Graduate Program vs Entry Level Jobs

If you have studied or are studying in an Australian university, it is quite likely that you are familiarise with these two terminologies.

 A graduate program lasts around one to two years, during which a graduate often has the opportunity to rotate amongst various business areas and receive targeted and well-structured training and development before transitioning towards a permanent full-time employee of the company. Many graduate programs these days provide graduates mentors and buddies. The former is often mid or senior managers, and the latter previous graduates. Not all graduate programs guarantee permanent employment upon completion; in some cases, you may have to apply for available positions and compete against other applicants.

An entry level job, as the name suggests, is a job that only requires basic skill sets. Often, this type of job does not come with all the ‘perks’ a graduate program provides; it is simply an ‘average’ job that brings you into the organisation. By the sound of it, an entry level job lacks the opportunities and prestige status provided by a graduate program. But, is this really the case?

Whilst graduate programs only admit candidates that are in the final year of study or graduate within two years, entry levels jobs are open to everyone. So, those who are keen to begin early have the opportunity to secure entry level jobs in the first year of university. After two years (about time to graduate), degree-qualified graduates with solid experience are good candidates for mid-tier managerial positions.

Competition for graduate programs is fierce. ASX200 listed companies can have an application-to-position ratio greater than 100:1. Some programs that I’m aware of, for instance those of top banks, have received more than 6000 applications in a year. Candidates often go through a multi-stage selection process, typically including resume screening, online test, telephone or video interview, assessment centre, panel interviews, final interviews and security screening. The entire process tends to last for several months. On the other hand, entry level jobs often only include initial screening, phone and face-to-face interview, a much shorter process than that required by graduate programs.

Some argue that graduate programs pay higher and provide better development and advancement opportunities than entry level jobs. With regard to pay, generally speaking, graduate programs offer 60 – 65k plus superannuation (retirement pension), and entry level job 50 – 55k. Whilst graduate programs often include training and development, these opportunities are available to every employees. Advancement is not always guaranteed for graduate programs (particularly in the private sector). Those who have worked entry level positions are equally competitive to those who have completed graduate programs. From this perspective, despite graduate programs pay higher than entry level jobs, there aren’t many differences between them.

Indeed, situations vary depending on the industry, economic cycle, and more importantly the candidate’s field of specialisation, something I will discuss in upcoming chapters.



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