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

The structure of each scheme will vary according to the degree of specialism and how graduates 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.

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. Read more about applying for graduate schemes in general.

Here's an overview of what's available in 2018, although the exact nature of each programme and salary information is subject to change.

Which finance companies run graduate schemes?

All the major banks and financial institutions, including Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds Banking Group, Deloitte and EY, continue to run dedicated finance graduate schemes, and they often hold open days to give students an insight into what a career there might be like. Most programmes last between one and three years.

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 including Boots, Centrica, Nestlé, Network Rail, Sky, Tesco and Virgin Media.

What will I do on a finance graduate scheme?

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.

For example, Lloyds Banking Group's Graduate Leadership Programmes involve rotating across three or more placements held across the country, in business units such as audit, finance, insurance, retail banking and risk.

Other finance-related programmes will involve time spent in other locations throughout Europe or further afield. Barclays provides intensive training for various analyst roles in areas such as business, consumer and corporate banking, with placements based either in the UK or overseas (Frankfurt, Paris, Tel Aviv and Zurich).

HSBC also runs 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.

Many finance-specific schemes with employers in other job sectors are developed with a global outlook. Indeed, the one at Boots includes on-the-job training across its UK and overseas operations.

Whatever the nature of companies with graduate schemes, you'll find that study is often combined with working on the job, so you could be gaining a qualification from a professional body as you engage in work or training.

For example, 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.

Network Rail, Nestlé, Centrica and Sky all allow their graduates study for an accounting qualification from the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA). Some of these recruiters also offer routes from the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW) or the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) too.

See finance qualifications for more details on these courses.

What are the entry requirements?

Most 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.

While these schemes are typically training programmes designed for recent students to bridge the gap between study and the world of work, it's illegal for employers to discriminate according to a person's age. Therefore, there's no upper age limit on applications.

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 by the December before. However, this can vary - for example, the HSBC graduate scheme has a July start date and the Lloyds graduate scheme begins 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 will I need?

There are many types of graduate programme, and you should check the individual scheme for exact requirements. Here are 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 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 finance jobs.

How much will I be paid?

Here's what a selection of recruiters offered to their finance graduates in 2017/18:

  • Boots - £25,000, plus a £1,000 welcome bonus.
  • Centrica - £31,000, plus a £3,000 starting bonus.
  • Lloyds - £28,000 (for most programmes, apart from the Commercial Banking Clients & Markets Graduate Leadership Programme, which is £38,000), plus a flexible benefits package that includes a one-off £3,000 settling-in allowance and private medical cover.
  • Royal Bank of Scotland - £27,000.
  • Tesco - £26,000.

See how this compares with leading graduate employers (featuring in The Times Top 100) in 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.