The Difference Between a Graduate Program, a Graduate Job and an Internship

Posted by GradConnection

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 is a graduate program? 

A graduate program is a structured program run typically by a large employer that lasts 12-24 months. It involves a structured learning experience including training, mentorship, and team rotations so that you can get exposure to different parts of the business. 

A graduate program is often designed to identify future leaders and fast-track them to leadership positions within the organisation. As such, these programs are very well advertised and quite competitive. Due to the high volume of applications these programs receive, the recruitment process is very rigorous and can sometimes take a few months in total. 

If you want to learn more about the graduate recruitment process, check out our blog post here.  

What is a graduate job? 

A graduate job differs from a graduate program in that it's a specific entry-level role that requires a university degree, but not necessarily any prior experience. The main difference between a graduate job and a graduate program is that it might not have a structured training component and is often created to fill a role within an organisation (i.e. on-demand). 

These roles may be advertised as much as traditional graduate programs and so are often less competitive. Some may prefer graduate jobs because they might be able to progress faster or specialise in a certain field a lot earlier than they would be able to in a structured graduate program. 

What is an internship? 

An internship is practical work experience with an employer while you are still studying, usually, but not always, reserved for penultimate year students. It can be paid or unpaid, and sometimes project-based. 

Internships are a great way to experience what it's like to work in different companies and roles related to your field of interest and will help you to 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! 

What should I apply for? 

This depends greatly on your career goals as well as where you are in your current degree. The bottom line? Apply for the opportunities that you like the look of and that suit your timeframe and goals! 


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