What is a Placement Year? [and how to find one]

Have you been considering a year in industry or “sandwich year” as part of your degree? 

Whether you have heard of them and want to know more or you are already considering one, we will cover all you need to know in this article. 

So, what is a placement year? 

If you did work experience at secondary school or an internship while studying, either of these will give you some sense of the experience of a placement year.

During an internship or work experience, you are likely to be given some training and a taste of the working life of an industry. However, a work placement puts you in the heart of a company’s workings with a greater amount of responsibility.

If you choose to undertake a placement year you will be placed in a role that is very similar to a graduate-level job and will work similar hours to those you would expect in one. 

While you will likely have to apply for internships and positions are often competitive, a placement year is an agreement with a company to employ you for a year.

When do I do a placement year?

Placement years normally take place in your third year, often meaning three-year courses are extended to four years. 

After completing your second year, you work for an employer before returning to university for your final year of study. 

This means they normally run from July through to September of the next academic year as term starts again. However, the length can vary between nine and thirteen months.

You should also know that you remain a student at your university during your placement. You will generally be given one core assignment and progress reports to complete and normally have a placement tutor for these.

What are graduate employers looking for?

A recent study found that almost two-thirds of employers said that when reviewing applications, having experience is the most important asset for a candidate.

On top of this, the same study found that more than two-thirds of employers think candidates put too much emphasis on qualifications and not enough on experience.

Despite this, a large proportion of graduates will leave university with either limited experience of the world of work or no experience relevant to their degree.

Graduate employers are looking for evidence of key employability skills such as communication, teamwork, the ability to use initiative and more. Completing a placement year can help you to develop these skills.

Why might you want to do a placement as part of your course?

In light of research on recruiters’ views, doing a placement year means you will leave university with an automatic headstart on many other graduates. 

If you are still unsure about which job might suit you, a placement year can give you the chance to see up close whether you would enjoy the career path you are considering.

Another benefit is the ability to earn while you learn. You can expect to pay half your normal tuition fees for your placement year, although some universities don’t charge students on placement any fees. You can expect to be paid between £12,000 and £18,000. The average pay will vary based on the sector you work in. 

Additionally, many companies offer graduates positions on successfully completing their placement and may even offer to cover tuition fees for your final year.

The responsibility involved in the real risk and reward of employment can also be an exciting change from hypothetically discussing ideas and theories in a seminar or lecture hall. 

Placement years can also give an opportunity to spend a year abroad, learning about a different culture. For language students, in particular, this can help to develop skills they have been building at university.

How to organise a year in industry

One of the first steps to a year in industry should be contacting your tutor to look into any possible course requirements for placement opportunities.

When to apply for placement year opportunities

A lot of employers will start advertising their vacancies in the autumn term so it is a good idea to look around early in the year. 

Large graduate recruiters in particular tend to start recruitment early and it is worth checking deadlines if you have your heart set on a specific company. 

However, some employers will advertise placement opportunities until the end of September so you may still be able to do one if you decide to later in the year.

Some courses may also include a placement in which the organisation is allocated to you automatically. 

How to find a placement year opportunity

Many large corporations offer placement year opportunities to candidates who are in their penultimate year of study. 

Some examples include: JP Morgan, Unilever, PwC and more. 

Websites to help you to find a placement

Many SMEs also offer industrial placement programmes for undergraduate students, so do not dismiss these opportunities. 

Some undergraduate students decide to undertake a placement year abroad. An international placement will give you both valuable work experience and the opportunity to live in another country. 

Here are some websites to help you to find a placement year abroad:

Finding a placement year opportunity can be difficult. When looking for a placement, conduct research online and remember to use your network. 

Tip: follow the companies you are interested in on social media as they may advertise placement opportunities there. 

The application process for placement programmes 

Applying for a placement is quite similar to applying for a graduate scheme or a graduate job. The exact process will vary depending on the company but in general, you will need to:

  • Fill out an online application
  • Complete online tests 
  • Submit a video interview or complete a telephone interview
  • Attend an assessment centre or final stage interview

The process can be quite time-consuming. Aim to send off fewer high-quality applications rather than lots of low-quality ones.  

