Is an Industrial Placement Year Worth it?
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There are 101 different names for ‘industrial placement years’... a placement year, a year in industry OR even a sandwich course.
No matter which term you’ve heard, they all mean the same thing. A year spent in-between your 2nd and 3rd year of university where you work for a top dog company, gaining first-hand experience and earning money.
But a placement year isn’t necessarily all sunshine and rainbows. It’s work. Like a real-life job. And that can be scary. There are a few things to consider when deciding if a placement year is right for you. So we’ve put together a pros and cons list to make things a little clearer.
Who can do an industrial placement year?
Some degrees include a placement year as part of the course. This is common for business students, or those studying banking or engineering. Their three-year course is extended to four years, with a placement year.
Can anyone do a placement year? Yes and no. It really depends on your university and your course.
A lot of students who do industrial placement years apply for a course that already includes that option. This is common for business, banking or engineering students.
However, many other courses offer the option of doing a placement year. The best thing to do is to contact your university’s placement or careers team and find out if you can apply for one.
Let’s say you’re an English Lit student. You’re sick of reading two days into your course and you’ve always thought, ‘I’d be fabulous at advertising’.
So instead of regretting your UCAS application, you could potentially apply for a placement year in advertising and marketing.
It might not be advertised to you BUT it may still be an option. So make sure that you check with your careers or placement advisor on your university campus. If everything works out you will have hands-on experience in your chosen field before you’ve even left university.
After your industrial placement year, you might decide you don’t care much for advertising. It’s not the career for you - but at least you’ll know!
Anyone and everyone can do an internship. So if a placement year doesn’t sound like your cup of peppermint tea, you can still apply for a sunny summer internship.
It might be your only chance to get a taste of something different. For example, if you’re studying to become a doctor, you could do a summer internship for Walt Disney!
Meet Shoaib. He is a social media KING, eats way too many Nutella pancakes and is the biggest Christina Aguilera fan in the world.
Shoaib has many talents... aside from his dancing, he is also studying for his bachelor’s degree in geography. During his second year Shoaib decided he wanted to try his hand in marketing, and, after SLAYING the interviews AND the assessment centre he is now thriving on a marketing placement at RateMyPlacement.
Since working at RateMyPlacement, Shoaib has made a humongous impact. He’s travelled all over the UK managing events for RateMyPlacement. He’s delivered presentations in front of top company directors, even London’s tallest building The Shard. Shoaib also has a lot of admin responsibilities. He moderates all of the RateMyPlacement reviews. AND he responds to website enquiries and books future events... which has created an unnatural relationship with post-it notes.
Not to mention his collaboration with other members of the team. He works closely with our content team, writing regular blogs, newsletters, marketing emails and B2C content. Shoaib also collabs with the creative team and our digital marketing manager to maximise our social media platforms, which he does incredibly well.
So… are placement years worth it?
Sometimes, the best thing to do when you’re weighing something up is to make a list of reasons why you should or shouldn’t do it. This doesn’t count when it comes to pineapple on pizza - there is no good reason to put pineapple on pizza.
We’ve put together a list of pros and cons to help you decide whether a placement year would be worth it for YOU.
Gain the independence you always wanted
Adulting… spending money on stuff that you’d always assumed was free. If you relocate for your placement, (which happens often) you’ll officially be adulting!
You’ll most likely be living with completely new people, potentially young professionals. Which means... no more student digs or parents cleaning up after you. And although it’s a sad day when you realise that the bathroom doesn’t clean itself, it’s also liberating.
FINALLY, you get a taste of independence.
It can open opportunities to network and potentially open doors for your future
The whole idea of it’s not what you know, it’s who you know is a bit of a cliche. However, networking and building a rapport with your colleagues during your placement could be really useful for future job prospects.
Even if you don’t get offered a permanent role at the end of your placement, you’ll get yourself a killer reference for your CV.
You’ll have industry level work experience before you even graduate
Get ahead of the game. By completing a placement year you automatically increase your chances of securing a graduate job. All the big graduate employers look for candidates who have completed work experience before graduation.
You might even get offered a job from your placement employers. This means not having to apply for unpaid internships or work experience where your salary barely covers the essentials. Like a meal deal. Or a ticket to Glastonbury.
You could travel abroad!?
Did you know that you can work abroad for your placement year? Not only are you getting all the benefits from doing a placement year but you’re also exposing yourself to new cultures, a new language and new FOOD.
You can test-drive career before you take the plunge with a full-time job
Imagine you’re in an ice cream shop. You have SO much choice. Strawberry, vanilla, mint choc-chip, coffee, peanut butter, cookies and cream... and that’s not even considering the sorbets.
That’s exactly what it’s like when you graduate. There’s almost too much choice. And it’s scary because what if you make the wrong decision and end up with a rubbish job, or a cucumber ice cream?
Imagine the disappointment. So by doing a placement, you can test-drive a career you’ve always dreamed about before taking plunge with a full-time job.
It’s just like getting a sample of an ice-cream before committing to one of those giant double-cones.
You can’t just coast through your application...
A placement application is kinda like having a pet goldfish. They seem easy. Very little work involved - right? Wrong. Like your pet goldfish, your placement application needs time, hard work and research. If you don’t put the time in, it could flop harder than the Cats movie.
There’s always the worry that you won’t enjoy the company
You might start your placement and initially not enjoy it. This could be down to anything. You might not fit in with the company, dislike the culture, or just miss your dog back home. It happens.
BUT that’s why we have reviews as well as opportunities. These are incredibly helpful. You can gain an insight into the company before you apply - get an idea of their work culture… you never know, it may be a dog-friendly office! So take the time to read through the reviews!
Every review has been written by a former placement student, so you can find out what they really thought about their experience. Think of it like TripAdvisor, but for placement years.
It'll take you a year longer to graduate
If you choose to do a placement, you’ll be graduating a year later and maybe not with your friends. But, in the grand scheme of things, this doesn’t really matter.
You’ll make friends in your year in industry AND in your 3rd year. So technically, you’ll have more friends than when you first started.
You might have to relocate for a year
When you go to university, the chances are, you’ll have to move out and relocate. And it’s the same when you do a placement.
This means you’ll have to find somewhere to live. Pay rent. Buy your own cheese grater. But moving out can be fun.
For example, London is bursting full of placements and it can be a great city to live in. But this comes with its expenses. You’ll have to budget yourself and be more organised than an air traffic control officer. But in the end, it could be SO worth it.
So, will a placement year be worth it for you? Yes. No. Mostly yes. You have all the pros and cons, but have a read of our Guide to Placements too. (Then choose to do a placement.)