The Times Graduate Scheme – The Complete Guide

The Times’ runs a range of graduate trainee schemes, and applications are currently open for the sub-editor scheme, picture editor scheme, and graphic designer scheme, all of which are open until September 26. The two-year reporter scheme is not currently open, it last ran for applications in December 2019.

This guide looks at the reporter graduate scheme, but we’re soon to be adding specific resources for the sub-editor scheme and more.

Fresh out of university and fancy yourself as the next great reporter at the paper of record? Well, let us break it down for you.

Don’t know what a paper of record is? Neither did we until we edited this article. Here’s what it means.

We’ve spoken to a range of people about what it takes to get on the scheme – including people who got to interview and ones who made the full distance.

If you’ve completed or applied for the scheme and want to share your wisdom, please do get in touch with us. We’re always looking for more insight – and we’d be eternally grateful for your support.

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

The Scheme

Today I learnt The Times was a paper of record. And now I know. (Image Credit: Screenshot)

The comprehensive training schemes currently on offer run for two-years.

The news reporter scheme includes formal training followed by various placements to help you find your way after it’s all over.

The first part of the scheme is formal, and you’ll be based at News Associates in Twickenham. They’ve been the UK’s best NCTJ training course for five years in a row now, and they’re a Journo Resources partner. So, to cut a long story short, you’re in good hands.

This part of the scheme brings your training into line with many journalists at the first stages of their careers and provides a great base to kick off from during your placements.

It’s a bespoke course that they say focuses on the “practical issues reporters face every day in a busy newsroom” and aims to “expose you to many scenarios you’ll come across when reporting for The Times”.

The “bootcamp” lasted for three weeks last year, and there are also regular refresher sessions once you’re actually working in the newsroom.

After you’ve nailed the baseline training, that’s when the real fun begins. You’ll undertake a series of placements across The Times, with the aim being to build your skills and find your niche.

You’ll take on digital, business, home news, and Scotland for your placements, with the latter based in Glasgow. The rest of them will be at News UK’s swanky London Bridge building – also known as the mini-shard.

You’ll get a significant level of responsibility as a reporter in Scotland, and, according to the people we spoke too, it is one of the highlights of the scheme.

Normally you’ll take the home news placement last, as by that time you’ll have a huge breadth of experience under your belt when you arrive.

After it’s over, the majority of graduates bag permanent jobs at the paper, but don’t fret – the scheme gives you all the training to forge a career as a news reporter wherever you want.

And finally, a note on pay. You’ll be contracted at about £25,000pa for the two-year period and you’ll also get access to private health insurance and other News UK amenities.

The Sub-Editor Scheme

Another two-year-long scheme, this one asks for people who can ‘demonstrate a passion for words and production journalism’ as well as the standard request to be interested in the topics they work in.

You will be trained as a sub-editor across their print and digital platforms, which means you will learn how to produce clean copy – the kind of skill that is always requested on reporting applications – and clear, succinct headlines, which is an art form in itself.

The Picture Researcher Scheme 

Alongside the previously mentioned requirements, to have a chance to be interviewed for the picture researcher scheme you need to have an eye for visual design and be genuinely interested in how images can enhance a story.

This scheme will have you working across print and digital platforms; researching, sourcing and placing pictures in stories for The Times and The Sunday Times. It sounds like it will be a varied role, as you’ll be working with stories across news, foreign, business, sport and features.

You’ll also have the opportunity to learn about selling a story as you work closely with section editors and their designers to create ‘outstanding packages that are visually distinctive’.

The Graphic Design Scheme

To apply for this scheme, it specifies that you must have a degree in design and a portfolio. It will help if you are interested in the kind of current affairs and culture that appeals to The Times, and it sounds like multi-disciplinary skills will give you an advantage.

During the scheme, you will learn how to develop infographics and animations for their print and digital platforms, visual storytelling that is constantly growing in relevance.

The Application Process

It’s a fairly boilerplate application. (Image Credit: Neonbrand / Unsplash)

The application itself is fairly boilerplate, with the three core elements being a CV, a covering letter of about 500 words, and a three-piece portfolio. Worth noting that they stress you should send full pieces rather than hyperlinks.

They want you to show real passion and aptitude for news reporting, so best leave your match reports and Brexit comment pieces to the side for this one. If you succeed at this, you’ll go to an assessment centre.

Emma Yeomans, an alumna of the scheme, broke down the three key elements:

  • A mix of interviews
  • A news test
  • Some story-based exercises

This centre can be gruelling and it is clear that they want some level of experience expressed on your CV – but don’t be afraid to show the experience you’ve got from student or local publications.

We also spoke to Kimberly Long, now an editor for The Banker, who also interviewed for the scheme several years ago. She recalls being asked to send suggestions for improving The Times’ coverage ahead of the interview, with the note stressing people shouldn’t “waste space paying compliments, we are interested in faults you can identify.”

“The main thing I remember about it was I got the interview because I wrote the most ridiculous cover letter,” she tells Journo Resources. “I basically said ‘here’s my CV for academic information and here’s a list of facts about me we can discuss at the interview.

“I included stuff like the fact that I loved baking and might bring treats to the office, and that I lived in Japan for a year before my MA.

“I also wrote in that my parents had left school before their GCSEs and that I wanted to become a journalist to give people a voice. At the interview they explicitly asked me who had told me to write a letter like that because they’d never had anything like it before.”

She also remembers being asked practical questions, for example how to deal with doorstepping, and stressed that it wasn’t an intimidating experience.

After the assessment centre, you’ll find out whether you’ve got onto the scheme ahead of the September start date.

Overall, they’re most keen to see that you’re a good news reporter – but that’s not the only thing they’re interested in.

“Beyond that, showing that you’re adaptable and hard-working is helpful,” Emma told Journo Resources, ” and don’t neglect writing skills. They’re very important.”