When it comes to applying for jobs and university, you need to find a way to make your application stand out. When you’re fresh out of school or university, this can be difficult as you will often not have much to put onto your university application or CV. Something that can help to make you stand out from the crowd is having experience, particularly in the area that you want to go into. While work experience can be an important part of your application, it can be difficult to know how to get it.
Continue reading to get some ideas on how to get work experience to give your applications a boost. This article will list ideas for particular sectors and give you more of an idea of how you can actually do this work experience yourself.
General work experience ideas
Getting work experience can incredibly important and useful regardless of what you want to do in the future. Even if you’re not sure what you want to study or don’t have any particular career that you’re interested in, getting work experience is still worth your time.
If this is the case for you, you’ll probably look for more general and less specific work experience that can be applied to many different study or career paths.
1. Volunteer at a charity shop
Volunteering at a charity shop can be one of the best ways to get work experience. It can also be one of the easiest ways.
While other forms of work experience may require you to meet specific requirements in order to be able to do it, getting work experience at a charity shop will not normally need this. Getting work experience in a charity shop can be done either by applying on their website or applying in-store.
2. Work at a café or restaurant
Working at a café or restaurant can be a great way to get work experience in hospitality. This type of work experience can be done through voluntary or paid work.
To get paid work experience at a café or restaurant, simply apply on either their website or a job search site, such as Indeed or Reed. If you need the work experience for a specific time slot, such as for your work experience week, it may be best to go to a small restaurant or café and contact them directly to ask if this would be possible. You may also want to try a community café, which may already have voluntary positions.
3. Volunteer at a food bank
The requirements that you need to volunteer at a food bank may differ slightly depending on the organisation that the food bank is a part of. If your local food bank is smaller, you may be able to contact them directly through email or phone and ask about volunteering positions.
However, if part of a large network of food banks, getting this work experience can normally be done by applying on their website. Although for both options you may need parental permission if you’re under 18. To learn more about this, check out this page by The Trussel Trust.
4. Get work experience at a hotel
Getting work experience in a hotel can be great as it gives you a taste of several different job areas, such as hospitality, business and customer service. Some hotel chains will have work experience programmes of their own and to get these you will just need to apply.
For example, the IHG Academy Work Experience allows students to work shadow at IHG hotels for up to 2 weeks. To learn more about this programme, check out this page on the IHG website. The Grand Brighton hotel also has a work experience placement for students in the area, which you can learn more about here on their website.
Other hotels may not advertise work experience. However, it can’t hurt to contact them and ask if you could do work experience with them.
5. Volunteer with a charity
As already mentioned, volunteering at a charity shop is one of the easiest and most accessible ways to get work experience. However, there are many other ways to get work experience by getting involved in a charity.
The exact roles included in this will depend on the nature of the charity itself. For Age UK, roles may be related to helping older people at social clubs or day centres run by the charity. To learn more about this, check out the Age UK website.
For other charities, volunteer roles may include gardening, admin work or befriending. To learn more about this and how to get involved, check out this page on the Sue Ryder website.
6. Volunteer at your local library
Work experience at a library can vary based on what your local council’s policies are and what your local library offers. Due to this, how you can get work experience at a library can also.
You can often apply for either a work experience placement or a volunteering position by directly contacting the library. However, you may instead need to apply through your school. For more on this, check out this page by Aberdeen City Council.
Some council’s will require you to be 18 before being able to volunteer with their libraries. If this is the case, you may still be able to get a library work experience placement with the British library.
This can be in-person or virtually and will last 1 or 2 weeks. To learn more about getting this work experience, check out this page by the British Library.
7. Get involved in local events or festivals
Getting involved in local events and festivals can be an excellent way to get work experience and develop your organisation and problem-solving skills. There are so many different, independent events and festivals that take place in the UK and so there’s no set way of getting this work experience.
However, if the event has its own website or social media page, you may be able to use it to contact the organisers and ask if they have volunteering or work experience available for you. It is important to note that some event and festival volunteering opportunities will only be open to people above 18.
To get you started, click here to find a list of festivals and events in the UK on the Visit England website.
