Internships and Work Experience


Our vacancy database contains details of vacation jobs, courses and other work experience opportunities notified to the Careers Service.

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Different types of work experience


Types of Work Experience


There is more to “work experience” than the short placement that you may have done in year 10/11 at school. It may be helpful to start with some definitions:

Vacation work

This is most often available in the summer vacation but, study commitments permitting, you may findopportunities at Easter as well, while the Christmas vacation brings many temporary jobs in retail, catering and the Post Office. Vacation work may be career-related (see "Internships" below for more about the vacation work schemes offered by graduate recruiters) but other vacation jobs can offer an insight into graduate career areas, such as retail, as well as helping you to develop skills.

Part-time work

It is estimated that around 70% of students work at some stage during their course. Most of these part-time jobs are simply to earn some money to help pay your way through University but still provide useful experience and insights and be helpful in presenting future employers with evidence of skills such as teamwork, working under pressure, dealing with people and balancing the demands of work and study.
Your first port of call for part-time work should be the Kent Union Jobshop Job hunting

Year in Industry Placements

Also known as sandwich placements, these are not just available in “industry” but in all areas of business, industry or the public sector. During your year you will carry out paid work, similar to that which a new graduate might do in their first year of employment, in an area of workrelevant to your studies – typically in finance, marketing, IT, science or engineering, although there are many other possibilities. Some courses at Kent have a requirement for a year in industry, or you may be able to organise a placement independently. Shorter “thin sandwich” placements (typically 3 months or 6 months) are sometimes available but can be more difficult to integrate with your studies. See our vacancy database and also our Placements page


The word “internships” is used in different ways by different employers. It may mean:

Career-related summer vacation placements with graduate employers.
These are often viewed as the Holy Grail of work experience – they are offered by high-profile graduate recruiters, such as investment banks, City law firms, chartered accountants, oil companies, consultants and major manufacturing companies who look on their summer interns as potential graduate recruits.

Such a placement may well give you an advantage over other students when applying for jobs: in 2011, the annual “High Fliers Research Report”  noted that at least half the entry-level vacancies at City investment banks and leading law firms were likely to be filled by graduates who had already done a work experience placement with that employer.

This, plus the fact that these placements are generally well-paid (although you will usually need to make your own arrangements for accommodation) makes summer internships highly competitive. You should also make sure that you gain good academic results in your first year and that you have plenty of other good material (other work experience, volunteering and extra-curricular activities) to put on your CV.

The application process for these internships is usually almost the same as that for graduate jobs with these companies

Graduate internships
These offer relevant work experience to new and recent graduates. These internships typically last from three to six months: many employers use them as a way to try out graduates who may then be offered a permanent position.  The main source of these internships is the Graduate Talent Pool, set up by the Government to help graduates who were entering the labour market during the recession by enabling them to gain work experience through internships. So far, over 30000 internships have been placed on this site.

Other employers may use the word “internship” to refer to a sandwich placement, work shadowing or other types of work experience. 

Unpaid internships

Legally, if you are doing a real job of work, you should be paid at least the minimum wage. This applies just as much to internships as to any other job title – if you are expected to work set hours, carry out set duties and make an active contribution to the organisation then you are a “worker” and should be remunerated appropriately (an exception is made for “volunteer workers” in charities).

However, many internships, at both graduate and undergraduate level, are still unpaid – this is especially true of internships in the media, charities, advertising and PR and politics. One-third of the internships advertised on the government’s official Graduate Talent Pool website in the first half of 2011 were unpaid.

Even worse, some people are prepared to pay to get an internship – banks, law firms and PR companies have all offered internships to the highest bidder at fundraising events in the recent past with successful bids reaching thousands of pounds.

The Government’s Social Mobility Strategy states that:

We want to improve understanding of the application of national minimum wage legislation to internships and ensure that employers comply with it. Where an individual is entitled to the minimum wage they should receive it and we take failure to do so very seriously. We are updating our guidance on payment of work experience including internships to ensure that employers and individuals are clear about their rights and responsibilities. We will ensure enforcement of the national minimum wage continues to be effective …  Young people who feel they have had their minimum wage rights abused are  encouraged to contact our confidential Pay and Work Rights Helpline on 0800 917 2368.


