Undergraduate Placements:
Insights, Advice & Reviews

Our comprehensive guide to industrial placement years

Undertaking a placement year between your second and last year of university is a great way to increase your employability and enhance your CV with valuable work experience. Here you’ll find everything you need to know about placements, including how to search and apply for one.

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What is a student placement?

Placements are structured programmes where a student spends an entire academic year working for an organisation as a full time paid employee, before returning to university to complete their degree.

Doing a placement year is optional for many students, but in some cases it is a compulsory feature of their course. They generally take place after a student’s second year at university.

These schemes have a number of different guises, just like Eminem. You might hear them described as ‘sandwich placements’, ‘industrial placements’, ‘a placement year’ or a ‘year in industry’. It’s befuddling.

However, all these terms essentially mean the same thing; they provide students with the opportunity to gain valuable work experience and employability skills before they graduate.

"According to the Institute of Student Employers (ISE), there was an average of 75 applications for graduate jobs across all sectors last year. That’s an increase of over 10 per cent! Your chances of securing a graduate role amongst such competition are severely reduced if you have no work experience under your belt."

Why should I do a placement?

improve graduate job prospects

Improve Your Graduate Job Prospects

Did you know, 59% of graduates that were hired by our Top Undergraduate Employers were former interns and placement students? That’s why it is essential to get professional work experience while you are still at university.

Companies hire students before they have graduated to spot future talent, and introduce them to team ethics and culture. This means that they are already familiar with their new colleagues and their surroundings if they join at the end of their final year as graduates.

The first place companies look when hiring graduates is their pool of former placement students and interns. It’s why a year in industry will substantially improve your prospects of securing a job after you have left university.

Giving Practical Experience

Giving practical experience

Gaining professional work experience is invaluable when you’re on the graduate job hunt. 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.

If an employer sees a year in placement on your CV however, they’ll immediately think ‘Ahah! This person has the minerals. They’ve already worked in the industry for an entire year!’

The practicalities of studying a subject at university is often very different to actually working in that industry. Getting some real work experience will let employers know you are work-ready.

Building Contacts

Building contacts

Doing an industrial placement will help you built of a network of useful contacts that may help you in your later career. A student will spend up to 12 months working for a company, that’s more than enough time to get to know the all the cool cats and big fish.

Even if you choose not to apply for a graduate role with the company you work for, they can still act as references. A good word from your manager or from Herbert the Head of Marketing will make your application stand out. Who knows, Herbert might have contacts with another company or can give you advice on what scheme to apply for.

How much are placement students paid?

A placement student will receive a salary and other perks for the duration of their programme. The typical salary is between £15,000 - £20,000, but there are opportunities available on our website that pay even higher.

The reviews on RateMyPlacement offer insight into what different companies pay, and how salaries vary across different regions. For example, the average salary for undergraduates in 2018 on their placement was £17,574.

These schemes truly are a win win: you'll gain valuable skills, work experience and enough money to buy a menagerie of animals and start a zoo.

The average salary for placements in London was £21,378. Undergraduates tend to get paid more in London because of high living and travel costs; the capital is also home to some of world’s biggest companies who are all competing for the best talent.

The lowest average salary in the UK is £15,774, which is in Northern Ireland. Students in Scotland on the other hand earn an average of £18,457! You can see all the average regional salaries on the right...

View Placements
2019 UK Placement Salaries

Placements in the UK

You can get undergraduate work experience almost anywhere in the UK. There are a huge amount of placements in London, it’s true, but there are opportunities available near and far in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Remember, if you apply for a scheme and are successful, you’ll probably live in a new city whilst completing your 12 month placement. So 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?

A student placement is great for your career prospects, but it can also harm them if you have a bad experience. If your early adventures of a professional environment are negative, it could turn you away from a what could be a great career!

Do your research and make a considered decision so that you can get the most out of a scheme. The useful resources we have listed above are, as the heading suggested, frightfully useful when choosing the right programme.

We have vacancies for industrial placements nationwide, so wherever you reside, opportunities are awaiting.

When do I need to start applying?

It really does depend upon what industry you are interested in - there are applications open from September all the way through to February. Companies advertise their vacancies at different times!

We urge you to start applying as early as possible. It’s like Christmas shopping; if you leave it until the last minute, you’ll find yourself in Primark at midnight on Christmas Eve, fighting an old lady (that knows karate) for the last placement.

The best time to apply is right at the beginning of your second year. Most of our clients begin advertising their vacancies from September, and may close applications early if they make a hire! Avoid the disappointment and get your application in as soon as possible, so you’ll then have time to prepare for any potential interviews, plus psychometric tests and a assessment centre.

REMEMBER, your first year grades will be taken into account when applying for a placement as that is all the company has to go on when you first apply. If you go absolutely mental in your first year and let your work slip, it may count against you!

Useful Resources

Top Employers Guide

The Top Employers Guide features the Top 100 Undergraduate Employers, case studies from the students that worked for them, overviews from industry experts and also some cracking advice. The guide is your handbook to finding the right scheme, and preparing for the application process.

Top 100 employers
Top employers guide

Industry Zones

Industry zones

There are thousands of different degree courses available in the UK, and they lead to careers in almost as many industries. Our industry zones highlight different paths you can take and look at the skill sets you need to possess in order to get a job in your chosen field. We also have some delightful case studies from previous placement students to give you an insight into what they do on a day-to-day basis

View Industry Zones

Student-written Reviews

We’ve got more than 50,000 reviews of undergraduate work experience schemes, all of which were written by the students who completed them. Think of it as like TripAdvisor, but for placements instead of hotels in Crewe. The reviews reveal information about what it is like to work for a particular company, what the office culture was like, salary, and the social opportunities available outside of work.

Browse Reviews

Where Can I Get Advice?

If you’re considering applying for a placement this year, we have umteen advice articles on how to apply, and specific insights into different industries.

Do check out our guides to writing a placement CV and a cover letter. They’ve helped hundreds of undergraduates dazzle employers and secure fantastic work experience.

Follow Us On Social Media

We also regularly post careers advice on our social media platforms as well as splendid placement and internship opportunities. Follow us on Twitter @RateMyPlacement and Like us on Facebook so that you have access to all of our best content.

You can also contact us on either platform if you have any questions about applying for an industrial placement.

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