Medical and healthcare-related work experience ideas
If you’re planning to go to university and study either a medicine degree or some kind of NHS-funded healthcare degree, then universities will typically want you to have work experience. The work experience that you need will often be in order to show off your personal qualities, such as resilience, motivation and communication, as well as to make sure that you understand what the role you are aiming for involves. For degrees related to these, such as Pharmacy, Pharmacology or Biomedical Sciences, work experience could also still be useful.
Please note that the following work experience ideas are partially based off this page by the NHS.
8. Get work experience at your local hospital
While you won’t be directly involved in treating patients, getting work experience for medicine or a healthcare profession at your local hospital or clinic could be a great way for you to get a better understanding of what’s involved in this profession.
How you get this work experience may depend on where you live and the policies these hospitals have. However, many hospitals already have volunteering positions, which you can often find on their websites in the careers section.
Otherwise, you may want to email them more directly to ask if you would be able to volunteer with them. To find your local hospital, check out this page on the NHS website.
9. Get work experience at your local GP surgery
Once again, how you get work experience with your local GP may depend on where you live and the policies the GP has. GP surgery websites that I’ve come across don’t particularly have a clear section to tell you about volunteering positions available.
However, they will often have a section on their website where you can message them and ask if there are work experience or volunteering positions available. To find your local GP’s website, check out this page by the NHS.
10. Volunteer at a care home
As care homes are generally private, getting work experience at a care home can vary much more as it will fully depend on the policies of who runs it. You may want to look at a particular care home company’s website to see what positions for work experience or volunteering that they may have available. For example, Care UK offers a work experience placement for school pupils as well as a work placement for school leavers that last between 2 and 4 weeks, which you can learn more about on their website here.
Otherwise, you can look at finding the care home most accessible to you. To do this, look at this page by EAC Housing Care to find a list of care homes in the UK.
11. Get work experience at a dentist surgery
For a Dentistry degree, work experience is once again vital. Similarly to a GP, there is generally little in the way of volunteering positions or obvious work experience placements.
However, there are often ways, such as through email or through their website, that you can contact the dentist surgery and ask about any work experience or volunteering positions that may be available. To find your local dentist surgery, check out this page by the NHS.
12. Get work experience at a pharmacy company
There are 2 main ways that you can get work experience in pharmacy. This can be either through voluntary work experience or paid work.
If you’re over 16, you may be able to get work experience with a pharmaceutical company on a placement in summer. To learn more about this and find which companies may offer these programmes, check out this guide by ABPI.
You may also be able to work in your local pharmacy as a counter assistant or similar job. To find jobs, such as these, check out this page by Indeed.
13. Get work experience at a mental health clinic or hospital
To do this work experience, you can look on a mental health clinic or hospital’s website to see what voluntary positions they have available. For younger students, this type of work experience may be more difficult to get as for some clinics and hospitals, you will need to be at least 18 to volunteer.
If you’re in Year 10 or Year 12 and need to find a work experience placement for the week, you may still be able to contact them directly, such as through email, and ask if doing the work experience for a limited time is possible. To find your local mental health clinic or hospital, check out this page by the NHS.
Teaching and working with children or vulnerable people work experience ideas
Two more of the degree areas that will generally need you to have work experience to be able to get onto the degree programme are teaching and social work. While not directly linked, both of these degree programmes are linked with working with children and may also be linked with working with vulnerable people. Due to this, the work experience options that you can get for them largely overlap.
14. Get work experience at a primary school
A great way to get work experience in teaching is to go back to your old primary school to get work experience there. If this is not possible or convenient, then you can always contact other local primary schools to see if you can do work experience with them.
The best way to get this work experience is to directly contact the primary school. As you’ll be working around children, you may need to get a DBS check if you’re over 16.
15. Get work experience at a secondary school
Another way to get work experience is at your local secondary school. This is arguably much easier as you would have gone to the secondary school much more recently and may even still have their contact details.
In fact, if you go to a sixth form that is connected to a secondary school, you may even be able to do this without having to formally contact the school. Otherwise, the best way to get this experience is to directly contact the school that you want to do the work experience at and ask if this would be possible and what requirements you would need to meet.
