What about working for yourself?

But for many of you interested in setting up your own business or developing a creative career, you won’t want to join a scheme with an employer. You will want to start working for yourself immediately, producing products or services, and building relationships with your own clients, even if this takes time to build into a full-time job. Whether you are using specialist knowledge and skills you have gained in your degree – such as being a musician or sports scientist – or not, you will also be calling on the intellectual and practical skills gained during your degree to help you put your ideas into action. And even if you aren’t yet earning all your income from a professional portfolio or your creative practice, freelance or self-employed artists, for example, are still doing graduate jobs.

So whether you want to join a graduate scheme or work for yourself, it’s a really good idea to take a step back from your studies for a few minutes and just think about what you are gaining from your degree in all those categories outlined above: specialist skills, transferable skills, attributes and aptitudes. Being able to identify that for yourself, and for an employer or a future client, will really help you make the most of your degree. And if you want help to work out what you have gained and where it might take you, you can always book an appointment with one of our Career Consultants. Contact us at or



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