Should You Do a Placement Year?

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If you ever decide to apply to university, be prepared to make a lot of decisions! Firstly, you will have to decide which subject you would like to study and then specifically which course at which university. For some courses, you’ll have to decide what modules you want to do, meaning you have to discover what you are actually interested in! After all that, you then have to make other decisions, such as what experiences and opportunities you would like to take part in. A placement year is offered by many courses, and it is often the student’s choice whether they do it or not.

Choosing to do a placement year or not ultimately boils down to your own decision. However, there is no denying the number of benefits that doing a placement year can bring. From increasing employability to stepping out of your comfort zone, a placement year can offer you plenty. Despite this, the cons of placement years must be considered too, and it is up to you to decide whether there are more pros or cons.

If you need a little help figuring out what the pros and cons of a placement year are to make your decision, check out the following headings to see if this path is the right one for you!

What is a placement year?

A placement year is a specific time period where a student will enter the world of work. It is often available to students in their third year at university. They would have already experienced two years of studying, so the third year can be used to gain some real-life experience!

After your placement year, you can then return to university to your last year of studying. If you haven’t heard of the term ‘placement year’ before, this is not uncommon! After all, many degree programmes at university are called ‘sandwich courses’.

This is because students’ study for three or four years and have a placement year sandwiched in the middle of this time. If you want to discover more about what a placement year is at university, check out this article from Think Student.

How long does a placement year last?

A placement year usually lasts about a year – the clue is in the name after all! This means that if you are doing a normal three-year course but then do a placement year in the middle, you will finish a year later.

However, not all placements have to be a year! The length of time most placement years can last actually varies between nine and thirteen months, as shown in this article by the Graduate Coach.

When a placement year starts and ends depends on each individual company. However, most run from the summer months to the September of the next academic year. This means that you’ll be able to get a maximum amount of time during your placement.

Regardless, some work placements may only last during the summer months. You can even take part in a placement where you only work for one day during a number of weeks, as shown in this article by Prospects.

The time frame depends on the course mainly. For example, if you are participating in a work placement related to healthcare or social care, they tend to be longer.

You don’t have to even do placement years during university. You can always do them after you graduate! Check out this article from Think Student to find out more.

Where can you do placement years?

You can do placement years virtually anywhere! Your university may give you a specific company to go to for your placement year, which is directly related to your course. However, you may have to find your own!

Industries that take on students for placement years can be found all over the UK. If you are struggling to find any, check out this tool from the Placement Year International website to research different locations related to your sector.

However, you must be aware that you are not restricted to only doing placement years in the UK! You can also do them abroad.

It is actually encouraged for students to do placement years abroad. This is because it pushes them out of their comfort zones, forcing them to experience different cultures and ways of life they are not used to.

It shows dedication to the career role, as the student is willing to even go to a different country to gain experience! If you want to find out more about doing placement years abroad and the benefits of this, check out this article from Think Student.

Are employers impressed by placement years?

According to this article from Graduate Coach, nearly two thirds of employers believe that work experience is one of the most important things for a candidate to have when applying for a job.

In fact, most employers actually believe that too much emphasis is put on academic qualifications when actual work experience is seen as more important. This is because having a good set of academic qualifications can only get an individual so far.

After all, in a workplace environment, the skills that will help candidates progress and succeed in their career are not necessarily taught in school. For example, employers appreciate candidates who have a good set of soft skills, such as good communication and decision-making abilities.

These sorts of skills only really develop during work experience. As a result, if you have completed a work placement year, employers are bound to be impressed. This is especially true if you can demonstrate and give examples of the skills you have picked up on during your experiences.

Are placement years useful for the future?

Placement years can be extremely useful because they can help make the transition from university to a career smoother. After all, your role during your placement year will be very similar to the career role you are given after you fully complete your degree.

You could also use your placement year for networking. This means that you could potentially make a range of connections with professionals from the same industry and enhance your career prospects.

