Top UK Graduate Employers: What They Want, What They Offer and How To Get In

Image shows Canary Wharf at night, seen from between two rows of buildings over a canal.

When making decisions about your future options, you may have heard a lot of doom and gloom about the current state of the job market, and horror stories detailing the unprecedented levels of competition for jobs among young graduates.

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But a recent article in The Times has suggested that the situation may not be quite so bad after all. It highlighted the fact that employers are struggling to fill graduate positions because of a shortage of work-ready graduates. A survey by the Association of Graduate Recruiters has found that a whopping 87% of graduate recruiters still have vacancies left for this autumn, with the IT and engineering sectors particularly badly affected. With companies “sparring” over the best graduates, this sounds like good news for the post-university prospects of the brightest students – those who, like you, have great academic results and work experience to boot. So, if you’re starting to think about where you might want to look for work after you graduate, check out these top graduate employers and find out what they’ll be looking for. We’ve included a range of different employers (in no particular order), many of whom have been featured in The Times Top 100 Graduate Employers.

1. The Times Graduate Trainee Scheme

Image shows the painting 'Peace, Concluded' by John Everett Millais.
The Times is a historic institution; this painting by John Everett Millais shows a soldier reading it to discover the Crimean War has ended.

Who are they? The UK’s leading broadsheet newspaper
In their words: “The Times graduate programme is a two-year scheme working on different desks within the paper alongside the country’s finest journalists and writers.”
Salary: they don’t say.
Looking for: originality, talent, commitment, and a love of journalism. You don’t need a journalism degree.
Pros: experience the different sides to journalism by starting on the home news desk and then moving on to placements with other departments – it’s an interesting and varied programme that should help you determine where your journalistic interests lie.
Cons: this may be a ‘Pro’ depending on your point of view, but the programme includes a six-month placement in the Edinburgh office. You might feel a bit isolated if you have lots of friends back in London.

Image is a button that reads, "Browse all Careers articles."2. Google London

Image shows the offices of Google London.
Google’s bright and quirky London offices.

Who are they? Search engine giant
In their words: “Explore your passions and discover new ones by getting involved. Stretch your boundaries and you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve.”
Salary: reportedly £20,000 to £35,000.
Looking for: “smart, team-oriented people who can get things done”. Google wants only the very highest calibre of employees – exceptionally talented and highly motivated individuals who can think for themselves.
Pros: you’ll get to work in the famously quirky offices of a generous company that looks after its staff better than most, and you’ll work on products that are used worldwide by millions of people. Graduates can expect to go on to earn high salaries, and there are lots of programmes to help you get your foot in the door.
Cons: a rigorous recruitment process and long hours.

3. Teach First – Leadership Development Programme

Image shows a teacher reading a book to a class of primary school children, who are all in fancy dress.
TeachFirst could be a good way to work out if teaching is right for you.

Who are they? A charity that seeks to address the link between low family income and poor educational attainment.
In their words: “Teach First is all about becoming a leader and achieving success – both for yourself and for others. It’s an intensive two years.”
Salary: A minimum of £15,976 as an unqualified teacher, rising to £21,804 as a newly qualified teacher in the second year. More in inner London.
Looking for: “You’ll need bright ideas, gritty determination, awesome communication skills and the confidence to stand up in front of 30 pupils, engage their attention, deflect their jibes and lead them on a journey.”
Pros: A good route into teaching for aspiring teachers, helping a charity at the same time; gain a Post-Graduate Certificate of Education (PGCE) and Qualified Teacher Status, and gain additional credits to put towards a Masters. Also teaches leadership skills that can be applied to other careers.
Cons: Teaching isn’t for everybody and can be tough, and you may end up working in a troubled school as part of the programme.

4. The Civil Service

Image shows the Houses of Parliament at night.
Those interested in politics but desiring job security might enjoy a career in the civil service.

Who are they? The body that supports Her Majesty’s Government in the running of the country.
In their words: “The Civil Service Fast Stream offers you the kind of leadership experience that simply can’t be gained anywhere else.”
Salary: Between £25,000 and £27,000. After four to five years you could be on £45,000.
Looking for: “Graduates who can set a course, get people on board and deliver results.” In other words, good leaders, who are proactive and clear thinkers, who can be trusted to deal with challenges constructively and to use taxpayers’ money efficiently.
Pros: several tracks to choose from depending on where your interests lie (HR, analytical, technology in business, European, Northern Ireland and generalist); you’ll get a permanent contract and a range of benefits from the outset. You’ll also have the satisfaction of helping to run the country.
Cons: A gruelling recruitment process that includes several selection tests and exercises (including one designed to test your ability to cope with a big workload), as well as interviews and an assessment day.

5. Accenture

Image shows the Accenture offices in Amsterdam.
Accenture’s Amsterdam offices.

Who are they? A management consulting, technology services and outsourcing company.
In their own words: “Discover how Accenture can help you maximise your potential — with stimulating challenges and state-of-the-art learning and development.”
Salary: Around £31,500 for Consulting, plus a £10,000 sign-on bonus. Around £26,500 for Technology.
Looking for: “As a guide, our Technical Specialists need a technical degree whereas our Consultants must have a strong interest in technology and good commercial awareness.” A 2.1 degree is required, as is 340 UCAS points for Consulting and 240 for Technology.
Pros: choose from the Consulting or Technology programmes depending on your interests; an excellent benefits package; the top consulting firm in The Times’ Top 100 Graduate Employers; and you may get the chance to train abroad, either in Chicago or Bangalore.
Cons: it takes 2-3 years before you get promoted (and your salary increases), and at that point they push promotion heavily, so you don’t get to rest on your laurels.

6. The BBC Trainee Schemes

Image shows the BBC Television Centre lit up pink for the 2005 General Election.
Sadly, the BBC has now ceased using its famous Television Centre.

