As a student or recent graduate, we’d forgive you for getting confused about all the options you’re presented with in regards to work experience. There’s standard work experience, all the variations of internships and finally: placements. These could last an entire term or be an entire year; but don’t fret, we’ll give you the lowdown on all of these options and take away the guesswork.
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What is a placement?
Now, it’s important to understand that the word ‘placement’ is often used by employers to refer to other things – for example they may call ‘work experience’ a ‘work placement’, which can, naturally, get confusing.
As annoying as this is, you kind of have to accept that this just happens and you will need to be extra vigilant when organising your placement, ensuring that both you and the employer or organisation in question are on the same page.
Placements offer a unique mix of relevant work experience and educational opportunities
But let’s move on from semantics and get down to the nitty-gritty. A placement can form part of some university courses and it is often essential for you to undertake if you want to pass your degree (which we assume you all do).
The kind of work you’ll do will be closer to that of an internship than work experience, and you’ll be treated as more of an employee. You’ll probably be given some administrative duties, small projects and day-to-day tasks to take charge of. Some of the work may even count towards your final university grade, so be sure to understand exactly what it is you’re meant to be getting out of your time.
A placement can form part of some university courses and it is often essential for you to undertake if you want to pass your degree.
If you’re not required to do a placement as part of your course, but want to do one anyway, be sure to know the difference between a placement and an internship. The key thing to remember is that internships usually run during the holidays, so you are able to attend full time for an extended period of time; usually one month to six. An industrial placement can run at any time of year, and are usually six months or more, so if you’re still studying there may be a clash.
Placements are common to a number of different university courses and across a number of disciplines.
Why should I do a placement?
For a lot of students, the answer to this will be: “Because I have to.” So many university courses make placements a part of the course and to not complete a placement would result in failure – and we know no one wants that.
However apart from being required to do one, they also offer so many positives. Placements offer a unique mix of relevant work experience and educational opportunities; so even if a placement doesn’t form part of your course, choosing to do one can have a significant, positive impact on your employability.
As well as the above, placements also offer you the chance to network, are a fabulous CV boost and provide invaluable industry insights.
What are the different types of placement?
There are two main types of placement:
How do I organise a placement?
Generally speaking, you have to take charge of organising your own placement. But don’t let that scare you – your university or higher education provider will usually have multiple contacts for you to utilise as well as a tutors and careers advisers to help.
Universities will have multiple contacts for you to utilise as well as a tutors and careers advisers to help sort your placement.
You will be made well aware of any placement requirements and provided with ample time to contact relevant companies or organisations to get a place sorted. Here are a few things to consider when looking to book in a placement:
Are placements paid?
*Ding ding* – yes they are (most of the time).
You could earn up to £17,000 per annum on a placement year.
If you’re undertaking a year long placement, a period much longer than standard work experience or even an internship, they are usually paid. You will probably earn less than other employees, but should be paid nonetheless. This could be up to £17,000 per annum!
In terms of your maintenance loan or (if you started your course in 2016 or earlier) grant, you can still apply for one from the Student Loans Company, but the amount you are eligible to receive may change. They will calculate how much you are due based on whether you get paid or not while on placement.
This will also change depending on if you undertake a thick or thin placement. For shorter placements or placements you arrange yourself, you may not be paid or may receive a tuition fee waiver in exchange; however always check with both your university and chosen company beforehand.
What are the pros and cons of placements?
Where do we start?
|It’s probably the best form of work experience in terms of networking and future potential. Spending an entire year in a specific company is invaluable; you’ll leave with amazing contacts and a much better chance of securing a paid position after graduation.||Opting for a course where a year on placement is necessary does delay graduation by an entire 12 months, which is a long time. You may find your friends have moved on and have secured graduate jobs while you’re still studying at the other end.
|You will more than likely get paid, or at least receive a tuition fee waiver in exchange for your work - all while you’re still technically studying and working toward a degree. Swish.||The onus is on you to organise your placement, which takes a lot of research, organisation and commitment. Usually while you’re still trying to study and keep up with other work.
|It can help clarify your career goals and provide an insight into how a specific industry and/or company operates; this will be invaluable once you have completed your studies and will definitely stand out on a CV.||They are not offered on every course at every university, so if you really want to do one, you need to have spent time researching which degree to sign up to. They are also highly competitive, so you need to be quick unless you want to lose out to one of your coursemates.
We hope this guide helped. For other information on internships, career planning, building a personal brand and more check out the rest of Debut’s Career Advice section! Happy hunting…
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