Internships and work experience

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You may wonder why you should be spending your precious spare hours working when you are already studying full time - you'll need your rest and holidays, right? These days, however, experience is preferred by the majority of employers, and is an expectation for many careers at entry level.

Here are some of the benefits of gaining experience on the job:

Work experience and internships come in many shapes and forms; it can be a year in industry as part of an on course placement or it can be a summer spent working in a business.

Some employers, such as the BBC and finance companies, run recruitment schemes offering work experience and internships, although they are generally highly competitive.


Internships are formal placements of working in a particular role, where you learn the right skills in the right job. They are usually offered by large companies or organisations and can last between one week to a year. Some internships can take place abroad.

There are two types - student and graduate. Student internships usually take place in the second last year of your studies. These can be paid or unpaid, although normally on an organised placement, you should receive the national minimum wage.

In some careers, such as media and marketing, you are expected to take on an internship, and in many cases this can lead on to a graduate job. However, getting an internship can be very competitive, especially in certain career areas. Getting a place is like applying for a job; filling out an application form and attending an interview. It can also be a lengthy process, so prepare early and arrange the placement well in advance of when you need to start.

Work experience

This is usually a shorter term placement, with the exception of degrees that include a sandwich placement, which can last anything between three days to a month or more.

Work experience placements vary greatly, and may be relevant or irrelevant to the job you finally want. Most work experience is beneficial as it helps you assess what skills you already have and what ones you need for your preferred line of work.

Here are some of the more common types of experience you can get.

Before arranging any work experience yourself, you should think about your requirements first of all, especially before accepting a place. This would include how much time can you spend working during term time, or more importantly, what skills you want or need to develop. Ideally, a good placement should fulfill these requirements to help you work towards getting the job you want in the future.

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