16. Volunteer at a youth club
How you can get a volunteering position at a youth club will depend on who runs the club and your location. If the club is registered with your local authority, you may be able to apply or register your interest on its website. For example, if you live in London, you can find different positions on the Greater London Authority website, such as this position here.
Otherwise, you may want to contact the youth club organisers directly. You may be able to find this on your local council’s website or where the youth club is advertised, which may be in local newspapers or on social media.
17. Volunteer at a nursery or day care centre
Getting work experience at a nursery or day care centre may be a little more difficult for students as some voluntary positions may require you to be 18 or have certain childcare qualifications. However, some centres do offer work experience and volunteering positions that even younger students are able to do and to find these it is best to look for ones in your local area, check their websites and message them directly.
For example, Pioneer Childcare offers work experience for students even if in school or college. To learn more about this position and how to contact them to apply, check out this page on their website.
18. Volunteer at sports clubs or dance classes
Like many other work experience ideas on this list, how exactly you get this work experience will depend on your region and personal circumstance.
If you live in a region that has a directory of different sports clubs and classes, then you may be able to apply through this or get the contact details for how you’re supposed to apply otherwise. For an example of this, check out this page on the East Dunbartonshire Leisure and Culture Trust website.
If not the case, you can try to use your personal contacts, such as previous experience at a sports club or dance class or people you know that run one. Alternatively, you could search for clubs and classes in your local area and contact them directly to see if you can volunteer.
Media and publishing work experience ideas
To get into media production courses, students may need to already have some work experience in this field. Despite it being highly technical, there are several ways that you can do this.
Also, getting work experience in other areas in the media industry, such as journalism and publishing, can help to give you a better insight into these careers, even if you don’t need work experience in order to study it.
19. Get work experience at a local radio station
Get work experience at your local radio station or local hospital radio can be done by directly contacting them through their website, email or some other means. Please note that there may be an age limit.
For example, volunteering with the hospital radio at Royal Berkshire Hospital requires you to be at least 17, meaning that you may have the opportunity to do this work experience in Year 12 but won’t in Year 10. To learn more about this, check out this page on their website.
20. Do work experience at a local newspaper or magazine
Local newspapers and magazines are unlikely to directly advertise a work experience position. However, if you contact them directly, you can ask if doing a work shadowing placement would be possible.
Depending on the school you go to, you may be able to volunteer with your school’s newspaper or newsletter. While on a much smaller scale, this work experience could even prove to be better as it would be much more hands-on.
If neither of these options are possible, you can get work experience in journalism online. For example, Springpod have a journalism work experience programme that features speakers from BBC News and The Financial Times. To learn more about this, check out this page on Springpod’s website.
21. Work for an online newspaper or magazine
If you’re interested in journalism or other writing jobs, this work experience can be vital in order to develop your own skills. There are many different positions available, and you’ll need to choose which one suits you best.
For example, here at Think Student, students are given the opportunity to write articles and gain experience in this field, which you can learn more about here.
Other options include Shout Out UK, an online newspaper run by young people. It focuses on politics, but articles may also be about pop culture and trends or social media. You can learn more about this on their website here.
For more on where you can get work experience by writing for an online newspaper or magazine, check out this article by The Guardian.
22. Get work experience at a television studio
Unfortunately, getting direct work experience at a television studio will generally require students to be at least 18. Opportunities of this kind are offered by companies such as ITV, Tiger Aspect and Endemol Shine UK, which you can find more about by clicking on their respective links.
However, you can still get television work experience with online work experience schemes. For example, Channel 4 runs their 4Skills programme for students aged 16 or above. To learn more about this programme, check out this page on the 4Skills website.
23. Get work experience at a publishing company
Getting work experience in a publishing company can once again be quite difficult for younger students as many will want you to be at least 18. For example, Penguin Random House and the independent publisher, Slightly Foxed, both have work experience programmes for over 18s, which you can learn about by clicking on their respective links.
However, if you directly contact a smaller publishing firm, they may be able to accept you as a volunteer or for a work experience placement. To learn more about this, check out this article by The Publishing Training Centre.
