Consumer goods and FMCG
consumer goods graduate scheme starting pay and career progression

Pay and career progression for graduates working in consumer goods

Find out how much you could earn on a FMCG graduate training programme, how much this could increase after three years and where your career could go next.

According to the 2016 membership survey from the Association of Graduate Recruiters (AGR), the median starting salary for graduates who started work for consumer goods companies was £29,000, with only law firms, the public sector, investment banking and financial services offering higher starting pay.

The median salary for internships and placements with FMCG companies belonging to the AGR was £18,000, the same as for accountancy or professional services firms. Only financial services and investment banking employers paid interns and placement students more.

Over the first three years of employment, graduates who joined consumer goods companies in 2012 saw their pay increase by 27%, according to the AGR. While not quite as dramatic an increase as the eye-watering 65% increase enjoyed by graduate hires of accountancy and financial services firms and law firms, this compares favourably to the average 15% three-year increase for graduates working for engineering companies.

Graduate starting salaries in consumer goods roles

Graduate pay at FMCG companies varies depending on the scheme applied to, but is usually between £25,000 and £31,000. Here are some examples:

  • The starting salary at Danone is £28,500 and there is also a bonus scheme for recruits who achieve their targets.
  • The starting salary at Nestlé is £27,000, plus a £2,000 welcome bonus.
  • The starting salary on Unilever's future leaders programme is £30,000.

What are graduates’ prospects of promotion in FMCG companies?

A place on a consumer goods company’s graduate scheme will give you experience of a fast-paced commercial environment that will stand you in good stead however you decide to develop your career in future.

Our Inside Buzz reviews for Associated British Foods reflect graduates’ confidence in their prospects for swift career progression, with one London-based contributor observing, ‘The progression within the business is very good and, with all the companies in the wider group, there are lots of opportunities.’

Inside Buzz reviewers for Johnson & Johnson commented on the range of opportunities within the company, and said it was possible to pursue either a managerial or technical career path. One graduate working in marketing said, ‘Promotions can happen quite rapidly if you display the correct set of skills,’ while another working in the same area added, ‘There is a clear progression route within this company. The set rotation scheme on most of our graduate programmes helps to facilitate this.’

What training and development do consumer goods companies offer?

When you are researching FMCG graduate schemes and investigating the training and qualifications on offer, consider the following:

  • Length. How long is the scheme overall? Does it consist of a number of different placements, and if so, how long are the placements, and where are they likely to be based?
  • Variety. Rotational programmes which place trainees in different departments are intended to give a broad view of how the business works. You may get the opportunity to gain an understanding of both the demand-orientated side of the organisation – sales and marketing – and the supply side, which includes manufacturing, HR and supply chain.
  • Location. There may be opportunities for overseas placements during the course of your graduate training, though they are unlikely to be guaranteed. Graduate recruits may also be expected to relocate within the UK for different placements.
  • Opportunities to gain professional qualifications. Finance graduate schemes may offer training towards accreditation by a relevant professional body such as CIMA (Chartered Institute of Management Accountants). Engineering schemes may offer support towards chartership.
  • Soft skills training, ongoing learning and support. Formal training by an external organisation such as CIMA is likely to be just a small part of what’s on offer. Like employers in other industries, consumer goods companies also provide on-the-job training, online learning schemes, and mentoring and buddy programmes.

For example, at L’Oréal, new employees take part in the company's FIT (Follow Up and Integration Track) programme, which includes training, opportunities to find out more about products such as site visits, and a personalised meeting programme to introduce them to colleagues in their business area.

Mars runs an internal training and development facility called Mars University and sets out to provide 70% of employee training via on-the-job experience, 20% from guidance and mentoring, and 10% from formal courses.

Danone is committed to developing talent within the company and has a worldwide objective to fill 80% of jobs internally. It provides graduate recruits with individual learning plans, which include both formal and on-the-job training and e-learning as well as opportunities for coaching.

What soft skills do graduates gain from working in consumer products?

Graduates on FMCG training schemes are likely to develop a range of soft skills, including the following:

  • Facilitation skills
  • Negotiation
  • Presenting
  • Project management
  • Leadership
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