Tip: Be sure to tailor every placement application to the company that you are applying for. 

Building valuable employability skills 

While many of the skills graduate recruiters look for can be developed in your time at university, a year in industry can provide a useful chance to build these. Your placement experience will give you high-quality examples to use when making graduate scheme applications.

Skills you can develop include:

  • Successfully organising and working in a team
  • Giving clear and well-researched presentations
  • Project management
  • Negotiating with colleagues and clients 
  • Demonstrating efficient organisation

These skills are all part of your time at university.  However, honing them in the world of work will give a helping hand when the time comes to write covering letters and fill in job applications.

Check out our post on the most important skills for finding a job

Boosting employability

A year in industry will also give you a useful experience of interview processes and assessment centres for when you reach your final year. 

Application processes can take place over the course of months and require travel meaning you may miss some lectures. You should weigh this up in your decision but know that tutors will often be able to provide work to catch up.

You will also leave university with a further qualification, helping to boost your employability

Your supervisor for your placement could also act as a useful reference for job applications in the future. 

If you are particularly worried about getting a graduate job after university, completing a placement year will help you to discover your career path. 

Finally, a year in industry can also give an obvious boost to your network of contacts in industries you may want to work in.

Take a look at our post looking at whether your university is doing enough to help your job prospects

Overcoming possible issues 

You should know that some courses will not offer a placement year. However, discussing this with your course leader may be worth your time, as it is their goal for you to graduate with the best possible prospects. 

Some courses which have recently started to offer a year of practical training include:

  • Business Studies
  • Marketing
  • Pharmacology
  • Music

You may also wish to weigh up the experience of returning to university after some of your coursemates have graduated. 

This is worth thinking about but also know that with more and more university students going on to Master’s and other postgrad courses, it may be less of an issue than in the past.  

What is a placement: Summary

We hope you enjoyed this post on placement years! We strongly advise you to consider doing a placement year as part of your degree. The experience will significantly enhance your employability and help you to get a graduate-level job. 

What should you do once you find a placement? 

Once you’ve secured a placement, it is really important that you inform your university as soon as possible. 

They will guide you through the next steps. 


Here are some frequently asked questions related to placement years 

Are placement years worth it? 

If you are considering completing a placement as a part of your degree, you are probably wondering if it will be worth it. Whilst doing a placement year will mean that you will graduate a year later, there are many benefits to doing one. Perhaps the most significant benefit is the impact that it will have on your employability.  

Doing a placement year as part of your degree will also help you to get the most out of your time at university! Many people consider placement years to be worth it for that reason.  

Do you still get a student loan on a placement year? 

It is best to check with your university to see if you will be required to pay tuition fees during your placement year. You may be able to receive a maintenance loan or grant. 

What happens at a graduation ceremony?

If you are due to graduate soon, you’re probably wondering what happens at a graduation ceremony. 

We’ve put together this post to explain what you can expect on your graduation day. 

Before your graduation ceremony 

Leading up to your graduation day, your university will get in touch with you usually via email or your universities student portal. 

You’ll be informed of the ceremony details such as when and where it will be held. 

Applying for your guest tickets.

Your university will want to know how many guests you wish to bring with you. 

The number of guests you can bring will depend on your university’s policy and the size of the venue. Generally, universities will try to make it fair so that every student can bring roughly the same number of guests. 

It is best that you apply for your guest’s tickets as soon as possible to avoid disappointment. 

Gown hire 

What happens at a graduation ceremony?

Your university will also encourage you to hire your gown. 

They will usually state where to hire your gown from as the specific gown that you will wear will be unique to your university and your course. 

Whilst most people hire their gown and graduation cap, some people opt to buy their graduation attire to keep for memories. 

In order to hire your gown, you may need to provide the measurements of your head and your gown size. This is so that the gown hire company can reserve the right size gown for you. 

What happens at a graduation ceremony? 

