MSc Admissions Blog

Advice and Information from the MSc Admissions team

The Graduate and Entry Level Market in 2016


In the second of our guest blogs from the careers service Sara Williams, MSc Relationship Manager, gives you an insight into what the outlook is for the graduate jobs market in 2016…..

We often get a lot of questions early in the year from students about what their options are for getting into the job market in the UK. Here we explore two popular options for Cass students; graduate schemes and entry level/ graduate vacancies.

Let’s start with the most popular and the one that might need your most immediate attention- Graduate Schemes

What is a graduate scheme?

You may have already heard of the term graduate scheme and for many of our students they consider this the most prestigious route to employment post-graduation and they are a very popular route to employment for students across the UK. Some key points on graduate schemes:

  • Many organisations offer graduate schemes from investment banks to large blue chip organisations.
  • Graduate schemes can last anywhere between 1-2 years and combines working with specific, often highly structured, training.
  • Some programmes are offered on a ‘rotational’ basis where you spend a certain period of time in different teams or departments.
  • These programmes are often targeted to recent graduates (you can typically apply up to 2 years post-graduation) and while anti-discrimination laws in the UK enable candidates of any age to apply, typically if you have had several years of experience (we use 3 years + as a rough benchmark) you might want to consider alternative options as the programmes are typically targeted to candidates with 0-2 years’ worth of experience.
  • Starting salaries tend to be good, with the median graduate scheme starting salaries in the UK being £30,000 (High Fliers Graduate recruitment report 2016). However salaries can vary significantly from industry and region.

The outlook on the graduate market is positive!

  • The UK’s leading employers plan to expand their graduate recruitment even further in 2016 with 7.5% more entry-level vacancies than last year, the fourth consecutive year that graduate vacancies have increased. This rise takes the number of graduate vacancies beyond the pre-recession peak in the graduate job market in 2007, to its highest-ever level.
  • The largest growth in vacancies is expected in the public sector, accounting & professional services firms, banking & finance employers, and the Armed Forces.
  • The largest recruiters of graduates in 2016 were PwC (1,540 vacancies) and Deloitte (1,100 vacancies)


Sound Good?

 While this sounds like a highly attractive proposition, graduate schemes are not for everyone for a number of reasons

  • Typically, many of the larger organisations will start recruitment for the graduate schemes almost a year before a person joins them in the role, so for graduate schemes starting in 2017 many applications will open in August and September of this year!




  • The recruitment process can also be long. You could go through several stages of a process including, but limited to; online application, psychometric tests, first round video or telephone interviews, and assessment centre and a final round interview. This can also take a long time too! Sometimes you might be in this process for several months waiting to hear about the next stages.
  • With the popularity of these programmes also means that they are competitive. Some sectors report receiving over 100 applications per vacancy so you have to dedicate time on your applications, including your CV. (source AGR annual review 2015).
  • Rarely will the hours be 9-5 on these schemes and you may often be required to travel.
  • Large companies can be hierarchical so it may take some time before you are able to progress.
  • Most companies (regardless of whether you join on a graduate scheme or not) will require you to have the equivalent to a 2:1 undergraduate degree (or equivalent).


So what are my options outside of a Graduate Scheme then?

Our experience (which is backed up by research) does tell us only 6-11% of students who apply go on to get jobs on graduate schemes. Getting a job on a graduate scheme is the exception, not the norm and it isn’t for everyone. Most students in the UK find ‘entry level or Graduate vacancies’.


What is a Graduate vacancy/entry-level vacancy?

  • These are positions that are suitable for graduates, job titles vary a lot but typical roles Cass students have secured outside of the graduate schemes are; actuarial analyst, market risk analyst, research analyst, supply chain assistant, competitor insight executive etc.
  • These can be found in large companies but also in sectors or industries where graduate schemes are not common or established (e.g. Shipping), and also in small and medium sized organizations (known as SMEs).
  • The selection process is usually shorter in comparison to graduate schemes.
  • Vacancies can come up throughout the year as and when there is a business need but because of academic commitments, Cass students tend to start applying to these positions in April onwards.
  • Smaller businesses typically recruit graduates in entry-level roles, rather than running graduate schemes.  Employing graduates this way is more flexible, as you they can recruit as and when there is a business need for a graduate role.



In this climate graduate employers are looking for candidates with more than a 2:1 at undergraduate level. Work experience is key, so start applying for summer jobs, Christmas jobs, weekend jobs in fact, any jobs! Gaining experience will be valuable for your CV and your bank account. It’s a win-win situation and future employers will find you much more attractive.

And if you need evidence data from the 2016 high fliers report states…

  • “Recruiters have confirmed that 32% of this year’s entry-level positions are expected to be filled by graduates who have already worked for their organisations, either through paid internships, industrial placements or vacation work.” 
  • Nearly half the recruiters who took part in the research repeated their warnings from previous years – that graduates who have had no previous work experience at all are unlikely to be successful during the selection process and have little or no chance of receiving a job offer for their organisations’ graduate programmes.
  • City University partners with Unitemps to help you find temporary or short term assignments.


Where do I get started?

Start to think about type of role or skills you want to sue in your career as well as industries you are interested in using links like:


To find out more about who are some of the biggest/top graduate employers in the UK:

Times Top 100 Graduate Employers :

The Guardian Top 300 Graduate Employers:


If you want to register for part time work:



Whether it’s a graduate scheme or an entry level position with a smaller company or  the careers team are on your side and ready to support you on your journey. Thanks for reading and keep an eye out for our next blog where we will be looking more closely as some of the recruitment processes.


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