Work experience does not have to be paid to be relevant. In some sectors, such as environment, media, heritage and social care, volunteering is one of the main ways to build up relevant work experience. It can also be a good way to build up experience and skills for other sectors where it is hard to find paid employment or work experience. This can be done during term-time, in vacations or both!


Last fully updated 2016

Why is work experience valuable?


Why do work experience?

Finding out about employers

It may give you insight into what you enjoy and don't enjoy in a working environment. Even a low-level job can give you a worm's-eye view of the realities of life in that organisation and offer the chance to talk to people doing the type of work you might hope to do in the longer term.

Demonstrating your skills and abilities

You will acquire valuable transferable and practical skills - how to deal with people, work in a team, use office equipment and IT packages, for example. See the Skills section of this website   for more about the skills that you can gain through work experience, advice on relating them to your career choice and help with using them in your applications for graduate jobs.

Most employers will ask about your work experience, and the benefits you have gained from it, on their application forms. Anything that has given you experience of life in what employers like to think of as the "real world" outside university is helpful - if it has some relevance to their organisation, so much the better, but don't worry if you haven't been able to obtain such work. Something out of the ordinary (rickshaw driver, chicken sexer or poodle-trimmer perhaps) can make your application distinctive and help it to be remembered - extremely useful when you are competing with hundreds of other graduates for a job.

How long should you work during term time?

It's not wise to work more than 15 hours a week during term time as this may have a negative impact on your studies and ultimately lead to a lower degree class. Working long hours can also limit opportunities to make friendships and explore interests that masy contribute to your growth.

Working a limited number of hours (e.g., 10 hours a week) in an on-campus job appears to have positive impacts on student performance, while working a significant number of hours (e.g., 35 hours or more per week) has adverse consequences.

Research at the University of Iowa found that working off-campus more than 20 hours a week brought down students' performance on critical thinking but work had a positive effect on psychological well being and leadership. However much more harm was done to students who scored lower on college entrance exams. Working on campus between 1-10 hours a week had a positive effect on critical thinking for high ability students but a very negative effect for low-ability students.

Research by the University of Michigan on 600,000 high school students found that students who work long hours tend to have lower grades than those who work fewer hours and also had lower rates of college completion and decreased engagement. High school students who worked tended to be more successful than those who did not but the trend reversed when the number of hours worked exceeded 15 per week.

Last fully updated 2016

Some employers likely to offer internships:

Organisations listed here have advertised internships in the past. There is no guarantee that they will have similar opportunities in the future and they may not notify careers services directly. Check their websites for the current position. Any closing dates mentioned are approximate and subject to change

Actuarial and professional services

See the “Directory of Actuarial Employers”


Banking: apply early for internships in investment banking!

Chartered accountancy

- the "Big Four" firms listed below all run summer schemes as do many of the large medium-sized firms

Computing, Electronics, and Communications


See also


Law directories such as the Training Contract Handbook and Target Work Experience Law list summer placements for law and non-law students available in solicitors' firms and mini-pupillages with barristers. Copies of these publications can be collected from the Careers and Employability Service from November each year. The information in them is also available on the web: see our Law Careers Links pages

General business and commercial employers

  • Procter & Gamble
  • STEP Classic - project work for students of engineering, science or technology-related disciplines with small and medium-sized businesses




Opportunities for First Year Students:

Most of the vacation schemes advertised by major graduate recruiters specify that these are for students who are about to enter their final year. This is partly because these employers recruit during the Autumn term for graduate training schemes starting the following autumn and use their internships as a route into these schemes and partly to limit the numbers applying – these schemes are tremendously popular and may bring in hundreds of applications even when they are restricted to penultimate-year students.
However, there are a few graduate recruiters who offer internships or other schemes that are open to first years, including the following (please note that this list is not exhaustive):