Architecture, building and construction work experience ideas
If you want to study degree programmes, such as Architecture or Town and Country Planning, you may need to show off your work experience in your application. Although this will depend on the exact course you study and where you apply to, having work experience in this area can teach you a lot more about these industries, especially as it can be difficult to know what is actually involved in these types of careers.
25. Get work experience at an architecture firm
If you are interested in studying architecture, work experience with an architecture firm is something that will give your application a necessary boost. Some architecture firms offer work experience placements and so you can apply for these schemes on their websites. For example, Scott Brownrigg, DKA and BM3 all offer work experience placements for students, which you can learn more about by clicking on their respective links.
25. Get work experience at a construction company
To get work experience at a construction company, students will need to find construction companies that offer work experience and apply on their websites. For example, the BAM construction company offers work experience placements for school students. To learn more about this, check out this page on their website.
You may also be able to directly contact a construction company to see if they would be able to offer a work experience placement.
26. Get work experience with a town planning company
For Town and Country Planning degrees, you once again, may also need to have work experience. This can be done through a town planning company.
To get this work experience, you can research town planning companies in your area and see if they have work experience opportunities. After this, you may be able to apply directly on their website or email them to learn more about the position.
For example, if you’re 16 or over, you can apply to The Royal Town Planning Institute’s 1-week work experience programme. To learn more about this programme, check out this page by Pathway CTM.
27. Get work experience at your local estate agency
The real estate industry is quite closely linked to town and country planning. Due to this, getting work experience in real estate can help you to better understand the industry. In order to get experience with your local estate agency, you will generally need to contact them directly.
Some estate agents may have sections on their websites about work experience placements. For example, you can look at this page by Galliard Homes to learn more about their 2-week work experience placement for students.
STEM-related work experience ideas
Unless you want to become a scientist, a mathematician or a teacher, knowing what careers are available in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) can be difficult. Due to this, work experience can be a great way for you to learn more about it before committing to a degree, an apprenticeship or a job.
28. Get work experience with an accountancy firm
Accountancy may not be the first thing when you think of STEM. However, due to its mathematical basis, it can be a great career option for students who enjoy maths. Accounting degrees are another one of the degree programmes that may need you to have work experience.
First of all, if you meet the criteria, you may be eligible for the Access Accountancy work experience programme. This programme aims to level the playing field to allow students to get into accounting based on their own merits rather than background, which you can learn more about here on its website.
There is also the Explore BDO Insight Programme aimed at students in Year 11- 13, which you can learn more about on their website here. Otherwise, you can directly contact an accountancy firm to see what work experience positions they may have available for your age and expertise level.
29. Get work experience at a laboratory
If you’re interested in studying science or even pursuing a career in science, doing your placement at a laboratory can be a great way to get work experience. This may be done at a private laboratory or at the pathology laboratory at a hospital. For both of these options, students will need to apply through the website or as otherwise told.
Some opportunities include work experience at your local hospital, which you can learn more about on this page by NHS Gloucestershire Hospitals. As well as the National Nuclear Laboratory or NPL, to learn more about these work experience programmes, click on their respective links.
30. Do work shadowing at a vet clinic
If you’re interested in doing a Veterinary Medicine degree, getting work experience in this area can be an absolute must. The best way to get this experience is to find local vets in your area and contact them or apply through their website.
Some vets will already have work experience programmes and others may allow you to do a work shadowing placement. For example, Cerdarmount Veterinary Clinic in Bangor allows students to observe and learn about the processes involved in this field. To learn more about this opportunity, check out this page on their website.
31. Get work experience at a technology company
Working at a technology company can give you an insight into the vast range of jobs within the industry. Some technology companies offer specific work experience programmes aimed at students and young people.
For example, Cisco has a Pathway To Your Future Work Experience programme, aimed at either 14- 16-year-olds or 16- 18-year-old girls. To learn more about this programme, check out this page of their website.
