Placement year. What even is it? Deciding whether to take a placement year is no easy decision. But I’m hoping this blog can give you some insight into what a placement year is and whether it's for you.
Why did I decide to take a placement?
Uni of Bath is well-known for its brilliant placement opportunities. All undergraduate course areas offer a placement, with many of them being paid. Placements can last between 6 to 12 months and could involve going overseas. I was hesitant at first whether I should apply for a placement year course, as I wasn’t sure it was quite right for me. I was also worried I would be graduating a year behind my friends and peers. However, this was very much not the case, and many people ended up also taking a placement year.
I knew early on that I wanted to take a placement and I think that was because I was unsure what I wanted to do as a career after I graduate. Having the opportunity to almost ‘test-drive’ a specific career sounded like the perfect option to me. A placement year sounded especially appealing as I study International Development with Economics, which is quite a multi-disciplinary degree and leaves me with options to pursue various career paths in different industries.
Another reason I decided to take a placement, was to help give me inspiration for my final year dissertation. With the placement in year 3, it gives enough time to start thinking about what to write about for your dissertation in the final year. Initially, I had no idea what topic to write on, but interning at a literacy charity for the last few months has given me some ideas for questions I’d like to explore in my dissertation.
Having had little experience in the working world, I decided to take a placement to challenge myself and get an insight into what a typical 9-5 routine would be like. Getting some experience before even graduating seemed like a good option for me to get ahead of the game and help increase my chances of securing a graduate job. Although, going on placement is not essential to getting a graduate job (there are always opportunities in the summer to pick up some work experience). Whilst it’s not all about the CV, it certainly doesn’t hurt to gain some industry-level work experience to show you’re passionate about the industry you want to work in.
In the 4 months I’ve been on placement I’ve also worked and met some incredible colleagues and clients. I’ve been lucky to work with a brilliant team and have picked up a range of knowledge and skills from working alongside them. While not the main reason for deciding to take a placement, you never know who you’re going to meet, and networking could prove useful for your future job prospects.
How does it work?
Even if you have not initially chosen to go on a placement, it is still possible to opt-in for a placement, just like it’s possible to also opt-out if you don’t think it’s quite right for you and the Uni provides support throughout each step of the way. The careers team also provide help with developing your CV and helping you find a suitable placement.
There are plenty of placement options to choose from, whether it be an overseas multinational corporation or a small-to-medium sized start-up. You can also do a placement with a non-governmental organisation or charity. It’s important to note that each employer takes on a different number of interns. It could range from 1 to over 100. Depending on your faculty, there will be a list of placements put together by the uni with suggestions for different courses. However, you can also find placement opportunities independently from the university, including any of your own contacts.
After finding a placement you’re interested in, you’ll have to have a CV and most likely write a cover letter for each individual company you apply to. Although, each company may differ in terms of what they require for your application. For some, you may have to do aptitude tests and/or interviews, so it’s always important to check the application process and what is being asked of you.
Whilst your first year doesn’t count towards your final grade, it can impact your employability prospects for a placement year. Getting a ‘good’ placement does not always require you to obtain a first (70%). The standard grade usually tends to be a 2:1 (60%), although, this will vary from placement to placement.
During your placement, you do have to fulfil some basic requirements such as the duration of the placement and how many hours per week you’ll be working. While on placement, you will also have to complete a few progress trackers to measure your progress towards any personal goals you’ve set for yourself. This is a useful way to see what skills you’ve picked up and understand where you could improve in the future.
Even though you won’t technically be attending uni, you’ll have support from the university throughout your placement, so you can always reach out if you need anything! You may also have a check-in with your placement supervisor at some point to make sure everything is going well. It’s all very exciting but can seem a bit overwhelming initially. So, if you any questions, please feel free to email me (firstname.lastname@example.org)!