Check out this article from Columbia University for more information about networking.

This not only prepares you for your future job, but it can also help you make the decision of whether you want to continue the career or not. If your placement year teaches you that this job maybe isn’t for you, then the time was well spent.

This is because it means that you can start thinking about other jobs that may suit you better and maybe even a different course!

Placement years may also require you to move to a different location for a period of time. This would allow you to experience living in a different environment, potentially away from friends and family.

Consequently, your confidence should grow even more, as you are forced to manage without a close support network. You will then see how capable you really are.

As a result, placement years are useful for the future as they can prepare you practically for the real world but also emotionally.

What are the pros of placement years?

As already stated, the main benefit of completing a placement year is that it will increase your employability. Putting all of your experience onto your CV will help you stand out and enhance your career prospects.

Even though it will increase your employability, placement years will also give you a break from studying! Even though you will most likely have to continue your studies after you complete it, at least it will be broken up a bit so that it doesn’t all become a drag.

However, depending on your university and course, you may still have to do some academic work during your placement. This could be in the form of a work-based portfolio.

This involves you writing down your thoughts about the placement and keeping track of what you have learnt, including skills. According to this article from UCAS, this can be extremely helpful, as it can lead to graduates understanding how they can improve themselves.

Individuals who take part in a placement year are also shown to finish with higher grades overall! Therefore, placement years are beneficial for your academic performance, as well as developing real life skills.

What are the cons of placement years?

Despite the immense amount of benefits that placement years can offer, there are unfortunately some drawbacks. One of the main drawbacks is that you will most likely graduate later than those who didn’t do a placement year.

This is because you will often have to pause your studying to do a placement year and then resume it again when you have completed it. This could lead to you studying with a whole new class in your final year, which could be quite unsettling.

Placement years could also lead to increased stress, as you are aware that you still have a whole year of studying to do and must stay on top of any research changes within your field as you partake in your placement.

You can discover more about these cons during placement years if you check out this article from Student Beans. Additionally, the application process for placement years can be quite a lengthy process! You can learn more about applying if you keep on reading.

Should you do placement years to earn money?

If you are struggling financially or just fancy earning some money, work placement years could be the way to go! This is because students who do work placements are typically paid for the job that they do.

The amount varies depending on the industry, company or sector you are working in. However, according to this page from the Graduate Coach, the pay is between £12,000 and £18,000 per year.

This may seem low. However, just think about all of the experience you are also gaining and the skills you will be acquiring for free!

If you want to discover more about getting paid for a work placement at university, check out this article from Think Student.

Should you do a placement year instead of an internship and work experience?

The main difference between placement years and work experience or internships is the length of time that they take to complete. Placement years often last much longer than work experience and internships do.

As a result, placement years are more likely to be seen as impressive to employers, as it could hint at more dedication to the role. Further to this, a longer amount of time in a placement means that more skills would probably have been picked up by the candidate, increasing their employability.

Therefore, in a career focused lens, placement years are often seen as more beneficial. However, if you do want to discover more about internships, check out this article from Think Student.

How do you apply for a placement year?

If you want to apply for a placement year, start researching! Talk to your tutors about some good places to go to and keep your eyes peeled for advertisements.

Perfect your CV and send it off as soon as possible! The earlier you apply, the better! After all, work placements can be quite competitive.

It can also be useful to prepare yourself for any interviews, so you can inform the company of why you would be the best candidate. If you are struggling to find any work placement opportunities, Rate My Placement is a great tool.

You can check out their useful guide for applying for placement years if you click here.

Is a placement year the right decision for you?

The answer to this question is completely up to you. However, there is no denying the number of advantages that a placement year can bring.

You will gain experience and develop important skills for the workplace, whilst being pushed out of your comfort zone. It may make your graduation a little later compared to other people who don’t do it.

However, does this really matter when your employability will be so immensely increased? This is up to you!

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