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Guide to Public Affairs Graduate Schemes

by Minoas Vitalis
Reading Time: 4 minutes

The UK is home to some of the world’s top public affairs graduate programmes. If you’re interested in pursuing a career in this field, then you’ll need to know about the different types of programmes available and what each one entails. There are many opportunities to apply to public affairs graduate schemes in the UK, so you’ll be sure to find one that’s right for you.

The first step is to decide what type of public affairs graduate scheme you’re interested in. 

There are four main types:

  • Policy making
  • Lobbying
  • Communications
  • Research

Each type of programme will offer different opportunities and will require different skills. You’ll need to think about what you want to achieve from your public affairs career and what kind of organisation you want to work for.

Policy-making programmes will give you the chance to influence government policy. You’ll need to be able to research policy issues and make recommendations to decision-makers. Lobbying programmes will allow you to try and influence government decisions on behalf of an organisation or group. You’ll need excellent communication skills and a good understanding of the political process.Communications programmes will give you the chance to work on public relations and marketing campaigns. You’ll need to be creative and have good writing skills. Research programmes will involve conducting research on behalf of an organisation. You’ll need to be able to analyse data and write reports.Most of the time elements of all programmes are combined into one scheme. 

Once you’ve decided what type of programme you’re interested in, you’ll need to start looking for opportunities. The best way to do this is to search online. There are many websites that list public affairs graduate schemes, so you should have no trouble finding one that’s right for you. We will examine where you should look for opportunities and what you should include in your application in the next section of this article.

When you’ve found a few programmes that you’re interested in, it’s time to start applying. Usually, you’ll need to submit a CV and a cover letter. Your cover letter is your chance to sell yourself to the organisation, so make sure you take the time to write a tailored one.  In your CV, you should highlight any relevant experience you have, such as internships or work placements.

The next step of the application process is the interview. This is your chance to demonstrate your skills and knowledge to the organisation. You’ll need to be able to answer questions about your motivation for applying to the programme and why you think you’d be a good fit. Following the interview, there may be a written test or an assessment centre.

At the end of the process, you’ll hopefully be offered a place on a public affairs graduate scheme. Once you’ve accepted, you’ll be well on your way to starting an exciting and rewarding career.

Where can you look for opportunities?

There are many websites that list public affairs graduate schemes. The best way to find one that’s right for you is to search online, after having decided in which sector and for which type of companies or organisations you want to work for. 

A great place to start your search is the Civil Service website. The Civil Service offers a range of graduate roles serving the public. You should also search websites like LinkedIn or Bright Network which list opportunities from a range of employers that have public affairs departments.

Let’s say for example you want to work in public affairs for a trade association.  First of all,  you should identify which trade associations are relevant to the policy area you’re interested in. Then, you can search the websites of these organisations for any graduate schemes they may be offering. If you’re interested in working in public affairs for the farming industry, you could search the website of the National Farmers Union. The Farmers Union this year published a call for applications for their Public Affairs and Communication Graduate Scheme.  If you had applied for that and were successful, you would have gained experience in political lobbying, media management, events, and campaign organisation.

If you want to work for a public affairs consultancy, you could search online about consultancies that deal in the fields that interest you. Consultancies like FleishmanHillard or Grayling offer internships in public affairs and if you do well while an intern, there is a high possibility of being offered a job after you finish the internship. Now if you wanted to work in-house for a company then again the opportunities available depend on the type of company you want to work for. Opportunities are available in Google, LinkedIn itself, Airbnb, Meta, Twitter, and many more companies. All you have to do is search for ‘public affairs opportunities’ + the name of the company. You can work for airlines, pharmaceutical, large construction companies, etc. In general, you can find public affairs in-house opportunities in any field you can imagine as every large company tends to have a public affairs or corporate communications department.

Your search for opportunities doesn’t have to be limited to the internet. You can also attend career fairs organised by your University and others.  Many of these are targeted at students and recent graduates, so they’re a great way to find out about graduate schemes.


In this article, we’ve looked at what types of public affairs graduate schemes are available and also where you should look for opportunities. Hope you find this article useful in your search for a graduate scheme. Time to start applying! Good luck!


Minoas graduated with a Merit upon studying the full-time MPA Public Administration – International Development degree (MPA-ID) at the University of York. He is currently working as a freelance EU affairs consultant in Belgium.


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