What are work placements?
As employers expect graduates to be more prepared for the world of work, it is important that students make every effort to gain valuable work experience before they complete their degree.
You might find that work placements are a compulsory part of your degree that is required to pass a module, or they may simply be recommended by your university to prepare you for the workplace.
The main differences between a work placement and an internship are that a work placement is normally compulsory or contributes towards your degree qualification, and that a work placement is taken during term time, where an internship tends to be taken during the summer holidays. Work placements can sometimes last a lot longer than an internship, with some taking up a whole year of your degree.
What purpose do they serve?
Work placements can play a very important role in your degree. If they are compulsory, then you will have to complete one in order to pass a module or year, and to eventually graduate. As well as this, they can give you and very helpful insight into what working in the field you are studying would be like in the future. During your workplace experience you can get a proper understanding of whether you enjoy working in your field or not, and you may also get a chance to work out if there is a specialism or different area you may wish to work in.
The fact that work placements are taken during term time and replace your classes means that you will most likely be following a normal working schedule, which can help you to prepare for your future in a professional environment. Depending on your degree and lesson timetable, a full work schedule can seem daunting and intense, so it is a good opportunity to get an idea of what it is like to wake up and go to work everyday.
Should I do one?
If a work placement is compulsory for your course then yes, you should complete it. If you don’t do a work placement when it is required, you may not pass a module or year of your course, which can have a negative impact on your ability to finish a year or graduate.
If a work placement is not compulsory but is recommended, then it is still advisable that you take part in one. It is likely that your university will facilitate work placements, and potentially help you get in touch with potential employers. Although UK universities don’t use the ‘extra credit’ system, gaining work experience will still allow you to get a headstart on your peers.
If a work placement is not relevant to your course, or you don’t have time to take part in a work placement, you should consider an internship if you have free time during the summer. If you would also like to earn some money alongside your degree, you could also see if there are any part-time work opportunities in your field.
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