Internships (work placements)
For some students a placement (sometimes referred to as an internship) is an integral part of their course, and can last for a period of up to 12 months. For others a placement is optional, and in this case it may last for just a few weeks over the vacation period for example.
Even for those considering a relatively short placement, it may be possible to gain academic credit for this through various modules that accredit work experience. These are offered across a number of courses mainly at undergraduate level, and if you wish to explore the possibility of taking these modules you need to plan well ahead and make sure that your proposed placement meets the module requirements.
Students should refer to the module catalogue or to your personal academic tutor, who will be able to refer you to the module leader for further advice and information.
Why complete a placement?
Before starting a placement search it may be helpful to consider some of the possible benefits of a placement, and to identify what specifically you hope to gain. Some potential benefits include:
- Gaining experience which will enhance your CV.
- Developing your understanding of a specific area of work. This may help you to confirm your career choice, or possibly introduce you to new ideas which you had not previously considered.
- Enhancing employability through the development of a wider range of work related skills. Along with this may come an increased sense of self-confidence.
- Widening your network, i.e. building contacts that may be able to help either directly or indirectly in your graduate job search.
Searching for a placement
In relation to securing a placement, your approach will depend to an extent on the type of organisation and the sector you are targeting.
Advertised placement schemes
Some large graduate recruiters regularly offer full time placement opportunities over the summer vacation, for example, or for longer periods of up to a year. If this is the type of opportunity that appeals to you, it is essential to begin your research well in advance, as there is often a lengthy selection process, and vacancies are often advertised up to 9 months prior to the start date.
There are a number of websites which focus on internship vacancies for students and graduates, e.g. www.ratemyplacement.co.uk and www.targetjobs.co.uk; a selection of such sites is listed in the “recruitment websites" page. You can also register with our Job Shop to access placement vacancy information.
In addition, you may wish to make direct contact with any larger companies which interest you. Below are a few examples showing a range of organisations which offer these types of formal placements.
- The Bank of England – offer sandwich (12 month) placements and 6-8 week internships
- Norton Rose Fulbright offer law vacation schemes, both winter and summer.
- Slaughter & May offer law vacation schemes over Easter and summer vacations
- Sainsbury offer summer placements, and very occasionally sandwich placements. Areas are commercial (marketing and buying), operations (store management, logistics) and people (HR, customer service, communications)
- Tesco offer 10 week summer internships in a variety of areas such as finance, food, technology and supply chain
- CGI offer 12 month industrial placements in technology and HR
- UBS offers 10 week summer internships as well as 6 or 12 month placements in areas such as IT, Risk, Equities (Derivatives, Prime Services, Sales and Trading) and Global Asset Management.
- Barclays offer analyst (spring and summer) and associate (summer) schemes
- BDO offers a 6 week summer internship in accountancy
- Thomson Reuters offer internships in areas such as finance, sales, journalism, strategy and technology
- Wellcome Trust (an organisation supporting biomedical research) offers 8 week summer internships in areas such as communications (science writing), finance, science funding, strategic planning and policy, investments and technology
- Lloyds of London offer an 8 week summer internship programme
- Francis Crick Institute offers 12 month placements as well as an 8 week summer studentship scheme for those interested in biomedical research
- BT offers industrial internships lasting for 48 weeks in network engineering and software engineering, and summer internships lasting for 12 weeks in government and security systems engineering, research and development and business management
- GlaxoSmithKline offers 12 month placements in manufacturing, IT, research &development, sales & marketing, communications, human resources, finance, procurement, supply chain and regulatory affairs. Also they offer summer internships in marketing and purchasing
Some organisations advertise placements but on an ad hoc basis, examples include:
- The British Film Institute Areas include PR and marketing.
- The Tate Gallery Offer internships lasting between 3 and 18 months
You will see from this brief list that the variety of placements offered by an individual employer can be quite wide (see for example Sainsbury and GlaxoSmithKline). It is therefore useful to keep an open mind and research as widely as possible to maximise your chances of success.
Some professional or trade bodies also provide information on companies within their sector which offer internships, again a few examples are listed below:
Creating your own opportunities
Aside from those large recruiters who regularly offer internship opportunities, other smaller organisations who are less likely to advertise vacancies may nonetheless respond to a speculative approach from a student. If you plan to approach companies on a speculative basis the first step is to identify potential employers in your sector of choice, to research each organisation of interest and to approach them with a targeted CV and cover letter, making sure you state clearly why you are writing and when the proposed placement would take place. See the section on graduate job search for business directories and other sources of employer information and use the "research" section of the Choosing your Career page to find out more about your areas of interest.
Paid or unpaid?
Any placement, whether paid or unpaid, can add valuable experience to your CV and allow you to develop work related skills. Unpaid placements have long been the norm within the voluntary sector, and guidance on finding such opportunities can be found on our “volunteering opportunities” web page.
In recent years an increasing number of unpaid internships are being offered within the private sector, and this is a topic on which there has been extensive media coverage.
National minimum wage legislation states that it is illegal not to pay an appropriate wage to a “worker”. There are some exceptions to this general rule, for example work shadowing, a period of experience regarded as an integral part of a course of study, or as already mentioned, volunteer workers within charities. Otherwise, if you are contributing towards the profitability of an organisation, are required to attend specific hours and/or to complete specific tasks, then you could reasonably define yourself as a worker and so expect to be paid the minimum wage. More information on the national minimum wage and who is entitled to receive it can be found here.
Clearly the decision as to whether or not to consider an unpaid internship is an individual one and you must make the choice which is right for you based on the pros and cons. In particular consider:
- can you afford to work without a wage, and if so, for how long?
- even if the employer does not offer a wage, might they offer basic travel/lunch expenses?
- what is the quality of experience that is likely to be on offer, and what skills are you likely to gain?
- is it possible that the opportunity might lead to paid work in the longer term?
If you do decide to take an unpaid opportunity, then review your progress at regular intervals to ensure that the experience continues to contribute towards meeting your goals.
Study Abroad Internship Programme
This programme is available only to American students participating in the Study Abroad Programme. It is coordinated by the Careers and Employability service and provides an opportunity to complete a part-time voluntary internship in addition to your studies.
- The programme has been developed to help students gain the type of skills and real life experiences employers say they want from college graduates.
- We will help you to find an internship related to your course. Bear in mind that whilst we make every effort to find an opportunity in your chosen field, you do have to be realistic and flexible. Although the Careers and Employability Service has a high success rate in placing Study Abroad students, we cannot guarantee to find an internship for every student.
- We will also support you whilst you're completing the internship and will assist you in fulfilling your home college requirements for internship credit.
Where study abroad students intern will give you ideas on where past students have been placed whilst the Code of Conduct for US Study Abroad Interns and the Rights and Responsibilities of US Interns will help you to understand what is expected of you and what you can expect from others. You will also need to view and complete the Study Abroad Internship Agreement and Study Abroad Student Health and Safety Checklist.
To apply please click on the Study Abroad Internship Programme Application Form below.
Please note that the deadline for fall 2017 applications is Thursday June 1st 2017.
Contact us for more information on developing knowledge, skills and experience to become confident about making informed decisions to build a rewarding career.