Close
Careers

Why should I do a professional placement year in the UK?

placement
Most medical and technical programmes offer placements for a well-rounded learning experience. Source: Sebastien Bozon/AFP

Work experience may be tough to obtain during the pandemic, but professional placements provide an exception. In the UK, students who pursue this practical opportunity gain exposure to the industry they want to break into. This is when your university’s connections and career services come in handy.

A one-year professional placement is typically completed during your four-year degree as part of the course. You will therefore be assessed for the placement and receive corresponding academic credit. Here are four reasons you should pursue one according to C. Rashaad Shabab, who leads the professional placements programme for the Economics Department at the University of Sussex.

placement

Placements help students transition smoothly to the working world. Source: Noel Celis/AFP

You receive career development support

Placements are typically one year long, which separate them from the internships students typically pursue as part of their programme. This means you will remain a registered university student with access to career counselling services. In fact, you should remain in contact with a faculty member throughout your work placement so they can guide you and keep track of your progress. Consider it a transition to working life; you get to explore the working world through the connections and resources of your institution.

Placements equalise the playing field

Since all students rely on this same university network, you will be privy to the same placement opportunities as your peers. This levels the playing field for international students, who may now enter the foreign labour market and navigate it with expert assistance. Here’s when you start building your own network of professional contacts — especially if you intend to establish a career in the UK.

In Shabab’s words, “Recent revisions to the UK immigration law mean that international students can now fully participate in this powerful tool to embed employability into their academic degrees.”

placement

You stand to gain priceless experience in your industry while receiving support and guidance from your university. Source: Don Emmert/AFP

You improve academically

Shabab also points out an underappreciated aspect of the experience: it can actually enhance your academic attainment. “On average, placement students graduate with far better marks than their non-placement peers,” he writes. What’s there to it?

For one, students with working experience have learnt how to better manage their time. Their time in the field also reignites their enthusiasm for academia, having applied the theories and results from the classroom in the “real world.” So yes, your working experience will enrich your studies and even help you make better grades.

Opens the door to greater opportunities

If your first work experience goes well, your employer may even want you to return full-time after you graduate. This is especially beneficial for international students who want to move to a two-year post-study work visa. “Thus, the experience of an international student on a placement degree can be enriched by up to three years of work experience — one year as a part of the four-year degree and two years on the post-study work visa,” Shabab explains.