How the National Graduate Program works

Our National Graduate Program gives recent university graduates the opportunity to develop their career.

Applications for the 2021 National Graduate Program have closed.

About the program

Our National Graduate Program offers unlimited opportunities.

When you join us you’ll help deliver more than $180 billion in payments. We offer a range of health, social and welfare payments and services through:

  • Centrelink
  • Medicare
  • Child Support.

We touch the lives of almost every Australian. We’re responsible for helping people meet life's challenges. We help when people have lost a job, a loved one or when they're separating from a partner.

You’ll get on-the-job training and professional development. You’ll have access to a Senior Executive Service mentor and get to participate in special events.


We offer 2 pathways into our graduate program – Generalist and Professional. Both pathways run for 10 months. They allow you to apply your academic education and build your skills and experience.

You can apply for both pathways, but you can only participate in 1 pathway. Once you start, you can't change pathways.

Generalist Pathway

This pathway is for you if you:

  • don't have a professional area where you’d like to work
  • have a degree that doesn’t match a professional pathway discipline.

You don’t need a specific degree to apply for this pathway.

Our Generalist Pathway has 2 placements, each lasting 5 months. This gives you the opportunity to work on diverse projects and learn how different areas operate.

We’ll place you in a role that matches your skills and experience.

In the Generalist Pathway, you might:

  • help implement national programs that support Australians
  • support major improvement initiatives for our customers
  • conduct integrity and fraud detection activities
  • provide support to Australians affected by national disasters
  • support major ICT, compliance, communication and service delivery projects
  • draft and coordinate Question Time, Senate Estimates and Ministerial briefs, speeches and presentations
  • support our Minister, Chief Executive Officer and Senior Executives.
'Very early on in my grad year I went to Senate Estimates. I really enjoyed that because I had never been to Parliament House. You actually get to go behind the scenes. Then in small groups of 5 to 10 you go into the room and watch the senators ask our SES members questions.'– Amelia

Professional pathway

The professional pathway lets you focus your career in a particular discipline. We have 6 disciplines to choose from:

You must have a degree in 1 of these disciplines.

You’ll need a Weighted Average Mark (WAM) of 60 or above to apply for the legal discipline. If your WAM is below 60 you can apply either:

  • the Generalist Pathway
  • another Professional Pathway if you have the appropriate degree.

You should have a thorough understanding of current issues and practices in the discipline you apply for.

In this pathway, we’ll place you in 1 of the disciplines for 10 months. This gives you the opportunity to develop specialty skills. If you have a special interest, you may be able to customise your placement.

We’ll place you in a role that matches your skills and experience.

Read more about who we’re looking for.

Development opportunities

You’ll get formal and informal training and development opportunities to enhance your career opportunities. During the 10-month program, you’ll take part in a range of activities, including:

  • undertaking an orientation in Canberra when you first start
  • attending Australian Public Service Commission events
  • organising internal events
  • presenting to our CEO and some of our SES staff
  • seeing the work of our frontline staff and the diverse communities we serve
  • undertaking formal training specific to your work area
  • obtaining an accredited learning qualification, currently the Diploma of Government.

These activities will help you:

  • get exposure to our business
  • strengthen your networking skills
  • develop your career and enhance your career opportunities
  • broaden your understanding of the Australian Public Service (APS).
‘The program has given me a solid foundation on which to build my career in the public service. I am appreciative of all the opportunities to expand my network and to explore my interests in a friendly environment.’ - Nicole

Outbound experience

You’ll see how the work you do makes a positive difference to the lives of Australians.

Over 3 days, you’ll job shadow in a service centre or Smart Centre. You’ll experience the service delivery environment first hand. The outbound experience is unique to our graduate program.

‘I headed up to balmy Queensland to spend 3 days at Stones Corner Service Centre. The team leader there had planned a full schedule of things for us to do. We spoke to staff who work face-to-face with refugees, customers in prisons and community representatives. We watched staff process complex claims for Age Pension and Special Benefit. We also spent time working with staff as they spoke to customers. We helped with the self-service desks and met customers as they came into the office. It was eye-opening to spend time in the customer-facing setting. It really put my work in communications into context.’ - Emily

Indigenous and multicultural placement

You can apply for a 3 month Indigenous and multicultural placement as part of the graduate program. It’s a unique opportunity to take part in a life changing experience. You’ll:

  • visit multicultural or remote Indigenous communities
  • gain a greater understanding of the issues these customers experience
  • learn about the complexities of service delivery in these areas.

If successful, you’ll spend 3 months in a location such as:

  • Alice Springs, Broome, Cairns or Darwin for the Indigenous placement
  • Sydney for the multicultural placement.
‘We arrived in Darwin in early July, the Top End heat smacking us in the face as soon as we stepped off the plane. We underwent 2-weeks of intense training -– everything from system training to 4 wheel driving courses. Each week we set off by 4WD, plane or very, very small charter flight. We travelled to distant ends of the Northern Territory. The landscapes we saw were like no other ¬– from bright red dust to tropical islands with the clearest of blue waters.’ ‘Each week we helped our remote Indigenous customers with their Centrelink business. We worked anywhere from the local council’s boardroom, to a tin shed or even out the back of the 4WD under a tree. Some of these locations are so remote, that there’s no phone reception. So we stood on a rock in the middle of a field on the satellite phone asking for help from our team in the Darwin office. We had a very steep learning curve with customer service. We're very grateful for the support from the Remote Servicing Team. We'll never forget the friendships and laughs we shared throughout our time there.’ - Louise

Support, buddies and an SES mentor

A graduate coordinator will work with you to make sure you have what you need to complete the program.

We’ll match you with a buddy before you start. This will be a graduate from a previous year. They’ll help you settle into our agency and the Australian Public Service.

We’ll also team you up with an SES mentor. They’ll support and guide you with career and personal objectives.

‘The best thing about the program is the access to senior staff. Not just within my branch and division, but also with my mentor. The agency takes graduates’ development seriously.’ - Jack

Compulsory elements

As a graduate you’ll have to meet employment standards. For example probation and regular performance reviews. We’ll make sure you’re supported through these processes.


We offer 2 pay points for graduates on the 2021 National Graduate Program. The pay point you’re eligible for depends on your qualification level.

If you’ve completed an undergraduate degree, your salary will be $59,498. Undergraduate degrees are Level 7 qualifications according to the Australian Qualifications Framework.

If you’ve completed a double degree or have a higher qualification your salary will be $66,313. These qualifications are Level 8 or above according to Australian Qualifications Framework.

After you complete the program, you’ll advance to the base salary of an APS5 classification level within your relevant job stream. Read more in our Enterprise Agreement.

Page last updated: 16 September 2020