A placement year is when you actually go out into the world of work for a year and experience the industry that you are planning to enter. You might hear these courses referred to as sandwich degrees too.
Placement years last a full academic year, and are available across all sectors - there are opportunities for you if you do your research. Placement years are becoming increasingly commonplace and differ from internships because they offer a student to take up a clear role within a company and carry real responsibility that will make your CV look spectacular before you’ve even graduated.
Taking a year off studying may seem daunting, but it’s something that will benefit you massively when you come to apply for jobs for real. What employer wouldn’t recognise a full year of experience when taking your application into consideration?
So, let’s take into consideration the pros and cons of doing a placement year:
Placement year pros
- Increase your employability - it’s no secret that a placement year will increase your employability. You need to remember that most students will graduate with little or no work experience at all, so doing a placement year will put you miles ahead on the employment market.
Completing a year in industry provides you with vital soft skills needed in the workplace, as well as more technical skills required by your chosen industry. It also reflects very well on you that you’ve chosen to do a placement year because it shows that you are forward-thinking and strategic about your future. At the end of the day, employers want to see proactive and ambitious students!
- Pave the way for your future career - a placement year will steer you in the direction you need to be going. It may make you realise that this is the career for you, or alternatively, it might make you realise otherwise.
Either way, a year in industry is a great way to trial a career before jumping head-first into a permanent graduate job. Regardless of what you decide, you’ll be ahead of the crowd and you’ll have a host of transferable skills that will be worthwhile for an employer to invest in.
- Networking - developing your social and professional networks is a massive step towards valuable employment at the end of a degree, and if you’re in the workplace, you’re more likely to make friends with people of all ages and life experiences. By diversifying your social circles you’ll gain broader perspectives, different approaches and respect for a wider reach in society.
There’s no knowing what could arise via the connections you make during your year in industry. Many companies offer graduate roles upon the successful completion of your placement year, and some will even cover your tuition fees for your final year - both of which are win-win! Plus, meeting all sorts of people from all sorts of backgrounds is what life is all about!
- Get the opportunity to live and work somewhere new - a placement year can offer the chance to live in an entirely different part of the country, or even the world. Opportunities are endless - do your research and you could be on your travels experiencing different cultures or walks of life!
Placement year cons
- A year in industry isn’t always offered - but that doesn’t mean it’s not possible to do one. If a placement year isn’t offered as part of your course, speak to your course leader and ask if a year in industry could be arranged. Don’t forget that it’s in the course leader’s interest for potential students to become more employable!
- You will effectively miss the third and final year at uni - which means missing those important final times with friends that you have made throughout your university career. However, you need to understand that the third year is unlikely to be party central because it’s a serious year of work and dissertation commitments. If you’re still lying about hungover on the sofa on a regular basis in your third year then you’re likely to fall behind. Netflix and Pot Noodles wont secure your degree! You need to begin thinking about your future - the harsh reality is that enjoying yourself with friends comes second.
- Applying for placement years can be an arduous process - one of the major cons of doing a placement year is actually trying to find one! It can take months to secure one, including lots of paperwork, which could interfere with your studies. The bigger companies can have several stages to the interview process too, with assessments and face-to-face interviews causing you some stress. Although this isn’t ideal in terms of your course (you’ll probably miss lectures, etc) lecturers will usually be understanding and send you whatever you miss if you explain your situation.
- You might not enjoy the company you work for - and this won’t be ideal because you’ll have a year to see out, but at least you’ll still gain vital skills and also have a better idea of what you do and don't want to do when you finally graduate.
So, there’s some pros and cons to the possibility of doing a placement year - the choice is yours, but weigh them up before you make that final decision!