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The Difference Between a Graduate Program, Job, and Internship? | GradConnection

Posted by Sasha

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What’s The Difference Between a Graduate Program, First Job and Internship?

If you’re in your penultimate year then you are probably thinking about and preparing for your professional life after graduation. There are different experiences and opportunities that may be available to you while you study and once you graduate, so research is key.

One of the questions we often get asked is, what’s the difference between an internship, graduate job, and graduate program? So, we’re going to have a look at each.

What’s a graduate program?

A graduate program often includes a structured development program that can run for anywhere from six months up to five years (though the 2019 AAGE Employer Survey states the average is 18-24 months). The intent is generally to fast-track leadership and career growth, so expect to see mentoring, coaching and rotations as core features. Some programs might emphasise technical development where employers are preparing for future critical skills shortages. 

Naturally, the structured learning and development component means these opportunities are in high demand, so expect strong competition for roles. Due to the high volume of applications, the recruitment process can also be long and comprehensive, sometimes starting a year before the role does! 

Why is this important? You may already need to be researching and applying for roles.

What’s a graduate job?

A graduate job is likely to be an entry-level junior role requiring a qualification or specialised skills and knowledge to perform the duties well. What makes it different to a graduate program is that it doesn’t have a learning and development program attached or specified duration. You are hired to perform the job at hand.

You’ll probably come across graduate jobs in smaller organisations who don’t hire a large number of graduates for a structured development program to be economical. However, depending on the employer, they may still allocate a development budget as part of their offer.

Graduate jobs are often advertised closer to the desired start time (similar to regular job ads), meaning you can expect a shorter recruitment to appointment process.

What’s an internship?

An internship is practical work experience with an employer while you are still studying, usually reserved for penultimate year students.  It can be paid or unpaid, and sometimes project-based.

Internships are a great way to experience different employers and roles related to your field of interest and may help you figure out your career direction.

Employers might use their internships as a strategy for pre-screening potential future graduate employees. Last year, Australia’s graduate recruitment industry observed a 47% increase in the number of offers accepted by interns into the subsequent graduate programs meaning – this is a worthwhile strategy to explore if you’re eligible.

What should I apply for?

This depends a lot on your career goals and short to medium term plans. When deciding what’s the best option, you’ll want to consider the package on offer, like the duration of the development program, and make sure timeframes and training and outcomes are aligned with your needs. For example, there’s no point applying for a two year program if you’re moving to London in six months!

We suggest researching the graduate employers and programs on offer to get a feel for their culture and opportunities before you start applying for roles. 

To stay up to date with graduate opportunities and internships register for your free account on GradConneciton.


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