A placement year, or sandwich course, typically occurs during your third year of study at university, often counting towards your degree. A placement can either be mandatory, or for other courses (like mine), can be taken as an option. The aim of a placement is to give students a true insight into a particular industry and to allow them to undertake an extensive period of real-life work experience, equipping them with a range of relevant skills for the future. Already looking for one? Also read our guide on how to secure one.
1. Trial your career
A placement is the perfect opportunity to gain first-hand experience in your desired industry. Best case scenario, your placement will confirm that the career is right for you and will inspire you to work hard to secure a job in this field – yay! Worst case, your placement makes you realise that you aren't as suited to the job as much as you might have thought. This is completely fine, and this scenario should definitely not be looked upon in a bad light. This is not a waste of your time, as you have actually done yourself a favour by buying yourself some time to consider other career paths before you graduate, not to mention you will still have undoubtedly gained many transferable skills for your next job.
Having a placement year on your CV will undoubtedly make you stand out against other graduates and will increase your chance of employability, giving you heaps to talk about in interviews. Many students leave university with little or no experience relevant to their degree, so being able to say that you have worked for a whole year will show employers that you really know the industry you are going for and will leave you in great stead. If you really manage to impress the firm you are working for, they might even give you a firm job offer upon graduation! Depending on the company, you may get to network with a huge range of employers and this will give you a wider picture of what's out there.
3. Lessen the study-to-work shock
Long gone are the days where you can turn up to lectures hungover and wearing joggers, regularly spending your afternoons napping and watching Netflix. Doing a placement year will get you into the 9-5 habit and will allow you to adjust to a professional working life easier once you graduate, making it seem like far less of a struggle. Getting your body in the habit of regularly getting up early will also benefit you in third year when you'll be swamped with deadlines and dissertation work.
4. Academic prospects
It's likely that your placement year will improve your academic prospects as you will enter third year with a much more enhanced skill-set than before. You can benefit from your improved written and verbal communication skills in your presentations and assignments, whilst your overall organisational and time-management skills can assist you in keeping on track of your deadlines. Many students opt to use their placement year as the basis for their final year dissertation or to carry out a project or investigation which can count towards their degree.
Many placements pay between £15-£20k, so it's a great chance to save up some money to enter third year with if you can. If you normally have a part-time job during term time, having some money saved may take the pressure off how many hours you'll need to work in your final year, freeing up your time to concentrate on your assignments. Don't forget, you can still apply for a loan during your placement year if you need a bit of extra financial support – visit SFE for up to date information.
6. Discover a new city
A placement year gives you the opportunity to relocate to another part of the country for a year, should you wish to. Many big companies are located in major cities, though there are placements available all over the UK, giving you a chance to explore a new and exciting area. You can even look into doing a placement abroad, just make sure you start looking for these early, as they are in high demand!
7. Put theory into practice
A placement allows you to apply what you've learnt in the classroom to a real job, especially if the industry of your placement is directly linked to your course. It will give you a much deeper understanding of certain aspects of your degree and will give you first hand, practical experience which can't be learnt from lecture slides alone.
Now that we've convinced you, make sure you read our other article to help you on your way...
7 Ways to Secure a Placement Year