Metaswitch Networks  Specialises in voice, data and video communications. “We accept applications from all years and all disciplines”


City Solicitors' Educational Trust Summer School  - an intense one-week residential skills training event designed to encourage university students from a diverse range of backgrounds to consider a career in the law. Apply between December and end March.
TARGETchances City Law for ethnic minorities  - a 2 day residential event in June involving workshops and networking opportunities. Applications open in September.
See for further advice on how first-year students can build up experience in the legal sector


BBC Work Experience Placements  There are placements available in just about every area of the BBC across the UK. So whatever your age and whichever area you’re interested in, chances are we’ll have something that’s right for you”

Voluntary Sector

Barnados  Summer internships (3 months minimum) in Fundraising, Marketing, Volunteer Development Policy, Parliamentary and Campaigns and Brand and New Media Open to anyone aged 18-25. Travel and lunch expenses paid up to £4 a day.   


Enterprise Rent-a-Car - paid summer internships covering all areas - sales, marketing, customer service, business management and administrative support.

Diversity Programmes:

Windsor Fellowship Leadership Programme  This programme for Black, Asian and minority ethnic undergraduates is composed of intensive residential seminars, a Personal Enhancement Programme (PEP), a summer internship and voluntary work. Each Fellow is sponsored by a leading organisation at which they undertake their paid internship. Closing date November of your first year.
SEO London A 2-day insight course, hosted in London by investment banks and covering ban    king from Sales to Operations, Corporate Finance to Private Wealth Management. The course also includes sessions on corporate law and consulting to fully educate participants about the full range of career options in the City. Closing date in November.

Further information


What else can first-year students do?

Here are a few suggestions for other ways to get relevant experience or insights into possible graduate careers:

Get involved in University life

Getting involved in clubs, societies and University activities is a great way to broaden your interests and develop your skills, particularly if you actually get involved in running and organising activities and events.

Build up your work experience

Part-time work

Kent Union JobShop advertises part-time jobs on and off campus

Vacation work

The Careers Service advertises some vacation work placements and internships on our vacancy database 


In some sectors, such as environment, media, heritage and social care, volunteering is one of the main ways to build up relevant work experience. It can also be a good way to build up experience and skills for other sectors where it is hard to find paid employment or work experience. This can be done during term-time, in vacations or both!



This involves spending a day (sometimes longer) following and observing somebody as they go about their day-to-day work. It is a good way of getting a first-hand insight into a career of interest to you, possibly at quite a high level.

  • The University of Kent Careers Network can put you in touch with Kent alumni in a variety of different areas of work. Some can offer work-shadowing while others are just available to talk informally about their work and offer advice. See for details.
  • You may be able to create your own work-shadowing placement – see our Creative Career Search pages  

Analyse and develop your employability skills

Careers Employability Award

The Careers Advisory Service has developed a Careers Employability Award delivered online via Moodle Students of any subject, at any stage of their studies are welcome to complete the module but the earlier you start the better prepared you will be to compete for internships and, eventually, graduate positions. Completing the award will greatly improve your career planning and jobhunting skills, increase your work readiness and give you the confidence and strategies to get a graduate career.

For further information on these skills – what they are, why they are useful and how to develop them – see

Be enterprising

The Student Enterprise pages also provide useful links

Interrail: explore Europe by train over the summer




Work Abroad

There are many summer jobs available in other countries, particularly in tourism and leisure (including American summer camps for children). The directory "Summer Jobs Worldwide", available in the Careers Information Room, is a good starting point. Below are a few details of the main summer opportunities abroad: see for more ideas. internships in Europe for international applicants

Summer Camps

There are over ten thousand summer camps in the USA, where children from all kinds of backgrounds go for outdoor/activity holidays. These camps recruit large numbers of students, from all over the world, to work as “camp counsellors” (responsible for a group of children), activity organisers or kitchen/support staff.
Because of US visa regulations, you need to arrange your summer camp placement through an organisation such as those listed below. The organisation will usually make all the arrangements for your flight and insurance and you will receive a salary plus all food and accommodation costs. Camp contracts are usually for around 8 weeks allowing you time to travel independently before returning home.