This will differ slightly across universities. However, here’s what you can expect: 

Putting on your graduation gown and cap 

Generally, you’ll start the day by getting dressed up in your graduation gown and hat. 

There will be members of staff available on the day to help you to put on your robe and graduation cap and make sure that you are comfortable. 

If you realise that you’ve hired the wrong size robe or hat, don’t worry as the gown hire company will often have spares in different sizes. They will be there on hand to help you. 

Once everyone has put on their graduation attire, you’ll usually walk to the graduation ceremony location with your peers and guests. 

Getting seated in the venue 

Once you arrive at the venue you’ll separate from your guests and enter the venue with your peers. 

All of the graduands (people who are about to receive their academic degree) will sit together. 

The graduate ceremony planners will have devised a plan to get everyone into the ceremony room quickly and efficiently. There will be staff members who are on hand to help you to find your seat. 

Depending on your university you’ll be sitting with your fellow course members, sometimes in alphabetical order. 

Your guests will also be helped to find their seats. 

Academic procession and welcome  

At the start of your ceremony, there will be an academic procession. 

This will last for about 15-20 minutes. 

Senior academic lecturers and staff, some of whom you’ll recognise will walk onto the stage. 

They will also be dressed in academic attire. 

The graduands will stand whilst the academic staff walk on to the stage and take their seats.   

Then you’ll be invited to take your seat again, and you’ll be welcomed by the vice-chancellor or president of the academic board. 

There may be some other speeches and notable mentions. 

The presentation of the awards  

Then each graduand will be called on stage one by one. 

This will be done in a very coordinated fashion and there will be members of staff nearby, ensuring that everything runs smoothly. 

Usually, members of each subject will be called at a time. 

Walking across the stage  

  • When your name and degree classification is called, you’ll walk across the stage. 
  • You’ll then shake the chancellor’s hand. 
  • Then you’ll receive a cylinder or piece of paper (Usually, you’ll get your actual degree certificate before or after your graduation ceremony). 
  • Some universities will take photos of each graduate shaking the chancellor’s hand. 
  • Then you’ll walk back to your seat and enjoy the remainder of the ceremony. 

After the awards have been handed out, there may be some further speeches. 

Academic procession and Graduates Exit 

The graduates will stand whilst the academic staff on stage leave the ceremony. 

Then the graduates will exit. 

After the ceremony

You’ll leave the ceremony venue. Some people will take photos outside of the venue with their family and friends.

Then there may be a post-ceremony celebration at a location nearby. 

At the celebration, you may have the opportunity to get a professional photograph taken whilst wearing your graduation gown and cap. 

At the end of the celebration, if you hired your gown and graduation cap, you’ll need to return it to the gown hire company. 

Here’s a video showing what happens at a graduation ceremony.

What happens at a graduation ceremony: summary

We hope this post helps you to understand what happens at a graduation ceremony. 

Graduation ceremonies will differ across universities, but this post will give you a general idea of what to expect. 

Your graduation day is one that you’ll reflect on your time at university and your achievements. 

If you would like bespoke help to secure a graduate-level job contact us, here at Graduate Coach. 

We will help you to turn your degree into the right career for you. If you’ve recently graduated from university, check out our post on books for graduates who want to excel in their careers.

Applying for a Masters in the UK? Everything you need to know

We’ve put this guide together for international students who have made the decision to study for their Masters in the UK. 

This guide will help you to gain a better understanding of postgraduate qualifications in the UK. By the end of this post, you’ll be able to make more informed decisions about studying in the UK. 

1: You can apply to as many Master’s courses as you like 

It is vital that you conduct in-depth research into the courses that you wish to study. 

Create a spreadsheet listing all the courses that you wish to apply for. 

You can apply to as many postgraduate degree courses as you wish when you are applying to do a Masters in the UK. 

It’s a good idea to submit more than one applications to “spread the risk”, rather than putting all of your eggs in one basket. 

Bear in mind that some universities will have an application fee which will vary across institutions. 

As some will require you to pay a fee to submit your application, it is very important that you conduct thorough research to ensure that you meet the entry requirements. 

