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A graduate programme that requests a 2.1 isn’t your only way into a career.

Some big graduate employers specify that they only want graduates with a 2.1 or higher, but this is by no means true for all. Even the most popular and sought-after employers sometimes take a more flexible approach to entry requirements.

Big-name employers that accept 2.2s for their graduate schemes and jobs

Some employers set a minimum degree classification across all of their graduate schemes, while others set different entry requirements for each of their programmes. Here are just a few graduate employers that either take a 2.2 or do not set a minimum degree grade for at least some of their vacancies:

  • Babcock International Group
  • BAE Systems
  • Barratt Developments
  • The Civil Service Fast Stream (NB: not all streams)
  • DESG: the Defence Engineering and Science Group
  • Enterprise Rent-A-Car
  • EY
  • FDM Group
  • HMRC
  • Jaguar Land Rover
  • Kier Group
  • Lloyds Banking Group
  • Lloyd’s of London
  • MI5
  • The NHS graduate management programmes
  • Nationwide
  • Network Rail
  • nucleargraduates
  • Sky
  • Tesco.

Search for graduate programmes that accept 2.2s.

Employers that take a more flexible approach to the 2.1 entry requirement

Some employers usually require a 2.1 but will make exceptions on a case-by-case basis. For example, while Deloitte seeks a minimum of a 2.1 and 104 UCAS points (or equivalent), it does say that you can still apply if you have narrowly missed those grades and it will take into account your personal circumstances. Similarly, some employers – most notably law firms that usually require a 2.1 – use a contextualised recruitment process, pioneered by Rare. This process assesses your grades in the context of your socio-economic background (such as the school you attended), meaning that employers may accept 2.2s from individual candidates. Check out the websites of your chosen employers to see whether they participate in the programme.

Advice on applying for graduate jobs in specific sectors with a 2.2

Can you apply for 2.1 jobs with a 2.2 if you have mitigating circumstances?

Yes. If your grades have suffered due to circumstances such as illness or bereavement, you are still eligible to apply for jobs that have a 2.1 entry requirement. Find out more about when and how to disclose mitigating circumstances to recruiters.

The secrets of getting the graduate career you want… no matter what

By the time you have some proper professional experience behind you and are applying for experienced hire roles, recruiters won’t be looking at your degree class. They will be looking at your previous performance in the workplace. The key lies in finding your first job and a graduate programme that requests a 2.1 isn’t your only way into a career.

You could:

  • Research a wider range of industries. If you know what job you want to do, consider looking outside of the employers typically associated with that profession; ‘alternative’ or ‘non-typical’ employers may offer individual entry-level vacancies with more flexible entry requirements than a profession’s ‘big graduate schemes’. Remember that a good number of jobs exist across a range of industries and employers. For example, most businesses recruit HR, accountancy and financial management, IT and marketing professionals, while a number of large organisations employ in-house lawyers. Similarly, you might not expect organisations such as retailers and the NHS to have engineering and property vacancies, but they do.
  • Actively seek out smaller businesses. Small and medium-sized businesses make up 99.9% of the UK economy (according to GOV.UK) and, as smaller employers are likely to have fewer applicants than larger employers, they may not have to request a 2.1 as a way to limit the number of applications. Your careers service, recruitment agencies and the local press can assist your search for smaller businesses in your local area.
  • Work your way in. If you are able to get some work experience with an organisation and you impress, your manager will be more likely to hire you into a permanent role if one is available. This could be informal work experience that you apply speculatively for, a formal internship, a part-time job or even temping. Read our A to Z of different work experience options to get inspired.
  • Work your way across. Alternatively, if you are willing to play 'the long game' to get the career you want, you could apply for another role with an employer that also hires professionals into your chosen career area. Once you have impressed in that role, express an interest in your chosen career area and you may be able to move across into it. Good employers like to facilitate this, if they are able to, in order to retain good employees. However, while TARGETjobs editors have spoken to a fair number of people over the years who have moved sideways in this way, it is not a guaranteed route into your chosen career; there is always a bit of luck involved. You also need to remember that you should be happy doing your initial role (employers will only hire candidates who demonstrate enthusiasm for the specific vacancy they've applied for) and that it may be some time before you can broach the subject of moving teams.
  • Build a network and let them know that you are looking for work. Not all employers have the budget to advertise vacancies widely and so it is quite common to hear of a lot of opportunities by word of mouth. This is more likely to happen if you forge a good network of contacts – and, if you don't consider yourself to be well connected right now, it's never been easier to start networking and change this. Watch our webinar with Ashley Dunsmore to discover how she found her work experience and job via LinkedIn. Then start to work on creating the best possible LinkedIn profile and begin connecting.
  • Consider a postgraduate degree. Some employers that usually specify a 2.1 degree will accept a 2.2 degree if it is accompanied by a postgraduate qualification such as a masters (particularly if you achieve a distinction). However, different employers have different attitudes towards this, even within the same sector, and so it is worth contacting your preferred employers to gain their views before embarking on further study. Whether the possibility of getting onto a graduate programme with a large employer is worth the cost of a masters and another year of study also deserves careful consideration.

Remember that employers don’t just look for academic achievements when assessing you for a role; they look for evidence of your skills. As such, it is worth putting in the time to develop the competencies that employers seek. The coronavirus pandemic has curtailed a lot of the opportunities to gain work experience and pursue extracurricular activities, but anything you are able to do will improve your CV. The following articles might be a good starting point for exploring your options:

Conduct a skills audit by looking at some job advertisements in the career sector that interests you. If you lack evidence of a skill, seek out ways to develop it. Take a look at our skills and competencies section for a definition of key skills and inspiration on how to develop them.

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