Teaching English

A TEFL qualification is usually a requirement (or a strong advantage) if you want to teach  English as a foreign language – see for details. There are also opportunities for activity organisers, who do not require a TEFL qualification. Below are some organisations who have advertised vacancies in the past:

  • English Summer SA – summer language and activity camps in Spain (Tarragona/Pyrenees) 
  • LeoLingo - English summer camps for German children in Bavaria
  • Lingue Senza Frontiere non-profit organisation which teaches English in Italy through Theatre in Education and organizes Summer Camps in English in Italy from early June to mid September.
  • Teach English in China 6-8 week paid placements at summer schools.

Other English-teaching positions can be found through voluntary organisations such as those listed below.

Volunteering Abroad

There are many opportunities to gain experience abroad in areas such as teaching, community projects, conservation, healthcare and business. A relevant degree background is normally not necessary.
In many cases, these placements are arranged through organisations that charge a fee for their services. They can be expensive (often running into four-figure sums) although  enterprising students may be able to raise sponsorship.


The organisations listed below offer similar placements for a more manageable cost. This does not necessarily mean that the quality of your experience on the placement will be lower – many of these organisations cut costs by working directly with the project organisers and cutting out the “middle man”.

  • Volunteering for Free aims to assist volunteers in side-stepping volunteer agencies by listing hostels worldwide that are active in their local community and provide their guests with links to local projects for no extra fee. Hostels owners help their guests to contact local organisations prior to arrival, or during their stay, so the volunteers can decide, together with project coordinators, if they are suitable for the volunteer positions available. By cutting out the middle-man, volunteers cut out the risk of being exploited by profit-orientated volunteering agencies. Along with proving information on hostels and projects worldwide, the site also gives tips and advice on short to medium term volunteering and will shortly feature a resources section with useful material on teaching, health care and sports.
  • Volunteer Action for Peace: 80 countries.
  • Concordia:
  • Xchange Scotland: Over 40 countries worldwide.
  • UNA Exchange:
  • Ecoteer Ecoteer believe they are one of the very few true ethical and responsible volunteering companies. They have taken out the middle man and over 25% of their projects are free. If you do have to pay money you give it direct to the project.
  • Volunteer Latin America
  • Volunteer South America This site lists a large number of organisations offering free and low-cost volunteer opportunities in South & Central America.
  • Volunteer4Africa
  • Original Volunteers
  • Sustainable Bolivia
  • 100 Free or Cheap Volunteer Work Opportunities from the Overseas Jobs Centre
  • True Travellers Society
  • Independent Volunteer “acts as a ‘hub’ for the network of independent groups that are involved in wonderful projects around the world”


These links do not imply any recommendation of any organisation and you are recommended to investigate all opportunities carefully before applying. Before you commit yourself, make sure you know all about the project. For further advice on choosing a volunteer project and questions to ask, see  


Voluntary Work

This is often an excellent way of gaining career-related experience. Many organisations offer opportunities to work with disadvantaged or disabled people, often children or the elderly, in the UK and abroad. Charities often use volunteers to help with office administration, fundraising, public relations and research - good experience for careers with these organisations or elsewhere in the public sector or business field.

Small Businesses

Many students find vacation jobs with small/medium-sized employers on their own initiative. Use local vacancy sources (see or professional directories for the career area that interests you for contact addresses – our “I Want To Work In ...” pages  will give details of these. 

The STEP Programme offers the chance to get involved in project work that will help these organisations to develop. This scheme offers second or penultimate-year undergraduate students of engineering, science or technology-related disciplines the chance to undertake eight-week paid assignments for small and medium-sized businesses over the summer vacation.

