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What is a work placement?

Work placements explained

A work placement is work undertaken as part of a credit-bearing module and in most cases the work itself is credit-bearing. This is different to an internship where the work is undertaken outside of your studies (extra-curricular) e.g. part time job out of term time or in the evenings.

Types of work placement

There are 3 types of work placements that are undertaken as part of a placement module or degree programme and they will vary across modules and degree programmes within colleges. They are; short-term (work placement will generally be from 35 hours to 4 weeks), yearlong (26 weeks to 52 weeks) and consultancy (consultancy work undertaken in partnership with an employer e.g. 60 hours).

Dates when placements are undertaken

This varies across different placement modules/programmes and the length of placement but in general they will take place as follows:

  • Yearlong placements can start as early as June after your second year exams and they will need to end before the start of the Term 1 the following academic year.
  • Short-term and consultancy placements will vary across modules and usually need to be undertaken over a certain term or over the summer holidays. In some cases the placement may take place prior to the module starting e.g. summer before Term 1. 

The module descriptor for the placement module/programme should outline when the placement needs to take place by. If this is not the case, please email the Module Lead or Programme Director for more details.

Placement module/programme content

There are 3 main areas you can expect, although this will vary across modules and programmes. They are as follows:

  • Lectures or workshops presented by either the Module Lead, Programme Director or by the Student Employability and Academic Success team. The content will vary across modules but could consist of module/programme-specific content and/or employability sessions to support your placement search, application, understanding of recruitment processes, placement paperwork administration and what to do after your placement.
  • Asynchronous (not live) activities e.g. job or sector research and creating your CV. These activities will help develop your skills, experience and knowledge.
  • Assessments are a necessary part of any credit bearing module, these may include a reflective report, a presentation, video interview or poster display to summmarise your placement experience.

To find out what is involved in a specific placement module or programme that you are interested in, please visit the college pages for the module you are interested in and/or email the Module Lead or Programme Director.

Paid or unpaid work placements

We would always want students to undertake a paid work placement, and there are lots of work placements that are paid. However, it is more likely that short-term or consultancy work placements will be unpaid. Any work undertaken as a placement can be offered unpaid by the placement host, work placements are not subject to minimum wage rules as a student gains credits for a module instead. In some cases, the University may be able to provide some funding for short-term placements, please look at our Access to Internships pages for more information. You may also find paid job vacancies which suit your placement module requirements on our SBP and SCP webpages.

Virtual placements or working onsite

Whether you are working virtually or onsite for your placement, both options will give you valuable work experience. Some placement hosts may give you the option of a blend of these; working from home where possible and only coming into the workplace for key meetings or practical tasks. Being in the workplace can provide useful opportunities to meet others in the team, grow your network of professional contacts, discover other functions of the organisation outside of your department and also gain useful commercial awareness about how a business / organisation operates in person.

When completing a virtual placement you may have to make more of an effort to meet others from both your immediate team and outside of your team, for example by taking part in online team socials or proactively messaging team members to introduce yourself. The ability to work effectively from home will become an increasingly valued skill as the world adapts to a post-COVID workplace where there may be less desk space and an expectation from workers of a more flexible working arrangement. Undertaking successful virtual placements or internships during your time at university is a highly recommended way of gaining experience which will be relevant to future job applications, regardless of the sector or focus of the work experience.