32. Get involved in a research placement
If you’re in Year 12 and meet certain eligibility criteria, you may be able to undertake a research project. This programme is called Nuffield Research Placements and students are paired with a host organisation to do work experience in scientific research. To learn more about this and how you can get involved, check out the Nuffield Research Placements website, here.
33. Get work experience in aircraft engineering
This one sounds a little bit more vague and you may be wondering how exactly you would be able to get this kind of work experience. There are several ways you can go about this, such as getting this experience with an airline or an airport, who may offer this programme.
For example, British Airways has a work experience programme for engineering, that allows you to spend between 3 and 5 days with them. To learn more about this work experience opportunity, check out their website here.
Otherwise, you could do aircraft engineering work experience with the RAF. This work experience opportunity would similarly be about 5 days and would give students the opportunity to learn more about the role. To learn more about it, check out this guide by the RAF.
34. Get work experience with a car manufacturer
Getting work experience with a car manufacturer could allow you to gain a better understanding of the engineering and manufacturing processes involved. You may also be able to get work experience about business and project management side of the industries as well.
For example, Bentley provides both work experience and virtual work experience programmes aimed at students between the ages of 14 and 19. To learn more about these opportunities, check out this page on the Bentley careers website.
Artistic and creative industries work experience ideas
When thinking about artistic and creative subjects, it can be difficult to associate these with what jobs you can get with them. Other than the obvious, singer or actor, it can often feel as other job opportunities aren’t available for students who study arts subjects. Due to this, gaining work experience can be a useful way to gain a better understanding of what opportunities and careers exist in the arts.
35. Get work experience at a theatre
A work experience placement at a theatre can teach you about the different areas involved, such as the marketing or technical aspects. Due to there being so many different theatres, the policies of each will differ.
Some may require you to be 16 or 18, which is important to keep in mind when looking for this kind of work experience. Others will have specialised work experience programmes for students in Year 10 and 12 and surrounding ages.
For example, Cambridge Arts Theatre has a 1-week work experience programmes, which you can learn about here on its website. Students may need to apply for theatre work experience on the theatre’s website or by email.
36. Get work experience at a recording studio
A recording studio can be a great place for you to get work experience if you’re interested in music and music technology. This work experience may be offered by a recording studio itself or instead by another music organisation.
For example, Sound Gallery Studios offers a work experience placement to students aged 15- 19, which you can learn more about here on their website. Also, The Music Works, a music charity, offers work experience in music production and studio engineering, which you can learn more about on their website here.
37. Get work experience at an art gallery
Work experience at an art gallery can give students a better understanding of the different areas involved in this industry. Students can get this work experience by looking for voluntary work on the art gallery’s website or the wider organisations website.
There may be an age requirement of 16 or 18, depending on the organisation’s policies. For example, the National Portrait Gallery will need volunteers to be at least 16, although they do run some programmes for school-aged students. To learn more about this, check out this page on their website.
You can also look at this page by National Galleries of Scotland to learn more about the volunteering and work experience available.
38. Volunteer with a costume maker
Some costume makers and historic dress restorers offer volunteering and internship placements for students. This can give students interested in textiles and design a great opportunity for work experience.
For example, The Tudor Tailor offers work experience for students of different ages and experience levels. Due to this, the nature and the length of the placement may also vary. To learn more about this and how to get involved, check out this page on their website.
39. Get work experience at a hairdresser’s or barber’s
Hairdresser’s and barber shops are often small businesses with a single store, and some may not even have a website. Due to this, the best way to try and secure work experience at a hairdresser’s or barber’s is to directly contact them either by email, phone or going into the shop directly.
40. Get work experience at a beauty salon
Getting work experience in the beauty industry can be difficult as there is often a limited number of places you can do it. Getting this experience by working in a beauty salon can be a great way to learn more about how the industry works and what is involved in the job of a beautician.
Like with a hairdresser’s or barber’s, students should directly contact a beauty salon near them to learn about work experience opportunities.
Other work experience ideas
Some work experience ideas don’t quite fit into the categories above yet are still quite specific in the industry that they exist in. If you’re interested in law, working with animals, public services, history, politics or languages then the following ideas might just be for you.
