Our Guide to Industrial Placements 2024

Set yourself apart from the competition with a year in industry.

Completing a placement is a surefire way to boost your employability within a certain sector and build up your CV. In this guide, you’ll find everything you need to know about industrial placements, including how to search and apply for one.

What is an industrial placement?

Industrial placements are structured programs where a student spends an entire academic year working for a company as a full-time paid employee, before returning to university to complete their degree.

Also referred to as a ‘placement year’ or ‘year in industry’, an industrial placement will typically take place between your second and last year of university. They are most often optional, but in some cases a built-in feature of a course.

Industrial placements used to be more commonly associated with longer courses, such as engineering or medicine. But these days you can find year-long work experience in countless industries, such as Accountancy, Business, HR & Recruitment, Marketing, and the Public Sector.

The best placements will give you full exposure to the company and its culture. Rather than twiddling your thumbs or making multiple coffee runs, you’ll develop a solid understanding of the industry and build transferable skills that will set you up for life - whatever career you decide to pursue. These include:

  • Commercial awareness

  • Dealing with conflict

  • An ability to be proactive

  • Managing up

  • Resilience

Crucially, adding a placement to your CV will go a long way in helping you secure a job after university. With the average number of applicants for a graduate job now at 91, those with industry experience are much more likely to catch the eye of recruiters.

Top Industrial Placement Jobs

What are the benefits of doing an industrial placement?

A placement is a big commitment, but it comes with an even bigger number of benefits. If you’re weighing up whether to do one, you’ll want to read this next section...

Improve your graduate job prospects

Did you know that the very first place companies look when hiring graduates is their pool of former placement students and interns? These graduates have been trained in the exact skills the company needs and are already familiar with their new colleagues and surroundings.

In fact, across all of the Best Student Employers, a whopping 46% of their placement students and interns were offered graduate jobs. So whilst it can be tempting to spend your university years in cheap bars and sticky-floored clubs, it’s critical you fit in some work experience while you’re there too.

Gain practical experience

Gaining professional work experience is invaluable when you’re on the graduate job hunt, but it will also help you when you land a job. University degrees tend to be theory-based, and employers often find that students lack the knowledge and practical skills that are required to jump straight into a graduate job. With a placement you’ll be work-ready.

Your professional work experience will also mean you’ll beast your way through the application process, as you’ll have the confidence, soft skills and professional knowledge already to hand.

Build industry contacts

Even if you don’t directly land a graduate job from your industrial placement, you’re guaranteed to build a network of useful contacts that may help you further down the line in your career.

You’ll spend up to 12 months working for the same company, and that’s more than enough time to get to know all the cool cats and big fish. A good word from your manager or from Herbert the Head of Marketing will also set your applications apart. You can even ask them to vouch for you on LinkedIn.

Still unsure whether it’s the right decision for you? Jump over to our blog for more expert advice:

Are placement years paid?

An industrial placement student will receive a salary and other perks for the duration of their programme. The typical salary is between £18,000 - £23,000, but there are opportunities available on our website that pay even higher.

How much you are paid will depend on the type of placement, the length of time you work for and where the company is located. For example, the average salary for placement students across the UK is £19,158 a year, whereas the average salary in London is £22,250.

Students tend to get paid more in London because of high living and travel costs; the capital is also home to some of the world's biggest companies who are all competing for the best talent.

Find out more in our latest guide to the Highest Paid Placements in the UK.

How do I find an industrial placement?

You can get work experience almost anywhere in the UK; from Bristol to Glasgow. However, if you live somewhere remote, or commuting isn’t an option, bear in mind that you’ll likely have to live in a new city whilst completing your year-long placement.

Before you apply for a particular scheme, ask yourself the following questions... Will I have to move out? If so, where will I have to move to? Perhaps most importantly, will I be happy there? Always do your research and make a considered decision so that you can get the most out of your industrial placement.

Watch the video below to hear a Durham University student share her tips and tricks on where to find industrial placements, and how to apply.

How to apply

Applying for industrial placements can be daunting, and rather competitive. The average placement has 82 applicants, so many companies run a series of interviews and assessment centres to scout out the most promising candidates.

Luckily, there are a few easy things you can do to stand out.

Use appropriate jobs boards

Using a jobs board like RateMyPlacement.co.uk allows you to easily pinpoint placement opportunities. By filtering your job search, you can check if there are jobs in your particular area, with a certain employer or in your preferred industry. Perfect!

Maria, a student at the University of Exeter, used RateMyPlacement.co.uk to find a dream placement. Check out her story for inspiration.

Perfect your CV

Make sure your CV is easy-to-read and highlights all your relevant skills. It should make a clear case for why you are suited to a particular role with specific skills and experience. Read our expert guide to writing a placement CV for more in-depth advice.

You should also aim to do as much preparation for each stage of the application process in advance as possible, starting with these how-to guides:

Apply early

Applying for industrial placements is like Christmas shopping; if you leave it until the last minute, you’ll find yourself in Primark at 6pm on Christmas Eve, fighting an old lady for the last placement.

The best time to apply is right at the beginning of your second year. Most employers start advertising their jobs from September, and may close applications early if they receive too many! Avoid the disappointment and get your application in as soon as possible.