Graduate programs are a recruitment tool generally used by large corporate and government as a way of both building partnerships with universities and gaining access to talent in many different disciplines outside of more 'normal' recruitment channels.
A grad program will normally lasts 1 – 2 years depending on the discipline and can start recruiting at different times of the year dependent on both the organisation and the discipline. Law firms tend to recruit first, usually followed (as a guide) by consulting, accounting, engineering firms, and then private companies and government organisations who might also offer these programs.
Most Graduate programs will be targeted at final year students, depending on the firm and the discipline you may even find firms targeting students a year out from the potential start date - if there is a particular requirement in the job market that isn't currently being met then they may start even earlier. If you're a year away from graduation (or even if you've already graduated) you should start looking into these programs.
Graduates programs are an excellent way to begin your career in Finance - they help you find your feet and introduce you to the workplace as well - with the (big) added benefit that they put you into a program where you not only learn how to use the information and skills from university in a workplace environment but also introduce you to valuable connections and help you to understand the way the real world works. Separately, graduate positions that are offered provides opportunities that might not be found in advertised roles - specifically things like more extensive training along with a deeper induction, structured career development planning and regular follow-ups, plus additional opportunities for formalised mentoring.
Some of the additional opportunities are:
One of the most important benefits of a graduate program is obviously support. As everybody knows, adjusting to the workplace environment and the general cadence of a working life isn't easy - graduate programs tend to offer mentoring, potentially things like buddy programs and other ways to help you find your feet and build the best base for your ongoing employment.
Because of the more theoretical nature of university life, it is certain that you will find notable differences between what you learnt at university and the day-to-day needs of the role you have taken on. Graduate programs tend to acknowledge this and take a structured approach to building on your knowledge in a way that makes sense.
Finally, many Graduate programs are built around rotations, where the graduate moves around and experiences many of the different departments of the company. Rotations are put together in such a way that the candidate is given the opportunity to find where their true interest lies, particularly where they were still undecided when entering the program.
One of the greatest things about grad programs is that when you look at them there are a wide range available to apply to. The other thing to note is that they are generally not only focused on a particular discipline - they're offered to graduates in all areas and a wide range of different employers offer these programs.
With all of the above advantages, graduate recruitment programs are highly competitive - generally a small number of places for a large number of applicants.
Some things to consider before you begin applying:
The best and first thing to do is to start researching - understand the different graduate programs that are on offer and that you're interested in, find out how each may help you in your chosen career path and also (importantly) what you can offer to the program.
Ask your teachers and professors (and the University) to give you their thoughts on each program and your eligibility.
Take care in this step - if you don't you won't be considered.
As discussed above grad programs are highly competitive do your research and prep for interviews, look at the type of questions you might be asked and prep answers beforehand - update your resume, include references, academic awards and anything else that you might have done that will make your case.
Graduate programs are a great way for you to develop a career in Finance in a supported and directed way, giving you the ability to effectively contribute to your company or organisation as well as being able to gain valuable experience and understand the work environment better.