MailOnline Graduate Scheme – The Complete Guide

Applications for the MailOnline Graduate scheme are now open for 2020 – if you’re thinking of applying, you’ve come to the right place.

With a lack of information to hand, it can be challenging to get a real insight into schemes like these. But, as ever, we’re on hand with all the things you should know, so you can weigh up whether or not it’s the right step for you.

And, if you’re wondering how we know what we’re talking about, it’s because we’ve spoken to people who have experienced the scheme firsthand.

You can see full details of all of the graduate schemes currently open in the UK here.

The Scheme

You will be working on one of the world’s largest news websites. (Image Credit: Screenshot)

The scheme, which begins April 2021 will see trainees join a two-year programme. The programme, which they label as the “best in the business” is made up of intense training, assessment and first-hand experience at both regional daily newspapers and agencies in the UK.

The course kicks off in March with a month of in-house training. Once that’s out of the way, and trainees have a solid understanding of the MailOnline and its values, a three-month placement comes next.

Who runs the MailOnline’s training programme? At the moment, the scheme is run by Sue Ryan. Peter Sands is the trainer for the scheme and tweets frequently about the training he runs, if you’d like even more of an insight. Sands also publishes his weekly news quizzes online, as well as tips and recommended reading. We’d advise taking a look if you’re thinking of applying.

Following three months of placement at places such as the Scottish Daily Mail, Irish Daily Mail, Press Association or a large regionally daily newspaper, trainees will return to the MailOnline and join the newsroom or sports desk.

Speaking on their confidence following the in-house training, one former student told us: “I definitely felt confident moving into placement! It’s going to be nerve-wracking starting no matter how much training you are given, but the training given by Peter Sands readied me ready to get out there.

“The placements are what makes the scheme good – I wish I could have stayed there if I’m honest.”

The scheme certainly isn’t for the faint-hearted as you’ll be expected to work for an around-the-clock operation. During your time on the programme, you can rest assured that you will be required to cover night shifts and regular weekends in a fast-paced environment.

For the most part, shifts are nine hours long. However, as with all journalism roles, sometimes days run longer. Earlier finishes would typically compensate these longer days on other days though.

Some weeks you may be working 8am-5pm, or you could be on the 5pm ’til 2am shift. Shift patterns can vary significantly from placement to placement.

One student from the scheme told us: “I think the biggest day to day challenge was working both days of the weekend for a solid two years. Although it was part and parcel of the job, it made life very difficult in terms of seeing family, friends and having a life outside of the office”.

However, it is worth adding here that the MailOnline have made changes to the shift patterns on scheme recently, with an insider telling Journo Resources shifts are now a week of day shifts followed by a week of nights – and that trainees are no longer required to work both days of a weekend.

As a young reporter, it’s true you won’t be getting the nine to five shifts we all dream of, so it’s worth going in with your eyes open. But that’s not to say the scheme isn’t worth it for the contacts you build, the training, and future opportunities.

The Application Process

They’re pretty sharp – and they want your best work. (Image Credit: Neon Brand / Unsplash)

It’s likely that the successful applications will have a degree and will have shown a commitment to journalism through the involvement of their student website or newspaper. Experience within newsrooms could also be beneficial during the application process.

To apply for this year’s scheme, you’ll need to submit a covering letter, your CV and three of the best samples of your work to before November 20.

After submitting your application, interviews will take place virtually in December should you be successful in proceeding to the next stage.

For the 2018 applications, Peter Sands and Sue Ryan carried out the interviews.

Those that run the scheme have told us that despite COVID-19 there will still be at least two stages to the application process this year.

Thinking about which graduate schemes might work best for you? We’ve got a whole list of them here, arranged by when they’re open. We’re also building guides to as many schemes as we can.

Harry Howard, who was on the scheme last year, told us: “both are extremely perceptive and don’t miss a trick.” So, make sure you go into the interview stages fully prepared!

He also went on to describe the interview process as he told us: “I had a two-part interview. The first began with a spelling and grammar test.

“For the first interview, they asked about my background and my interests and any published work. They also asked if I read the newspapers and the Daily Mail.

“Here it was crucial that I recognised the distinct difference between the paper and MailOnline. If you betray a view that they’re the same, then you’ll be doomed.”