Other Work Experience

This may include work prior to university (whether in a gap year or a previous career) or stop-gap jobs after graduation. As with all the other forms of work experience described here, this can help you to formulate your career plans and develop relevant skills and its value should never be underestimated. See our Alternatives page which has a section on Gap Years

Work Experience in East Kent

As a tourist town surrounded by a large amount of farmland, Canterbury offers numerous opportunities for casual work. However, these are unlikely to be intellectually stimulating or well-paid - most will be in shops, restaurants, bars and fruit picking or packing. Call centres and market research organisations are another good source of part-time vacancies, especially for students with language skills.

  • The Kent Union Jobshop handles summer vacancies as well as term-time part-time work
  • The University continues to function during your vacations! The conference trade brings a fresh demand for catering and cleaning staff, while there are some short-term posts in Admissions when the A-level results come out in August. Most of these posts will be advertised through the Job Shop.
  • Many of the summer visitors to Canterbury are language students, and the language schools have vacancies for both English language teachers and social/activity organisers. You need a TEFL certificate for the former, although this takes only a four-week course to obtain.
  • Many retail and catering jobs are advertised in the most simple of ways - via a "Help Wanted" card in the window. Take a walk down the High Street from time to time and look out for these - or just go in and ask the manager.
  • Recruitment agencies can be helpful, particularly if you have secretarial or computing skills. However, some local agencies also recruit for jobs requiring no specific qualifications, such as cleaning or fruit packing.
  • The local newspapers, particularly the "Kentish Gazette" and "Canterbury Times" carry some advertisements for part-time, temporary, vacation and permanent work.
  • See KentGrads our database of Kent Graduate recruiters  


Information for Specific Groups

International Students

All international (non-EU or EEA) students are now permitted to undertake vacation or part-time term-time work subject to the following conditions:

  • the student should not work for more than 20 hours a week in term time except where the placement is a necessary part of their studies with the agreement of the education institution
  • the student should not engage in business, self employment or the provision of services as a professional sports person or entertainer
  • the student should not pursue a career by filling a permanent full time vacancy.

Further information is available from UKCISA
See also our International Students Careers Page

Students with Disabilities

Ethnic Minority Students

  • The Windsor Fellowship Undergraduate Leadership Programme provides personal development training and work placements with sponsoring organisations. These include management consultancies, investment banks, manufacturing companies, the BBC and the Foreign & Commonwealth Office. You need to apply to the programme by the second term of your first year at university. See for details.
  • Sponsors for Educational Opportunity (SEO) London not for profit organisation that provides outstanding penultimate year under-graduate students from under-represented ethnic minority backgrounds with a unique opportunity to gain summer internships at some of the most prestigious firms in investment banking, technology and corporate law. 
  • See also our careers web page for ethnic minority students



Applying for Work Experience

Many large graduate recruiters will use the same application form for their internships and placements as they do for their graduate programmes and you should treat these as seriously as you would a graduate job application.See for advice on completing these.

When you are applying for part-time and casual work, employers are more likely to ask for a CV. Usually, your academic background will be of little relevance to this type of work and so your CV should just mention your current and past studies briefly, noting any subjects that may be relevant such as maths, computing or languages. Previous work experience is likely to be more important and you should put more weight on this – don’t just list employers or job titles but say a little about the skills gained from this work. If you have had no previous paid work experience, other activities, such as voluntary work, team sports or “Young Enterprise” companies are also relevant and should be mentioned on your CV.

Click here for an example of a CV and covering letter that you could use for this type of work

Graduate Internships


Useful Work Experience Links

Further Sources of Information on Vacation Work

There are some books and directories relating to vacation work, internships and placements. These are available for reference in the Careers Information Room.  

  • Summer Jobs Worldwide - mostly casual, tourism or agriculture-related jobs in the UK and abroad, but includes some business, environmental and voluntary placements.
  • Prospects Work Experience
  • Target Work Experience

Files in the Careers Information Room

Brochures and other information sent to us by employers or organisations offering work experience opportunities will be filed in the appropriate location as listed below:

  • 051 - Vacation Work UK
  • 052 - Vacation Work Abroad
  • 054 – Year-in-Industry Placements
  • 157 - Voluntary Organisations