The fee will be stated on the websites for the universities you wish to apply for. 

To apply to do a Masters in the UK you will submit your application directly to the university.

The tuition fees for international students will usually be listed on the course pages. If you can’t find the information regarding the fees do not hesitate to contact the admissions department. 

2. You’ll need to meet the academic entry requirements 

Most of the Master’s degrees at the top universities in the UK will require that you have a 2:1 (upper second class) in your Bachelor’s degree.

This is equivalent to getting a 3.0 to 3.5 GPA score. 

Some universities will accept applications if you have lower academic grades and if you experienced mitigating circumstances they will take this into account if you inform them.

The admissions team will also take into account any relevant work experiences that you have gained. 

Undergraduate degree classifications in the UK 

1:1 (First class) 70% and above

2:1 (Upper second class) 60 – 69%

2:2 (Lower second class) 50-59% 

3 (Thrid class) below 49% 

You’ll need to work out what you got in your Bachelors, to see if you meet the entry requirements for a Masters in the UK. 

3. There are different types of Masters degree in the UK 

  •  Master of Arts MA 
  •  Master of Sciences MSc
  •  Master of Philosophy MPhil
  •  Masters of Research MRes
  • Masters of Business Administration MBA

There are also a number of other postgraduate qualifications such as a postgraduate certificate or a postgraduate diploma.  

4. There will be English Language requirements 

Applying for a masters in the UK

If you wish to study for your Masters in the UK, your course will be taught in English. 

Therefore, as well as meeting the academic requirements of your course, you will also need to meet the English language requirements. 

If English is not your first language, or if you’re not from a majority English speaking country, you’ll need to provide evidence of your English Language skills. 

You’ll be able to demonstrate evidence of your English Language skills if you have: 

  • Completed a minimum of twelve months of academic education in a majority English speaking country. 
  • Undertaken a minimum of eighteen months of work experience in the United Kingdom. 
  • Completed a English language certification. 

It is important that you check the English Language requirements for every university as the requirements will vary. 

There are a wide variety of English Language qualifications that you can take in order to prove your English language skills. Some examples include:

  • International English Language Testing System (IELTS) 
  • Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL) iBT
  • Cambridge Certificate of Proficiency in English

It is important to check the required scores required by the universities you are interested in applying to. 

5: You’ll need to submit a personal statement and your CV 

Your CV (resume) will outline your education and your academic history. 

It is important that you tailor your CV for the course that you are applying for. Ensure that your CV is 1-2 pages long. 

Your personal statement needs to convince the admissions team that you will excel on the course. 

It must also explain your motivations for deciding to pursue higher education. 

6: All universities will have different tuition fees. 

Master’s degrees are not capped at a specific price in the UK. 

Therefore, the tuition fees will vary across institutions and courses. 

You may find that the more prestigious universities have higher fees. 

Most universities offer scholarships, therefore, be sure to check with each of the universities you are interested in to see if you are eligible. 

7: You do not need to study a Masters in the same subject as your undergraduate degree. 

When applying for your Masters, it is a good idea to include your career plans in your personal statement. 

You do not need to do a Masters in the same subject as your undergraduate degree. 

For example, if you studied Geography for your undergraduate studies, you could study Accounting and Finance for your Masters. 

It is important that you demonstrate a genuine interest in the course that you are applying for. 

Students studying Masters degrees get the opportunity to specialise in an area of interest. 

Whilst studying for your Masters it is a good idea to also work on improving your employability skills. 

8: Masters courses usually last 1 year 

There are different modes of study for Masters degrees in the UK. 

You can either study full time for 1 year or part-time for 2 years. 

If you are studying for a PhD, MBA or a DBA, the course duration will be longer. 

We hope this guide comes in handy if you have decided to study in the UK. 

If you are still considering if a master’s degree is the right decision for you, read our post called: “should I do a master’s?

For some help to secure a job in the UK after you graduate, get in touch with our graduate coaches here at Graduate Coach. 

We offer one to one coaching to help you to find the right graduate-level career.

Useful videos if you are considering studying for your Masters in the UK