Student Life

Graduate scheme vs master’s degree: which should I choose?

ThWe’re getting close to that time in life. You’re sitting your final exams, nearing the end of your chapter at university.

That raises the big question: “What do I do now?”. There are loads of different options out there, with two of the main ones being graduate schemes or master’s degrees. It can be overwhelming as your life begins to change – sometimes too quickly – and you try to figure out your next steps.

So if you’re torn between a graduate scheme and a master’s, we’re here to help!

Graduate Schemes

What is a graduate scheme?

A graduate scheme is a structured training programme organised by an employer. They are graded at entry level for those who have a degree, and usually last for around a year or two, but can take around four years to complete depending on the programme.

They can be directly related to your degree, but many aren’t! Remember those transferable skills your teachers always used to mention? This is where they’ll come into play.

Graduate schemes are available in lots of different specialisms like human resources, management, healthcare, retail and much more. Programmes like engineering and IT will likely need a degree in that area to apply, but there are lots of general programmes that simply need a degree to apply.

When do they open?

Graduate schemes tend to open around September and close in January. That’s not set in stone though and varies from company to company, so if there’s a particular organisation you’d like to work for then get in touch with them.

Even if you’re not quite in your final year yet, it’s still worth getting in touch to register your interest. It’ll show your enthusiasm – something you’ll see is required on most job specifications nowadays!

The pros

  • Earn a salary right after graduation – Graduate schemes do offer a salary as soon as you start your programme. Some businesses even offer other benefits like a company car!
  • Get experience in different areas – Some graduate schemes offer the opportunity to move around different parts of the business so you’ve got experience in multiple areas. This is great to have on your CV in future, even if you don’t stay with the company at the end of the scheme.

The cons

  • Very competitive – A main con of a graduate scheme is that they’re competitive and difficult to get on. You’ll have to pass multiple stages to get onto the scheme, but don’t let this put you off. Definitely brush up on your interview skills and let your personality shine through.
  • No guarantee of a permanent job – Although there isn’t a guaranteed job at the end of it, we wouldn’t let this put you off too much. You’ll be on the scheme for at least a year, and lots of companies don’t want to lose you at the end of it anyway.

Master’s Degrees

What does a master’s degree involve?

A master’s degree is commonly the next stage of academic study following the completion of your undergraduate degree. They are generally much more specialised, where you’ll focus on a specific area of study and conduct in-depth research into this topic.

You won’t usually be studying as long for your master’s as you did for your undergraduate either, with most courses taking around a year to complete. Bear in mind that some can be longer though! Key master’s qualifications include Master of Arts (MA), Master of Science (MSc) and Master of Business Administration (MBA).


  • Great way to continue academic learning – If you’re passionate about your subject, it’s a great way to continue your learning in an academic environment. You get to really zero in on something you love and conduct your own original research.
  • Some universities offer a tuition fee discount – Depending on your grades, some unis may offer you a reduced tuition fee rate depending on your grade. For instance, if you get a first you could be offered a lower rate.


  • Funding can be tricky – Funding is usually more complicated than with your undergraduate degree. Some courses are self-funded, while others can offer grants depending on the course and institution. Check out the UCAS website for more information.
  • Different experience to undergraduate – This applies more perhaps if you’re thinking a master’s will be a continuation of undergrad life. It usually isn’t unfortunately! Classes are often much smaller and you’ll have less interaction with others in the form of shared work. Remember, there’ll be much more independent study expected of you doing a master’s.

Which should you choose?

Ultimately, the choice is yours (sorry!).

It’ll depend on what your ambitions are and how ready you feel to enter the employment market.

Think carefully about your motivations for choosing your next steps. You don’t need to rush into anything right away if you’re not sure. You could even take a year out if you can’t make up your mind just yet.

What you should do

  • Make a list of your goals – Is finance one of your main motivators? What do you enjoy? Are you ready for full-time employment? What are your passions? Asking yourself some of these key questions will help you on your way to making a decision.
  • Don’t be afraid to speak to friends and family – University friends in particular will know exactly what you’re going through as they’re likely in the same position. Don’t pick a route just because they’re doing it though, do it for you! Family members will want to support you on the way, so talk to them as much as you can.

We wish you the best of luck in your future!

This article was written by Simon Bell. He’s the Founder and Director of, the UK’s #1 career advice and guidance platform packed full with live job opportunities from leading employers and training providers.

Source link