Who are they? The British Broadcasting Corporation, a public service broadcaster of impartial television and radio programmes.
In their own words: “Fancy working at the largest broadcaster in the world providing award-winning content, products and services?”
Salary: salaries for paid BBC trainee schemes tend to vary from about £11,000 to £23,000.
Looking for: specific requirements vary enormously from one scheme to another, but generally someone who’s passionate about broadcasting (or a particular area of it), a good team player and creative.
Pros: work for one of the most famous broadcasters in the world; get a foot in the door of a very competitive job market; learn the skills necessary for a successful TV or radio career.
Cons: tight recruitment windows mean you may miss out on the chance to apply – and competition is fierce.

7. Aldi – Area Manager Graduate Training Programme

Image shows a white Audi A4 in a car park at night.
You may be tempted by the perks with Aldi, such as the company car.

Who are they? A leading budget supermarket
In their own words: “We’re looking for exceptional people capable of running their own multi-million pound business within a year.”
Salary: graduate salaries at Aldi start at a massive £41,000. This rises in stages to £67,750 after four years.
Looking for: “Born leaders possessing the drive and ambition to succeed; graduates who thrive in a demanding and fast-paced environment; graduates who excel not just academically, but in how they live their lives.” You’ll also need a minimum 2.1 degree.
Pros: great perks, including high salary and fully expensed company car (an Audi A4, no less); you could become a director within five years; travel the world; you effectively run your own multi-million pound business (taking charge of three to five stores after training).
Cons: “You only need apply if you are capable of inspiring and leading from the front” – if you don’t see yourself as a leader, this job probably isn’t for you.

8. Saatchi and Saatchi

Image shows a Western Union advert, featuring two cities, one on top of the other, to show how quick money transfer is.
A Saatchi & Saatchi advertising campaign for Western Union.

Who are they? One of London’s top advertising agencies
In their own words: “Today’s graduates are the agency’s future leaders so we go to great lengths to make them the best in the business.”
Salary: unknown; but apparently “industry competitive” and includes a “joining bonus”.
Looking for: you’ll need to be intellectual, creative and not mind working late nights; and you’ll need a minimum 2.1 degree.
Pros: work for the ad agency responsible for numerous memorable TV ad campaigns, with brands including British Airways, Direct Line, HSBC and Toyota; get a range of company benefits, such as the subsidised on-site cafe; get the training you need to start a career in a dynamic and highly sought-after job market.
Cons: you’ll face a big (and some might say scary) creative challenge as part of the recruitment process, which varies each year. Previously, candidates have had to turn someone unknown into an internet celebrity – quite a tall order.

9. British Airways Graduate Programmes

Image shows a British Airways aircraft in flight.
British Airways pride themselves on their reputation for customer service.

Who are they? Britain’s premier airline
In their own words: “In real roles and with real responsibilities, you’ll be given exposure to different business areas and major projects, and be involved in key business decisions, driving us to achieve our vision of being the leading global premium airline. For sheer excitement and challenge, we believe there’s nothing quite like it.”
Salary: between £26,000 and £30,000; increases dependent on performance
Looking for: a good academic record, and a commitment to upholding BA’s reputation for first-class customer service.
Pros: great discounts for you and your friends and family on BA flights; several career paths to choose from depending on your interests, including HR, engineering, finance and more.
Cons: may not be suitable for overseas graduates, as you’ll need to possess the right to live and work in the UK indefinitely, without sponsorship from BA.

10. MI5 – Intelligence Officer Development Programme

Image shows the entrance of Thames House.
Thames House, where MI5 is based.

Who are they? The UK’s home intelligence service, which guards the UK against threats to national security (such as terrorism and espionage).
In their own words: “Learn what goes in to MI5 investigations before you lead them”
Salary: starts at £25,056; rises to £28,911 on promotion.
Looking for: you’ll need to have (or be expecting) a 2.2 degree; it doesn’t matter what subject. MI5 also states: “Our work requires sound judgement, decision making, team working and outstanding communication and organisation skills, not to mention honesty, integrity and resilience.”
Pros: be a real-life James Bond (though he was MI6); help protect the country; an interesting and varied career, with no two days the same.
Cons: you won’t be able to tell anyone what you do – you can’t even tell anyone you’re applying! You can tell your partner or a close member of your family – but only if they’re British.

11. KPMG

Image shows KPMG's Paris offices, with a statue of a face in the courtyard.
KPMG’s offices in Paris.

Who are they? One of the so-called ‘Big Four’ London audit firms
In their own words: “If you’re the right kind of smart, we may well have the perfect job waiting for you”
Salary: they don’t provide details, because it depends on the programme and changes each year; but they describe it as “highly competitive”.
Looking for: academic ability (with a minimum 2.1 degree, 320 UCAS points, grade B in GCSE Maths and B in GCSE English Language), in addition to what they call nine ‘behavioural capabilities’, which include career motivation, and the ability to “make an impact”, “deliver quality”, exercise professional judgement and so on. Click here for the full list.
Pros: choose from four career paths (advisory, audit, tax and pensions, and central services); get a range of benefits including a lunch allowance; kickstart a financially rewarding career.
Cons: you’ll have to pass a series of online numerical, situational judgement and verbal and reasoning tests as part of the application process, followed by an interview, an “immersive assessment day” and another interview if you make it that far.
Even if the end of your university days is still a fair way off, it pays to start thinking about your career early on and approaching your job hunt fully prepared when the time comes. These are just a handful of the numerous opportunities currently available for graduates. For even more inspiration, you’ll find lots more employer profiles over at


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Image credits: banner; The Times; Google; TeachFirst; Civil Service; Accenture; BBC; Aldi; Saatchi & Saatchi; British Airways; MI5; KPMG