Graduate Program

Applications are now closed.

The department offers a ten-month graduate program to those with Higher Education (university) qualifications. Successfully completing the Program is the first step for recent graduates to start their career in the APS and gives them the opportunity to contribute to creating opportunities for Australians and supporting economic growth.

On this page:

Our Graduate Program offers:

  • two diverse work placements which provide the opportunity to work on a variety of programs and policies developed and implemented by the department
  • a supportive, inclusive and flexible working environment
  • on-the-job experience
  • extensive learning and development program and;
  • various opportunities to be involved in a wide range of networks, social and fundraising events.

DESE is preparing for 2021 Graduate Program recruitment. To make sure you know when applications open, register your interest today!

Our Graduate Career Pathways

Career pathways are designed to give graduates the opportunity to be placed in areas relevant to their qualifications and career of choice and engage in relevant specific learning and development (and/or additional qualifications).

In 2021, as part of DESE’s Graduate program we are recruiting for the following career pathways.

The department also works collaboratively with other agencies to recruit talented individuals through other specialty graduate and entry level programs, for the following career pathways:

Check out each career pathway to see how to apply.


To be eligible for the 2021 Department of Education, Skills and Employment Graduate Program, you must:

  • Be an Australian Citizen or going to be granted Australian citizenship by November 2020 and be able to provide evidence of this
  • You must have successfully completed a Bachelor degree or higher within five years prior to the start date of the 2021 Graduate Program (early 2021)
  • Be eligible to obtain and maintain a valid Australian Government Baseline security clearance
  • Be prepared to relocate to Canberra for the 2021 graduate program.

Some career pathways will have additional or slightly different requirements. Please refer to the career profile pages for more information.

Recruitment process

The department seeks to attract enthusiastic and motivated people, who are passionate and want to make a difference to the lives of all Australians.

Applications for the 2021 Graduate Program will open in July 2020. The recruitment process involves a range of assessments which may include:

  • psychometric and cognitive online assessment
  • video interview
  • attendance at assessment centres (face to face or virtual) including research and presentation task
  • reference check.

The first step in the application process is to submit your application and resume online by the due date when applications open. You will be advised at each stage of the process if you have progressed further. 

Frequently asked questions

How many graduate positions do you have?

Each year our intake varies, but it's usually around 30-50 positions.

How many applications do you get?

On average the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE) receives between 1,000 and 2,000 applications per graduate intake.

Can I apply in my final year of studies?

Yes, as long as you have successfully completed your degree or higher by the commencement of the Program in February. If successful, you will be required to provide the official transcript of your academic results as evidence you have completed your degree.

What if I graduated some time ago?

DESE’s Graduate Program recruits people who have completed their undergraduate degree within the past five years. Our past cohorts have been made up of a broad demographic of graduates; some who join us have just finished their degree while others join us after having spent some time in the workforce. Our recruitment is merit based and does not discriminate based on age, gender, race or ethnicity or having disability.

I missed out last year, should I apply again?

Yes! As long as you meet the eligibility criteria you can reapply.  Candidates who remain interested in working with DESE, particularly those who are completing their studies or undertaking relevant work experience, should consider applying again in future.

Applications are assessed using the APS Work Level Standards APS Level 3. Make sure to review these to gain an understanding of the work requirements and qualities we are looking for.

Can I apply for multiple career pathways?

Yes, you can apply for a career pathway and we will still assess you for the generalist pathway. Please see our individual career pathway profiles for eligibility requirements for each, and for additional information on whole of government programs we use to recruit.

Can I do the graduate program from a State Office?

You will need to relocate to Canberra to participate in the graduate program.

If successful, when would I be expected to commence at DESE?

DESE's Graduate Program commences in February each year.

Will I receive help with relocation?

Yes. If successful and you reside interstate, DESE will provide relocation assistance to support your move to Canberra. We do not provide assistance for international relocations, but if you return to Australia from overseas, we will provide assistance from your nominated state or territory capital to Canberra.

Where will I be working?

Graduate positions are based in Canberra and staff work from a number of offices located in the CBD.

What APS classification will I start at?

You will start at the APS3 level and will advance to the APS4 position upon successful completion of the Program. It is a condition of graduates’ employment that they meet all of the requirements of the Program to advance to the higher classification.

Will I be a permanent employee?

Graduates are engaged as ongoing (permanent) employees within the APS, subject to a probationary period of six months (which applies to all new starters).

What security requirements must I meet?

All DESE graduates must undertake a full security clearance at the Baseline level prior to commencement.

How are placements determined?

As a generalist graduate, you will have the opportunity to undertake your two placements in different areas of the department. Placements are determined by operational requirements of the department and your skills and academic qualifications. Each of your placements is designed to provide broad exposure to the range of the department's work.

Can I undertake further study while undertaking the graduate program?

The graduate program provides both personal and professional development activities throughout the year and as such graduates are not able to take on further study. However, after successful completion of the graduate program you are eligible to apply for DESE Study Assistance if you wish to continue your studies.

What type of work will I be doing as a graduate?

At the DESE, we work on many aspects of the government's agenda. Our work is delivered increasingly through a project-based model. As a generalist graduate, you will have the opportunity to undertake your two placements in different areas of the department. These placements are across all areas of the department including higher education, international education, early learning and childcare, schooling, skills and apprenticeships and employment programs. This will support you to understand how the work of each business area fits together, and how each placement contributes to the business outcomes of the department.

Does the demand for STEM disciplines disadvantage humanities or more generalist disciplines?

The DESE graduate program looks for candidates with a range of disciplines from a range of universities. We value diversity and different ways of thinking.

The department has consistently featured in the Top 100 Graduate Employer rankings over the past few years. This achievement highlights our active commitment to supporting talented graduates, helping them to expand their skills and experience, and reach their full potential.