The Difference Between a Graduate Program, Job and Internship

Posted by Mai Ly

Updated 9 November 2022

As you embark on your job search journey as a university student, you’ll probably come across three main types of opportunities that can help best set you up for graduation: graduate programs, graduate jobs and internships. But it’s easy to blur the lines between what their differences actually are and which option you should go for. Read on for some simple break downs below! 

What’s a graduate program?

A graduate program is a structured program run typically by a large employer that lasts 12-24 months. The intent is generally to fast-track leadership and career growth, so expect to see mentoring, coaching and rotations as core features to give you the best exposure to different parts of the business. This also means that these programs are very well advertised and often quite competitive. Due to the high volume of applications these programs receive, the recruitment process is rigorous and can sometimes take a few months in total. Browse the graduate programs you can apply for on GradConnection now here.

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. Some may actually prefer this because they might be able to progress faster or specialise in a certain field earlier than they would be able to in a structured graduate program!

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 or are simply looking to fill a role within their organisation. 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. See the current entry-level roles now open for applications here

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. It’s also crucial for some industries that put greater value on practical experience, for example, broadcast media, PR and marketing.

More often than not, employers will have an internship program to pre-screen talent that they can retain for their graduate program. That's why it's extremely worthwhile to secure an internship if you are in your penultimate year! Get started on your internship search here.

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. 



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