Graduate Programs Vs Graduate Jobs

Posted by Andrew Purchas

Updated 11 November 2022

There is no definitive answer on whether a graduate program is better than a standard graduate job. We outline the key differences between the two below to help you better decide which one might be the option for you.

Graduate Program

Graduate Job

Overview – A structured program by a large employer that typically lasts 12 – 24 months. Structured learning experience, training, mentorship with many programs giving you a chance to see multiple parts of the business.Overview – A specific entry level role that requires a university degree but does not necessarily require any experience. Whilst it doesn’t have a structured graduate training component, these roles are still supported by company training practices used to develop all staff.
Purpose – Identify future leaders and fast track them to leadership positions within an organisationPurpose – To fill a specific role within an organisation from day 1
Competitiveness – Very high. Graduate programs attract the most applications per vacancy but only provide positions to 30% of graduating students each year.Competitiveness – Whilst still competitive, these roles don’t always get the exposure graduate programs do and have much lower applications per job vacancy than graduate programs.
Duration – Typically 12 – 24 months for the structured component with many guaranteeing a transition into full time positions.Duration - No fixed terms with a permanent contract. Standard probationary periods are 3 – 6 months long.
Recruitment Process – Long and Rigorous. Sometimes application processes for these programs can take months with very formal and automated steps such as Applicant Tracking Systems, video interviewing and more.Recruitment Process – Can vary heavily but time to offer can be up to 50% faster with less steps and applicants to assess.
Parting thoughts – Graduate programs are a unique chance to see multiple parts of a business, gain access to leadership and mentors that might be tough normally but because of these benefits are extremely structured that might not suit all graduates.Parting thoughts – Some graduates prefer these roles over structured development programs as they can progress as fast as they want only limited by their own drive. They are also able to start specialising in their chosen area which can be tough on a large structured rotational graduate program.

When should I be applying?

As a general rule of thumb, you should be applying from the start of your final year at university.

Graduate Programs – Applications open extremely early. While we're seeing more employers opting to hire year round, peak time for applications is generally February to April with 70% of the employers here on GradConnection opening jobs over this time. These roles generally start the following year and with applications opening so early, many students miss out by realising this too late.

There is also a mini peak middle of the year as well from July onwards with second round application windows from large employers as well as many employers also looking to advertise when there is less competition from other companies trying to hire the same sets of students.

Graduate Jobs – These are more of an on-demand basis and can come up at any time so keeping an eye out as early as possible will help make sure you don’t miss opportunities!

Graduate Jobs Salary

The average salary for a large graduate program is $68,000 per year according to the 2022 AAGE Annual Employer Survey however this doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed this figure! There are many factors that determine what a position might pay and as this is your first serious career step, taking the position that is right for what you want to achieve is more important than a short term gain for your bank account.

Things to weigh up when assessing a graduate salary:

  • Type of company – is it a large established company or a small startup with less funds?
  • Type of work – an extra few thousand dollars should not sway you from a job that is more aligned to where your interests lie. Gaining the right experience will also set you up for a much higher pay day in the future
  • Work-life balance – can you expect to be working long hours or do you have flexibility like remote working?
  • Development and training opportunities – these aren’t cheap so if these are on offer factor this in as well
  • Share options – not just limited to startups but also on offer from many large established companies
  • Your potential future team – whether you’ve been won over by a hiring manager or the skills, attitude and personality of the team this should weigh in higher than any salary discussions

See more on how to choose the right graduate program for you here and a breakdown of the average salary in some of the major industries here.


Ready to apply? Check out the graduate programs and graduate jobs now open for applications on GradConnection.


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