‘Placement Years’ or ‘Years in Industry’ are becoming a more and more common part of university life. They are effectively a year long internship or work experience placement that is integrated into a degree. They are most common for vocational courses such as Pharmacy, Natural and Mechanical Sciences, Art and Design, Marketing and Business.

Young student in a beanie hat sitting in front of a river in a city

The placement year usually takes place between the second and third years of your degree and will mean that your degree takes four instead of three years. Most of the time, a placement year is an integral, required part of a degree programme, and this is made clear at the point of application. A course with a required placement year will be described as “Geography with a Year in Industry” as opposed to straight Geography. This means that you need to decide before you apply, whether you want to take part in a placement.

Having said this, there are a few other ways to gain work experience as part of a degree course. Some universities allow you to elect to organise their own year in industry, even if it is not offered by your course - those that do will have information on these programmes in the careers section of their website. Furthermore, there are other courses which offer a shorter, one semester placement, or a placement module, for a few hours a week throughout a semester, neither of which require you to add an extra year onto your degree.

The Pros and Cons

  • Pro- Placement years give students on the job training related to their degree, boosting their CV and future employability.
  • Pro- Spending a year in industry allows them to create a relationship with an employer who may very likely offer them a job once they have finished their degree.
  • Con- A year in industry elongates a degree to four years, this means other students may have left already and it will be longer before you can fully enter your career.
  • Pro- Many placements are paid and some students could earn as much as £20,000.
  • Pro- Doing a placement through their course means that students will receive loads of support from their university, both in finding the opportunity and with any problems in the workplace.
  • Pro- Working in a related industry can give students a better understanding of their field of study, boosting their grades in the final year.
  • Con- Taking a gap in the middle of studies can result in some students losing momentum and finding their final year more difficult.