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The UK Graduate Recruitment Market in 2017


The UK Graduate Recruitment Market in 2017

In the second of our guest blogs from the careers service – David Shute, MSc Careers Relationship Manager, gives you an insight into what the outlook is for the graduate jobs market in 2017…

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 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?

Many students consider this the most prestigious route to employment post-graduation.  Some key points on graduate schemes:

  • Many organisations offer them – from professional services firms and consultancies, to banks and retail organisations.


  • They usually start in September/October. Typical duration is between 2-3 years, and they combine working with structured training.  They often lead to a permanent position (which, in some cases can be dependent upon obtaining the necessary professional qualification).


  • Some schemes are offered on a ‘rotational’ basis where graduates spend a certain period of time in different departments.


  • They typically target candidates with 0-2 years’ work experience. While anti-discrimination laws in the UK enable candidates of any age to apply, typically if you have had approximately 3+ years of relevant work experience you might want to consider an experienced hire position.


  • Starting salaries tend to be very competitive, with the median graduate scheme starting salary in the UK being £30,000. Salaries can vary significantly by industry and region.



The outlook on the graduate market is positive

  • The number of graduates hired by organisations featured in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers rose by 1.6% in 2016, compared with recruitment in 2015.


  • The UK’s top employers planned to increase their graduate recruitment by 4.3% in 2017, the fifth consecutive year that graduate vacancies have grown.


  • The biggest growth in vacancies is expected at public sector organisations and high street/online retailers, which together intend to recruit over 1,200 extra graduates in 2017.


  • Only eight of the UK’s leading employers have opted to reduce their graduate recruitment targets for 2017 because of uncertainty following the Brexit vote.



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 their graduate schemes a year before the start date. So, for graduate schemes starting in 2018, many applications will open in September 2017.  Some employers, eg KPMG have started recruiting for 2018 already, and the application deadline has already passed for some positions with Morgan Stanley!


  • The recruitment process can also be time consuming, sometimes taking a couple of months. You could go through several stages including, but not limited to; online application form, psychometric tests, first-round interview (often video or telephone), assessment centre and a final-round interview/presentation.


  • The popularity of these programmes also means that they are competitive. The average number of applications per graduate vacancy is 68, and for some sectors, eg Fast Moving Consumer Goods (FMCG) the figure is over 100.


  • Most companies require students to have at least a 2:1 undergraduate degree (or equivalent). Check the academic entry criteria before applying.


  • Graduates may often be required to travel, often at short notice, and not always to glamorous destinations!!



Graduate employers are looking for candidates with more than just a 2:1 undergraduate degree. Work experience is key, so do apply for a part-time job if your work experience is limited.

Gaining experience will be valuable for your CV (and your bank account!)  It’s a win-win situation and future employers will find your application much more attractive.

The 2017 ‘High Fliers’ report states…

  • “Over a third of graduate recruiters repeated their warnings from previous years – that graduates who have no previous work experience at all are unlikely to be successful during the selection process”

City University partners with Unitemps to help students find short-term employment.


What are my options outside of a Graduate Scheme?

Only between 6-10% of students who apply get offered a position on a graduate scheme. 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 positions’.

What is an entry-level vacancy?

  • These roles are typically at the same level as a graduate in terms of the expectation level, but there may not be an opportunity to rotate around different business functions/departments, or receive as much structured training.


  • Job titles vary a lot but typical roles that 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).


  • Smaller businesses typically recruit graduates in entry-level roles, rather than running graduate schemes.  Employing graduates this way is more flexible, as they can recruit as and when there is a business need. Vacancies are therefore advertised throughout the year, but because of academic commitments, Cass students tend to start applying to these positions from April onwards.


  • The selection process is usually shorter in comparison to graduate schemes. CV and cover letters are more common than application forms, and there is less of an emphasis on assessment centres.


Where do I get started?

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

Graduate jobs, internships, placements and school leaver schemes as well as the highest quality career advice by sector.


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:



Drop us an email:

Whether it’s a graduate scheme or an entry level position, the careers team are ready to support you on your journey.

Thanks for reading and keep an eye out for our next blog where we will be providing some guidance for preparing for the Cass MSc Careers Fair, taking place on Friday 29th September!


  1. “Only eight of the UK’s leading employers have opted to reduce their graduate recruitment targets for 2017 because of uncertainty following the Brexit vote.”


    Can you please provide details of which eight these companies are? Just to have an idea.

    • Hi Steve, thanks for your question!

      The information was taken from a survey (High Fliers) in which 100 of the UK’s leading employers, who recruit graduates, took part. As with the nature of large scale surveys the specific details of which companies were planning on reducing their numbers were unfortunately not made public.

      In percentage terms this represents a small proportion of employers who have reduced their estimated graduate intakes and from our past experience hiring numbers can often change throughout the course of the year (including an increase in hiring) with business demands. This also coupled with many leading employers planning on increasing their numbers would suggest that the Brexit vote is having a very minimal impact on the level of graduates being recruited in the UK.

      We hope this helps!
      Cass Careers Team

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