“The second interview was a round table discussion with the other shortlisted candidates. It was high pressure. Everyone had read that day’s paper, which we were expected to talk about in detail – i.e. what stories jumped out and if we agreed with the way they had been covered etc.

“We also had time-limited writing tasks where we had to write mock articles”.

Another graduate added: “When you’re applying, know the news very, very well. You need a very good level of general knowledge, but also that week’s papers and news. You need to be able to talk about different ways outlets have covered the same story.”

Basically, do you know your Daily Mail from the MailOnline? If not, you better ensure you do, else you’ll be off to a bad start!

What Are They Looking For?

They’re looking for a willingness to learn. (Image Credit: Marten Newhall / Unsplash)

The intense yet rewarding environment of the MailOnline graduate scheme requires a keen eye and innate understanding when it comes to the production of engaging content that includes words, images and video.

Furthermore, you’ll possess the ability to work well in a fast-paced digital environment that requires a flexible approach to shift patterns.

Want some more advice and guidance? An extensive trawl through Google led us to this Press Gazette article with tips and advice from Sue Ryan herself. There are also a whole pile of tips in this blogpost from former trainee Tanveer Mann. This piece from Kate Strick is for the paper scheme, but also has lots of relevant insights for the MailOnline too.

You’ll need to be flexible and prepared to travel as you’ll be merging into new teams and moving across desks and geographical locations.

As with all training, a willingness to learn all things digital, with the boundless enthusiasm and capacity for hard work to match is essential.

Reviews and Advice From The People That Did It

We’ve got all the advice (Image Credit: Frame Hairiak / Unsplash)

There’s no one better to tell you how it really is than some people who actually did it. Here are just three reviews, starting with one from a reporter who still works with the paper:

Jump at it with both hands. It’s an amazing experience, and I learnt an enormous amount. Few other
schemes allow you to get experience at a regional paper and agency. Even if you think you don’t like
the Mail, it would be insanity to turn down the chance to become a better journalist. Harry Howard.

Review number two comes from another journalist who completed the scheme:

I would definitely recommend going for the scheme – it really kick-started my career, and I’m
incredibly fortunate to have had the opportunity to do it. But I would advise that the job you will be
doing on MailOnline isn’t an all-singing, all-dancing, hotshot journalist role.

You’ll mostly be uploading agency copy and slightly editing it, rather than interviewing people or going out on jobs. You’ll basically be chained to your desk. It’s a great springboard to prove you can hack it on a National Desk but keep in mind Northcliffe House isn’t the be-all and end-all of national journalism. Just do your best and make some decent contacts through your placements! Anonymous

And finally, one last review to leave you with:

Familiarise yourself with what the scheme is and what the MailOnline is. If you’re not willing to work unsocial hours and aren’t comfortable with what the Mail is and does, you’re wasting your time as you won’t be happy in the job.

Once you’ve got the job, take everything in during the first months training and make friends with the other trainees. Go to the pub and bond with them. It’s so useful having a good relationship with them once you’re in the newsroom, especially later when you’re working across multiple desks.

Really try your best to make an impact while you’re on placement too. It helps if you can come in with a few story ideas beforehand too. Once you’re in the newsroom work hard! Try not to moan about hours too much about your hours as everyone is in the same boat. Pitching and flagging stories gets you noticed and be careful to make your copy immaculate. Anonymous

Some Final Words…

In 2017, a spokesperson for the MailOnline commented of the scheme to The Tab: “Trainees are advised that this programme will be both extensive and exhaustive… A website that reports the news 24 hours per day, seven days a week will involve working weekend and evening shift… MailOnline makes no apologies for being a demanding place to work.”

So, in a nutshell, the environment is intense, the shifts are long, and you will be working unsociable hours. While there’s no denying completion of this course requires a lot of hard work and dedication, it comes with its perks too. You’ll have access to one of the best journalism courses in the business while earning a competitive wage.

What’s more, nearly all trainees on the scheme are offered a job at the end. It’s certainly not an easy ride, but there is every chance you can thrive in this environment and go on to have a truly successful career in journalism.

This article was compiled and written by Priya Faith. You can follow her on Twitter here, or visit her website This article was updated for 2020 by Chay Quinn.