Whether you've already graduated or are about to complete your degree, a graduate programme can offer a pathway into various finance careers with leading employers

However, the structure of each scheme will vary according to the degree of specialism and how graduates will fit into the company. It's also important to bear in mind that working for a large organisation rather than a smaller business doesn't suit everyone.

So it's certainly worth researching your options to find out what would be expected of you if you applied for a specific graduate scheme, whether you meet the entry requirements, how and when to apply, and what your career prospects will be afterwards.

Here's an overview of what's available in 2017, although the exact nature of each programme and salary information is subject to change.

Which finance companies run graduate schemes?

All the major banks continue to run dedicated graduate programmes, and they often hold open days to give students an insight into what a career there might be like. Since the financial crisis, some banks have looked at diversifying their schemes to provide a more rounded experience where graduates get to rotate across a number of different departments, as they adapt to the changing needs of the industry.

The following financial companies offer graduate programmes in various business areas:

  • Barclays provides intensive training for various analyst roles in areas such as business, consumer and corporate banking. These last for between one and two-and-a-half years and are based either in the UK or overseas (Frankfurt, Paris, Tel Aviv and Zurich).
  • Deloitte runs eight graduate programmes for its business advisors with a focus on audit, consulting, financial advisory, real estate, risk advisory, tax consulting and technology.
  • EY has a number of graduate opportunities in various UK locations with structured schemes available in six business areas: actuarial, assurance, consulting, tax, transactions and technology.
  • HSBC offers two-year, internationally-focused programmes in a number of specialisms, including commercial banking, private banking, retail banking and wealth management, global asset management and HSBC Securities Services.
  • Lloyds Banking Group's Graduate Leadership Programmes involve rotating across three or more placements held across the country, in business units such as: audit; commercial banking - business management, clients and markets, or mid markets and SME banking; finance; insurance; retail banking; and risk.
  • PwC - A wide range of graduate jobs are available in business areas such as actuarial, assurance, consulting and tax. All roles are part of a structured graduate programme with the opportunity to work in offices throughout the UK. Some areas give you the chance to study for the chartered accountant qualification with the relevant awarding body.
  • The Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) offers various streams within its core functions remit, including working in credit risk, finance, internal audit or risk. You can study towards chartered status in the area you choose to specialise in.

To discover which employers in the sector are currently accepting applications for their programmes, search graduate schemes in accountancy, banking and finance.

What other finance programmes are available?

Finance specialists are also required across different job sectors, with finance (or business-related with a finance component) graduate schemes run by many leading employers. All the schemes below are three years in duration, apart from Network Rail's.

Please note that study is often combined with working on the job, so you could be gaining a qualification from a professional body such as the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA). See finance qualifications for more details on these courses.

  • Boots - This finance programme has a global outlook, so you'll gain hands-on experience and benefit from on-the-job training across UK and overseas operations.
  • Centrica - Another dedicated finance scheme, it consists of three 12-month placements that cover a range of business areas and financial disciplines. Training is undertaken alongside study for an accounting qualification from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW), the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) or CIMA.
  • Nestlé - Taking place at numerous UK sites, this finance programme is again split into three diverse roles, with graduates working full time in a variety of finance functions while studying (study leave and financial support offered) for professional qualifications with either ACCA or CIMA.
  • Network Rail - As part of its business management remit, graduates with a flair for financial planning will undertake rotational finance placements over two to two-and-a-half years. You'll primarily be based in Milton Keynes while studying for professional management accountant qualifications with CIMA.
  • Sky - Graduates will work on different projects while studying for a CIMA management accountant qualification on a rotational programme based in Livingston, Scotland or Osterley, West London. The three placements may also involve spending time in Sky's European offices in Italy and Germany.
  • Tesco - There's a choice of working in finance areas such as audit, treasury or group capital. This Hertfordshire-based role enables you to learn and develop new skills at the Tesco Academy while having the opportunity to really impact the business.
  • Virgin Media - A finance-focused scheme with three one-year placements based in Bradford, Hammersmith and Hook (Hampshire). No finance experience is required. You'll work in a role across accounting services, commercial finance, treasury, procurement and strategy.

What are the entry requirements?

Most of these leading graduate employers tend to ask for a minimum of a 2:1 - although Lloyds Banking Group and National Rail expect a 2:2 or above. In the majority of cases, the degree can be in any subject.

Recruiters will sometimes specify a certain number of UCAS points (for instance, 320 is required to work at Tesco, and 300 at EY and HSBC) or A-level results (Centrica currently asks for three Bs). National Rail states that an A-level in maths is desirable rather than essential.

The Deloitte programme is not just open to graduate applications, but also those in their final year, plus those already working or studying for a Masters.

How and when should I apply?

You'll usually be expected to apply online, with some places filled well before the end of term. Most of Barclays' programmes start in August, with applications closing the November before. However, this can vary - for example, HSBC has a July start date and Lloyds Banking Group's schemes begin in September. See the individual programme you're interested in for precise dates.

To give you an idea of the first stage of the application process, the online form at EY takes around 30 minutes to complete. It's split into two parts, with pre-screening leading to the 'Strengths Portal' where you'll be assessed on situational strengths, business behaviours, numerical reasoning and your mindset.

For tips on showing yourself in the best possible light and writing a successful application, see applying for jobs.

What skills are expected of a graduate trainee?

While there are many types of graduate programme, and you should check the individual scheme for exact requirements. We've put together a few examples of what some employers are looking for.

For instance, Sky is searching for confident communicators with analytical skills to work in their dynamic working environment. Nestlé is on the lookout for future leaders with an eye for detail and who are able to build strong working relationships, quickly grasp new concepts and adopt an analytical and systematic approach. Tesco expects its graduates to have sharp minds in order to ensure that the business has sound financial control, while they'll also need problem-solving skills, intelligent analysis and a flair for handling complex data.

To work for EY, you'll need:

  • commercial acumen;
  • to be good at working with others - specifically in terms of learning, sharing and listening;
  • a clear sense of professional and personal accountability;
  • energy and enthusiasm;
  • the courage to lead.

Discover the attributes required for specific roles at graduate jobs in accountancy and finance.

What about the salary and benefits?

Here's what a selection of recruiters offered to their finance graduates in 2016/17:

  • Boots - £25,000, plus a £1,000 welcome bonus.
  • Centrica - £31,000, plus a £3,000 starting bonus.
  • Lloyds - £28,000, plus a flexible benefits package that includes placement relocation allowances and private medical cover. You'll also get a laptop and mobile phone.
  • Nestlé - £27,000 a year, plus a £2,000 welcome bonus.
  • Tesco - £32,000.

See how this compares with other professions by viewing High Fliers' The Graduate Market in 2017 report.

Will I be offered a job afterwards?

Many employers do offer permanent positions with the firm after completion of the programme, but you'll need to check the finer details of the scheme. For example, at Deloitte, the scheme results in a permanent job, whether this is in the same team you've been working with or a different part of the business.