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Placement year… Let's talk about it

You’re probably reading this because you’re either thinking of doing a placement year or you’ve already decided to do one and don’t know where to start. Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered! 

What is a placement year?

A placement year is when a student decides to take a year out of their university studies and work in the industry of their choice full time. The role is usually paid. 

It usually happens after the second year of your undergraduate course, allowing the student to work full time during the third year and then returning to studies for their final year of study. A placement year is also known as ‘a sandwich year’, ‘year in industry’ or ‘industrial placement’.  

Pros of doing a placement year 

There are all sorts of benefits of doing a placement:

Increased employability

Employers tend to hire students who have done a placement year compared to those who haven't. A student who has done placement will have gained experience, transferable skills or even a letter of recommendation! This shows employers commitment and proactivity. 

Often students who have done well in their placements are offered a fast track onto a company’s graduate scheme. This puts you a step ahead of others! 

Higher graduate pay

You are most likely to be paid more compared to your peers when you graduate just because you’ve done a placement year. By completing a placement year, employers will understand that you have worked in a corporate setting before and have succeeded at it. According to HESA, the average salary of someone who has completed a placement compared to someone who hasn’t is 8% higher.

Helping you figure out what you want to do when you graduate

A placement year is a good taster opportunity to figure out what you want after graduating. Even if you did not get your dream role, a placement year will help you figure out your strengths and weaknesses and learn various skills on the job. Your graduate dream role might require you to use specific software or be familiar with particular commercial processes, and these can easily be picked up on a placement. This will help you stand out from other applicants who would have to learn later on.

You'll be earning money!

You will be earning a salary throughout the year, therefore it’s a good chance to save up for the future or reduce your student debt.

Cons of doing a placement year

It's not a plain sailing and here's why:

You are taking a year out, so you will graduate a year later than your peers

A placement year involves having a job in the real world and leaving the university party scene and more relaxed schedule behind. It also means that many of your friends may have already graduated when you return for your final year, but don’t worry, it is only for a year! With many more students now opting to take a placement year, this has become less of an issue.

The role might not be what you expected it to be

Not all students have a positive experience with their placement company. A lot of students who join industrial placement schemes run by large, international companies realise it isn’t what they expected and wanted at all. Similarly, the job role might not suit you. However, placement is a great place to find that out!

The application process is not always easy

Placement schemes are very competitive, therefore the application process might not be as smooth sailing as you’d think. Personalising your cover letter, CV and application can be time consuming and repetitive.

You might have to relocate

A lot of placement students relocate for the year. This brings new challenges, for example, finding new accommodation, building a new friendship circle, finding your way around a new area, etc. Often your company can help you with this. If you’re thinking of relocating abroad to complete your placement, you may require a visa, insurance or language classes too.

Are placements worth it? 

It’s important to carefully think about what you want to achieve from your university journey and whether a placement year is suitable for you. 

If you are still unsure about a placement year and want a general overview of the process, or if you are dead set on going for it but don’t know how to find a placement, check out this article on how to secure a placement, where we have compiled a list of top tips and some processes you might have to go through whilst looking for a placement. 

Here's our article on how to find a placement

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