top of page

Internship, Apprenticeship or Graduate Scheme: What’s the Difference?

Although internships, apprenticeships and graduate schemes all provide hands-on training, there are distinct differences between the three. Each of these programmes are tailored to suit a different type of person based on a range of factors such as their education level, the amount of time they’re willing to dedicate to the training and their age. All three of these programmes are valuable ways to gain work experience within a wide range of industries. In this blog we’ll take a look at their key differences and advantages.

Graduate Schemes

A graduate scheme is a programme that provides graduates with entry level roles within a company. These programmes are designed to give graduates on-the-job training to gain the skills and experience they need to work within a specific industry. These schemes typically last between one to three years, and the majority of employers will offer you a full time, permanent position once you have completed a graduate scheme within their company.

Graduate schemes are full time, paid positions. Typically, a graduate scheme will pay anywhere from £22,000 - £30,000. Although some companies will pay much more – Aldi offers a graduate scheme with a starting salary of £44,000! There is a common myth that these programmes are only available to recent graduates, but this is not the case – if you took a gap year after university or worked in a different sector for a while you will still be eligible for most graduate schemes.


Apprenticeships differ from graduate schemes in that they’re open to people who haven’t pursued higher education, too. An apprentice will typically receive training from an apprenticeship provider, an employer or a college. During this time they will work towards a qualification over the course of one to four years. There is a misconception that apprenticeships are only for specific trades such as joinery or plumbing, but this isn’t true. Increasingly more apprenticeships have become available in many industries and there are now programmes for careers in accountancy, engineering and even law.

Apprenticeships can be highly competitive because you will get paid a salary while you learn, unlike most internships. A permanent job is guaranteed at the end of an apprenticeship, too, as employers usually sponsor apprentices, so they will naturally hire the person they have invested time and money in. Apprenticeships have become widely recognised as an alternative to higher education in recent years, as they provide the opportunity to receive qualifications up to degree-level whilst working full time and not racking up huge amounts of debt.

We currently partner with one of Northern Ireland's leading apprenticeship providers, Craft Training. If you're interested in undertaking an apprenticeship, you can find more details on their programmes here, or you can keep up to date with their latest opportunities via their Facebook page.


Internships are aimed at current students and graduates who want to gain some work experience within an industry before embarking on a career. The duration of these programmes can be from one week up to a year. Unlike an apprenticeship, you will not receive any qualifications from an internship and you are not guaranteed a job at the end.

Internships are generally less structured than apprenticeships and graduate schemes due to their short duration. You can expect to gain skills and experience by carrying out basic responsibilities such as administrative duties, research and work shadowing. In the UK, if an internship lasts for more than one year or the intern is legally required to turn up to work then they will be paid at least the national minimum wage. Most internships don’t meet these requirements and are therefore unpaid, but many employers will provide interns with a stipend.

We have a range of jobs suited to job hunters at all stages of their careers, from entry level jobs to executive roles. You can browse our current vacancies by clicking the button below.

bottom of page