Applying for a Grad Scheme for Science Graduate Jobs


If you are wondering what science graduate jobs are out there, you may be pinning your hopes on getting onto a graduate scheme. These programmes can be very popular and there are many options out there for science graduates.

I joined a graduate programme at a pharmaceutical company right after finishing university. It helped me develop at an accelerated pace and gain a breadth of knowledge about the industry. However, I also know many people who didn’t start their career through a graduate scheme and have also developed and progressed in their industry. It’s important to remember that graduate schemes are not the only option, or even the best choice, for everyone.

Here are some things to consider if you are looking for science graduate jobs and want to know whether a graduate scheme is for you:

  1. Depth vs. Breadth of Experience

When you join a graduate scheme, most of the time you are starting an accelerate development journey. In most cases you go through rotations around the company. These could be in your specific department, or across other areas too. In this way, you can a breadth of knowledge about the department and/or company. You will most likely be expected to operate at a slightly more senior level than your level of experience would usually allow you to. This means you also develop skills and the ability to navigate the company very quickly.

The flip side of this is that you may not get the depth of experience you are looking for. As science graduates, we are often used to delving deep into a subject until we know it inside-out. Joining a graduate scheme will be a change in mindset. However, if you join a company through a direct role, you are likely to have to learn that role in depth. So it’s important to think about whether you want to build breadth or depth in your career in the early stages.

  1. Leadership Development

Graduate schemes are mostly designed to set you up for a leadership role in that company at a faster-than-usual rate. You are therefore likely to benefit from training opportunities that others may not have. These are often centred around developing leadership skills. This is a great opportunity to learn from senior management, gain self-awareness and go through courses and experiences that advance your knowledge quickly. It also comes with high expectations to perform. As opposed to a ‘normal’ job, this is not always against pure delivery or quality of work.

You will have to also show your leadership potential in the way you behave, influence others and present yourself. It is likely you will have to think about your personal brand. There are different aspects you are expected to think about with regards to your performance. If you just want to get on with doing a job, a grad scheme may not be for you.

  1. Staying With One Company

Nowadays, it’s very common to move between companies every 2-3 years, or even more frequently in some cases. When you join a graduate scheme, you are being trained to be a leader in that specific company. Obviously, the skills and experience you gain can be transferred to other companies. However, it’s useful to keep in mind that a lot of your training will be tailored to the expectations of that company and moulded to fit their culture. This doesn’t mean you can’t move to a different company after or even during the scheme. But once you join one, you do feel like you are preparing yourself for a longer-term career there, so just bear this in mind.

  1. Control Over Your Path

When you join a graduate scheme, you often do rotations through different roles. These can feel like mini contracts where you are required to deliver one or more specific objectives to impact the business. Whether you have any influence on what rotations you do varies between companies. There is also often an expected path to follow after you finish the scheme. This structure and guidance can be great for some people as it gives you direction. You may also receive extra support with your career development decisions. If you join a company outside of a structured programme, you may not get the same opportunities. However, you can create these yourself and feel more in control over your career options.  

When you are looking for science graduate jobs, structured schemes are often perceived as more attractive. They definitely have benefits; however you need to consider the above factors to consider whether they are right for you. They are definitely not the only option after graduating!  

If you are ready to take your career outside the lab and want to know how to start, book a Beyond the Lab Breakthrough Session here.


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