Careers Service

Internships, placements and work experience

Getting work experience while you study will help you to gain the skills employers are looking for. Internships and placements are two types of work experience but lots of other options are available. Consider part-time or vacation / casual jobs, it is also possible to find your own by contacting employers speculatively.

Many employers use internships and placements as a fast track onto their graduate programmes. Most large or multinational organisations commence advertising in October for students to work the following summer, so get started early! Smaller employers however, often advertise right up until the summer period so it’s never too late to look for a summer internship.


Internships are short periods of professional experience. During an internship you will be doing similar work to a normal employee of the organisation. They give you a taste of what graduate work is like and can help you make industry contacts.

  • Summer Internships are a useful way for you to develop and enhance your skills during the vacation periods. last between 2 – 12 weeks and are generally paid. Most internship opportunities advertised by large graduate recruiters are aimed at pre-final year students. However, many smaller businesses offer internship opportunities and will not stipulate your year of study.
  • Some companies will also offer Easter or Christmas opportunities (often called spring internships or insight days). These may be open to first year students, however, there will be a limited number of these opportunities available.
  • There are some unpaid opportunities but these should be very short in duration and not last more than 4 weeks.

Placements / year in industry

A placement normally forms part of your course, it could be anything from a few weeks to a year. Your academic or placement adviser should be able to provide you with information about the requirements for your placement. Many Schools maintain mailing lists for Industrial Placement students, and can make you aware of incoming opportunities. They can also provide contact details for Industrial Placement holders from previous years, who will be a great source of information for your applications. Finally the vacancies on CareersLink can be filtered by duration to make your search easier.

Many courses don’t include an industrial placement year as part of the course. However it is possible to interrupt your studies for one year, with support from your school, to complete a yearlong work placement. Speak with your academic advisor to get more advice on the procedure for interrupting your studies within your school.

If your placement is less than a year or is not in summer then you may need to be a little more creative in your jobsearch see Find your own internship

Graduate internships

There are several schemes available where you can get graduate level work for a short period of time (usually 1 year or less).

If you chose to do a Masters course, then it is possible to do an internship in the summer after you have completed your undergraduate degree and before you start the Masters.

Work experience for Postgraduate students

If you are doing a Masters or PhD programme it is unusual to do an internship during your programme. (You do not have vacation periods where you can work full time.) Normally you would do an internship during or after your undergraduate studies, unless you are enrolled on a BBSRC Professional Internships for PhD Students (PIPS) studentship, or similar scheme.

It may be possible to negotiate something by talking to your supervisor or programme director. Alternatively consider volunteering or part-time opportunities.

Feeling concerned that the job market is too competitive