When you’re working your way through uni, you might be given an opportunity to embark on a placement year. ‘Should I do a placement year?’ It’s a question that so many students have to decide on. There are plenty of benefits, such as gaining valuable work experience and boosting your employability. There are also some potential drawbacks you might be thinking of, like how it’ll impact your time at uni and financial considerations.
We weigh up the pros and cons of doing a placement year, and weigh up your options to help give you the insight you need, so you can make an informed decision that fits your career goals and aspirations.
A placement year is a chance to help you explore potential career paths and provide you with valuable work experience that’ll really help for when you graduate and are looking for a graduate job. A placement year usually sits between your second and final year of university study.
A placement year, otherwise known as an industrial placement, a year in industry, or maybe a sandwich course. A placement is different to an internship, which is extra-curricular, and depending on your course or uni, it can even count towards your overall degree grade. Placements will often require students to apply their learning from their course, to their placement workplace.
Can anyone do a placement year? It really depends on the university and course you’re attending. Some degrees include a placement year as part of the course structure, extending a three year course into four years. It’s pretty common for those studying business related courses, banking or engineering.
The biggest benefit you’re going to get from going on a placement year is increasing your employability. Placement years are the prime time for you to gain valuable industry experience and develop professionally before you even graduate!
Does a placement year increase your employability? Absolutely! Placement years drastically improve your chances of securing a dream job when you graduate. The experience will strengthen your CV, helping you stand out from the crowd in future job applications. Employers will view you as proactive and passionate about your career, and a headstart with key industry knowledge.
Most students will graduate with little to no work experience relevant to their degree or aspired career, so having a full year’s worth of experience under the belt is really going to set you apart.
Completing a placement year will allow you the chance to build all the skills you need to succeed in the working world. You will learn soft skills, like how to
communicate in the working world
, how to manage your time, and multitask with lots of different projects on your hands. You’ll also learn the technical skills required by your chosen industry, necessary for displaying your proficiency in your future career. It’ll be eye opening and transformative for sure.
With so many career routes to go down when you graduate, taking a placement year means you can leave uni well informed. A year in industry will give you the opportunity to test drive a career path, without having to jump head first into the unknown for what feels like the rest of time.
Best case scenario is if you find a sector you fall in love with, and can’t wait to graduate your degree and start your new career! Worst case is you didn’t really like where you worked on your placement year, and you have to think again. But whichever way it happens, you’ll have gained a huge amount of experience and valuable, transferable skills.
It’s a perfect opportunity to develop professional relationships with colleagues, clients and other industry contacts from all walks of life. You never know who you’ll meet, and where you’ll end up after uni, so building a network is super useful for your future job prospects. As they say, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. Even if you don’t get a job offer at the end of your placement, you’ll get yourself a really strong reference for your future job hunt.
If you perform well during your placement year, and land work experience in a company you love, you might even receive a job offer from your placement employer, well before you graduate! This takes out a lot of the stress of grafting for a new job with a new employer when you leave university.
Students find placements all over the UK, and even internationally. It gives you an incredible life experience, getting a feel for the working world, in a whole new city or country, and really helps give you independence to spread your wings. It’s the perfect chance to try so many new things, within the safety of a single year while you’re at university.
On a placement year, you’ll be given real world responsibilities and train you into the habit of a nine to five routine.
It’s pretty common for those that have completed a placement year, will have a changed mindset and way of working towards their degree when they return to academic studies. Industrial placements have been shown to receive a higher degree grade, with a more enhanced set of skills, like time management, proactiveness, and dedication to perform well to get back into the working world.
Taking a placement year naturally means your three year course becomes four, so you’ll graduate a year later than some of your friends. The change of timings of your closest friends and course mates might feel a bit funny for you.
But when it comes to the later years in uni, you should already be gearing up for the working world. You can still maintain your friendship circles while you work during the week and party on the weekend. And don’t forget, some of your friends will stay on to study a masters, so you’ll have them back at uni in the last year you go back. You’ll make friends during your placement year, and also in your third academic year of study. So let’s be real, you’ll probably have more friends than if you didn’t.
Naturally, there’s always going to be a worry that you might not enjoy your placement year. Whether you’re not the right fit, the people are difficult, or you just want to be back with your mates partying 8 nights a week.
But don’t worry. Among other things, a placement year is a perfect platform for you to test drive a career path. It’s far better to change your mind after a year in industry, and gain as much valuable experience as you can, than graduate and be stuck in a line of work you hate. And hey, the year will fly by for you, trust us.
When applying to industry placements, you might end up receiving an offer for the perfect placement, in a new city or country! You’ll need to find somewhere to live in a new place you’re not familiar with, and it can get a bit scary.
But you’ve done all this before when you moved to uni, and you’re likely going to do it all again when you graduate. So treat it as a preparation year for the real world after uni, but you get to go back and party for one last year.
Applying to jobs for your placement year is one of the hardest things to get past. Applications to some of the bigger companies may have multi stage applications that can span a few months, and they will likely land at the same time as some of your deadlines!
It’s a bit of a stress, and you might end up missing a few lectures. But your lecturers are there to get you a job after uni, and so they’re fully understanding of everything going on outside of the lecture theatre. Struggling with everything? Ask them for support, that’s what they’re there for.
Yes you may be able to get both maintenance and tuition fee loans for your placement year. You’ll normally apply for these in the same way you would for other years of your course, through
. Reach out to your uni if you are unsure about the sorts of funding available to you.
Placement Year Tuition Loan
: Tuition Fees for the Academic Year 2023/24 are normally £1,250 for home and EU students, and £2,500 for international students. You can apply for a
Tuition Fee Loan
to pay your fees during your placement year.
Placement Year Maintenance Loan
: You may be able to receive a
to help you through the year. There are a variety of different kinds of maintenance funding available to you, depending on the type of placement you take on.
Many year in industry work placements will give you the chance to earn salaries often between £15,000 to £20,000 for the year.
According to UKTalent.com, the national average salary for a UK placement student is just under £21,840. This is an average, and so your salary will vary a lot depending on the line of work you are embarking on a placement in.
Remember though, it’s not all about your placement year salary, it’s about the experience and career benefits you’ll gather, so you can enter the working world after your degree with confidence that you’ll get the best job you can.
No matter what kind of a career path you end up going into, a placement year is hugely beneficial for your future. There is lots to think about, but hopefully you now know what you need to consider in figuring out what's right for you.
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