3 min read

A Guide to Student Work Placements in 2021

A Guide to Student Work Placements in 2021

by Gregor Gray

Lots of students are looking into work placements to give them real-world experience, on top of the skills and knowledge they learn during a degree. Read on to find out more about what a placement year involves, and if a placement year is right for you.

In this blog, you will find answers to:

The job market is quite a competitive place, especially recently. If you're worried about getting a job once you graduate, you may benefit from doing a placement year. 


What is a placement year?

A placement year is part of your undergraduate degree. It involves spending 9-12 months in a professional workplace, and increases the duration of your undergraduate degree by a year. 

Work placements give you a chance to learn valuable skills and build up your CV with real-world experience. Many students even use work placements to make professional connections and lay the groundwork for their future careers. 

Your placement doesn't need to be directly related to your degree. But it should be useful, andhelp you develop transferable skills such as teamwork, communication skills, critical thinking etc. 

During the placement year you will still be a registered student and you'll complete a module to reflect on the skills you have learned. After finishing the module, you will go back to University to complete your studies and will have ‘with Placement Year’ in your degree title once you graduate.


What is the difference between a work placement and an internship?

Work placement just means some form of work experience.

Short-term, extra-curricular jobs that take place over the Summer Break, usually lasting around 12 weeks, are known as internships.


What kind of work placements are available?

There are plenty of work placements available, from Marketing, IT, HR and Finance to Engineering, Farming, Animal Keeping and so much more in between.

Many students work with big brands such as Disney, Unilever, HSBC, and the NHS, but smaller local organisations can often offer great placement opportunities too.

Lots of work placements are not actually advertised, and many of our students are able to find their own opportunities by making speculative applications.

Most placements are paid at least National Minimum Wage, but be aware that charities and some other organisations do offer unpaid roles.

In-Text Careers

Can I choose my own work placement?

Students are responsible for finding their own placements.

But there is a huge amount of support available to you through the Careers Service, such as help with choosing the right placement for you, as well as help with your CV, application forms and interview practice.

We also host a range of employer events and recruitment fairs that may help you find a placement.


Where can I find work placements for students?

There are lots of work placement opportunities for students available across a range of sectors and working styles. The below links are just a few of the places where you will find openings:

Remember, you will likely have to apply for lots of placements. In fact, very few students get the first one they apply for.

Motivation and persistence are key!


Will I still be able to do an international work or study placement field trip in 2021?

Currently, we are planning for semester-long and full-year overseas work placements or study exchanges to go ahead in 2021-2022.

If international work or study placements are affected by Covid-19 restrictions, we’ll work with partner institutions and placement hosts to do all we can to support you.

However, both mandatory and optional overseas placements will be subject to:

  • country-by-country risk assessments and sign off
  • the current situation within the UK and in host countries

Other types of shorter placements may not be available. We are looking at alternatives for all placement, field trips and international mobility activity if it cannot go ahead due to Covid-19 restrictions.  


What can I do to make the most of university work placements?

When searching for a placement, be open minded. Doing a placement is a fantastic way to try something new and work out what you want (or don’t want) from your future career.

While on placement, be adaptable. Say yes to as many opportunities as you can. Take advantage of the support network provided within the workplace. Talk to your colleagues, and learn as much as you can about the organisation – it could really benefit you in the future.


It's normal to feel unsure about doing a degree right now. If you haven't sent off your application yet, for whatever reason, don't panic. Why not read our guide to applying to university late?