Many students find that university is a good bridging stage between school and the working world. To help with this transition, many universities offer a placement year. The exact format of this varies, but it is generally a year where you are matched up with a company to work in, related to your degree. This provides an opportunity to develop your knowledge and skills in a professional environment. Many students find this helpful, but there are lots of things to consider first. What exactly are the benefits of completing a university work placement year?
There are many advantages – as well as drawbacks – to a work placement, but the main one is that it increases your employability. This can be really beneficial when looking for a first job once you graduate university. However, there are plenty of other key benefits, such as preparing yourself for the working world and developing skills like communication and confidence.
This article will explore the many benefits of a work placement, as well as other things to consider before choosing to do the year.
What are the benefits of doing a university work placement?
Often, universities encourage students to take up placement years if they have the opportunity to, and there are many reasons for this.
Check out this article on Think Student to discover what a work placement actually is.
Remember that the specifics of a placement vary depending on your university, course, and who you do your placement with. However, there are some universal benefits to having the experience of a placement year.
1. Work placements increase your employability
Generally, the main reason students are encouraged to take on a placement year is to increase their employability, in preparation for applying for jobs after they graduate.
A year working in industry is a great thing to put on your CV. Many employers will be looking for someone who has experience in the field, which can be difficult when you are studying full time for a degree.
If you are wondering what else to put onto your CV, check out this article from Think Student.
Taking a year to complete a placement is a useful way to get a head start in the field, while you are still in university.
You can think of this benefit as being similar to getting work experience in preparation for university. The people looking at your application will be able to see that you have a range of experience that makes you suitable for the place.
This article from topuniversities.com talks more about how placements increase your employability, as well as other pros and cons of the experience.
As well as this, the process of getting a placement with a company is good practice for applying for jobs.
You will often have to do things like check your CV is up to date, as well as going for an interview. Similar stages are involved in applying for a job.
2. Work placements prepare you for the working world
As a university student, you will most likely be used to transitions during your education. The move from primary school to secondary school can often feel daunting, as can the jump between school (or college) and university.
Similarly, transitioning from university to the world of work can be a struggle for some. A work placement gives you the opportunity to see what life will be like after university, often making the process less stressful once you finish your degree.
During the year, you will be exposed to routines and rules that are common in industry, but you may not have experienced at all during your education.
This makes sure you have a variety of experience to fully prepare you for working life after university.
You can do work placements at different stages of university, even after you graduate! Check out this article from Think Student to find out more.
3. Work placements show you what a career in your field looks like
Studying a subject in university is often very different to putting your knowledge into practice through your job. There are many ways to research the careers available that relate to a degree.
However, a work placement gives you hands-on experience, which can effectively show you what a job in that field may look like. Not only do you get the chance to ‘test out’ the job for yourself, but there will often be people you work with who can talk to you about their specific roles and career paths.
This is also a good chance to check that you are passionate about a certain subject. If you really don’t enjoy your placement, you know to start researching alternative job routes you can take with your degree.
It doesn’t have to be radically different to what you had previously considered doing – maybe a friend on the same course as you had a placement you thought sounded more interesting.
In this way, placements can be a good opportunity to explore your options for after university. It also allows you to find out which jobs you think would suit you best.
If you want to discover how to find work placements, check out this article from Think Student.
4. Work placements can help you develop soft skills
Soft skills are becoming increasingly more valuable in the workplace, even though they are not measured as specifically as your academic qualifications. They may not be directly related to your subject, but are useful in almost all jobs.
These include skills such as time management, dealing with pressure, and networking skills. For more information on soft skills, see this article from thebalancecareers.com.
Often, these skills grow naturally as you get more experience in your subject, whether this be through university or a placement.
However, placements are a good opportunity to develop, for example, communication skills, as you meet new people and teams to work with every day.
What are the drawbacks of doing a university work placement?
Unfortunately, everything has both advantages and disadvantages, and work placements are no exception. One major worry students have is that doing a work placement extends your degree, generally from three to four years.
This has a range of knock-on effects. If not many of your friends are taking on a placement, it can be daunting to ‘stay back’ a year while they finish their degree, then return to university to complete your own course with a relatively new set of people.
On the other hand, this consideration is often unique to you. It may be that a lot of the people on your course take the opportunity of a placement, or stay on to do a Master’s degree. This means they are still around for your final year.
Doing a work placement also means another year before you start full-time graduate work – university is definitely not cheap!
However, there may be opportunities to be paid for the work you do during your placement – have a look at this article from Think Student for more information on both payment and work placements in general.
A key drawback is that in competitive industries, placements can be hard to get. Firstly, not all courses at all universities offer a placement year. Additionally, applying for them can be tough, with many stages.
However, it is often still worth applying. Overall, you can compare the benefits and the possible disadvantages, as well as details about your specific university and placement options, to help you decide whether a work placement is right for you.