41. Get work experience at a law firm
Law work experience can be invaluable for applying to do a Law degree due to the sheer number of applicants that you need to stand out from. Getting formal law work experience can be more difficult if you’ve not yet start university, however some firms offer it.
For example, Pinsent Masons offers a Summer Legal School Work Experience programme to give you an insight into to the law industry. You can learn more about it here on their website.
42. Get work experience at a legal advice clinic
Another way to get work experience in law is to volunteer. Volunteering at a legal advice clinic can give you an insight into how law can come into people’s everyday lives.
In this voluntary role, you won’t be directly involved but you will have a chance to help with admin or social media presence. To learn more about this, check out this page on the Merseyside Law Centre website.
43. Get work experience at a zoo
Zoos may offer work experience programmes for Year 10 and Year 12 students. These can allow you to gain a better understanding of what is involved, such as animal care and animal conservation.
Depending on the programme and the zoo that offers it, there may be specific eligibility requirements. For example, London Zoo offers their work experience programme to students from disadvantaged backgrounds in Camden and Westminster. To learn more about this, check out this page on their website.
44. Volunteer at an animal shelter
If you’re interested in animal welfare and caring for animals, then you could also choose to get work experience by working at an animal shelter or sanctuary. In this role, you would be working with different animals and learning more about caring for them.
For example, in a work experience placement with Oxfordshire Animal Sanctuary, you would be working with the rabbits and cats and mainly focused on cleaning. To learn more about this, check out this page on their website.
45. Get work experience on a farm
Getting work experience on a farm could help you to learn more about animal care and management. You could be given practical experience and taught about the health and safety procedures involved.
There may be an age restriction involved, depending on the farm and its policies. For example, on Surrey Docks Farm, you need to be at least 14 for a weekday placement and at least 18 for a weekend placement. To learn more about this, check out this page on their website.
46. Get work experience with your local police force
Depending on your region, your local police station may offer a work experience placement. This will give you an overview of the different roles and situations police officers deal with daily and give you an insight as to how the force functions as a whole.
Some programmes may need you to get parental permission, if you’re under 18 and most will likely need you to go through a vetting process. To learn more about getting work experience in the police force, check out this page by Kent Police.
47. Get work experience with your local council
Getting work experience with your local council can be a great option for students interested in politics as it teaches you about how local government works in a practical way. There are a wide variety of departments involved in local councils, meaning that your placement may vary depending on which department you’re positioned with.
For example, with Three Rivers District Council, you can choose which service to do the experience with. This might include housing, facilities management and culture and play services. To learn more about how to get involved in this, check out this page on their website.
48. Get work experience at a bank
Work experience at a bank can be great for students interested in finance or economics. Large banks may offer specific work experience programmes for young people to give them an insight into the industry.
For example, HSBC offer weeklong work experience opportunities for UK students in Year 9 to Year 13. To learn more about this programme, check out this page on their website.
49. Get work experience at a museum
If you’re interested in history, getting work experience at a museum can be a great way to learn more about the careers associated with this subject. You may be able to get this through a work experience scheme by a museum or university museum.
For example, the Natural History Museum’s work experience programme allows students in Year 10 and above to spend the week learning about a specific area of museum work. To learn more about this and how you can get involved, check out this page on their website.
50. Get work experience at an archive
Another history-focused career that you can get work experience in is that of an archivist. In this work experience, you can learn about how documents are preserved and cared for.
The National Archives’ work experience placement lasts 5 days and is aimed at students between the ages of 14 and 18. To learn more about this and how to get involved, check out this page on The National Archives’ website.
51. Get work experience at a translation agency
If you’re interested in languages and want to pursue a language-related career, getting work experience at a translation company can be a great way to learn more about what you can do with languages. Work experience placements allow students to shadow professionals in translation companies in different departments.
For example, with Comtec Translations, students can shadow professionals in operations, in-house translation and sales and marketing. To learn more about this, check out this page of their website.
If you study German and are in Year 12 or above, you could get a 1-week work experience placement with AST Language Services. To learn more about this opportunity, check out this page on their website.
*Information in this article to do with which degrees require work experience has been taken from this UCAS guide.