8 September 2023

The Pros and Cons of Doing a Placement Year

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There are 101 different names for a placement year. An industrial 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 second and third year of university where you work for a top dog company, gaining first-hand work experience and earning money.

A placement is work. 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.

You can click below to jump directly to the pros and cons list or keep reading for some placement goodness…

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 in between their second and final year of university.

Can anyone do a placement year?

Yes and no. It depends on your university and your course…

Let’s say you’re an English Literature 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.

The best thing to do is contact your university’s placement or careers team and find out if you can apply for one and defer your final year. If everything works out, you will have hands-on experience in your chosen field before leaving university.

Can’t do a placement? Apply for an internship instead

Remember – anyone and everyone can do an internship. So if a placement year doesn’t sound like your cup of peppermint tea or your course doesn’t offer one, 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!

So… are placement years worth it?

Sometimes, the best thing to do when you’re weighing something up is to make a list of 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.

Want to impress an employer with your application and land the top job? Sign up to our FREE Career Coaching Course, a four-day virtual programme in October, to upskill yourself on CVs, applications and interviews.

PROS of doing a placement

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 get 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.

It can open opportunities to network and potentially open doors for your future

The idea of “it’s not what you know, but who you know” is a bit of a cliché. However, networking and building a rapport with your colleagues during your placement could be 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 can test-drive a career before you take the plunge with a full-time job

Imagine you’re in an ice cream shop. You have SO much choice. That’s precisely 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 the plunge with a full-time job.

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 entirely 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.

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.

CONS of a placement year

It’ll take you a year longer to graduate

If you choose to do a placement, you’ll graduate 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 during your year in industry and your third year. So technically, you’ll have more friends than when you first started.

You’ll have to juggle applications and uni work

You have several essays on the go, two exams to revise for, and now you have to worry about getting a CV and cover letter together and then attending interviews…

The application process can be long, and you might be missing a lecture or two. However, your lecturers and course leaders will totally be understanding and can even offer you support. If you do decide to pursue a placement year, speak to them.

When the time comes to apply for a graduate role, you’ll have already learned a great deal about the application process and how best to approach it.

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.

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 in an area you might not know well. Pay rent and buy your own cheese grater. It’s stressful and a huge adjustment, but moving out can be fun and prepares you for real life.

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.

Meet Shoaib. He eats way too many Nutella pancakes, but he’s also a personal branding expert and business owner.

Shoaib has many talents… aside from his dancing, he has a first-class honours degree in Geography.

During his second year, Shoaib decided he wanted to try his hand at marketing. After SLAYING the interviews AND the assessment centre, he absolutely thrived during a marketing placement with us here at RateMyPlacement.

Shoaib made a tremendous impact during his time at RateMyPlacement. He’s travelled all over the UK, managing events for us and delivering presentations in front of top company directors – including one at London’s tallest building, The Shard. 

Shoaib also had a lot of admin responsibilities. He moderated all of the RateMyPlacement reviews, responded to website inquiries, and booked events, which created an unnatural relationship with post-it notes.

Not to mention his collaboration with other members of the team. He worked closely with our content team, writing regular blogs, newsletters, marketing emails and B2C content.

Shoaib also collaborated with the creative team and our digital marketing manager to maximise our social media platforms, which he does incredibly well.

Shoaib was a valued member of the team. He never ran out of projects to work on, but also had the freedom to put forward his creative ideas and execute them, which he took full advantage of.

Now, he owns a personal branding agency working with CEOs and founders to create powerful branding that gets them noticed.

He’s doing some brilliant work. To find out more or read his inspiringly honest posts, follow Shoaib on LinkedIn.

So, will a placement year be worth it for you?

Mostly yes. 

If you’ve not entirely made up your mind, have a read of our Guide to Placements. 

It’s also always good to see what types of placements are available. Luckily for you, we have loads of placements on our jobs board.