Placements, work experience and volunteering
What is a placement?
Many courses at Kent come with the option of doing a year in industry (also known as a placement year) between the second and final year of your degree course. You’ll spend up to 12 months employed in a subject-related role and it counts as part of your degree.
Some companies use your time with them as an extended interview and if you perform well, they may offer you a graduate job. You can sometimes even skip part of the recruitment process for graduate schemes!
Some employers offer shorter placements of four to six months and also summer placements, usually involving two or three months’ work, so, if you see the word "placement" used in a job advert, check exactly what is meant by this!
Why do a degree with a placement?
A placement is a good way of gaining work experience alongside your degree. It provides insights into the real world, and a chance to use your skills and to develop them further. It gives you a chance to see if you would enjoy a particular job or type of company before committing yourself. Even if you decide that the type of work you did on the placement isn’t for you, you will have gained skills and experience and know more about applying for jobs - often your placement employer will be willing to act as a referee. Paid placements also help financially, and placements with big companies often pay very well.
Unemployment rates for graduates who have done a placement are typically much lower than for graduates who have not. Salaries for graduates who have done a placement year are also usually higher.
By applying for placements and going for interviews, you greatly improve your application and interview skills, giving you a distinct advantage in your final year. An added advantage is that placement students often get a better final degree grade, perhaps because of the knowledge they have gained during their year out, or because they have improved their time management and interpersonal skills during the placement.
It’s competitive, but if you work hard during the application process it really can pay off.
Applying for placements
Finding a placement with a major graduate employer is competitive, and your application must be as strong as possible, showing that you understand what the work will involve, know about the sector you will be working in, and that you have the skills and abilities to do it well.CV's and covering letters
If you are interested in a particular type of work or employer that does not regularly advertise placements, you may need to make the first approach (this is called a speculative approach).Creative job hunting
Please note that although the Careers and Employability Service will help you as much as we can when applying for placements, you will be responsible for finding the placement. You should also get support from the personal responsible for placements in your academic school.Find your academic school's employability web pages
Getting the most out of your placement
The placement is a formal part of your degree and you will be required to keep a log of your training and work experience during the year and usually required to produce a report at the end of the year. This can be used as the basis for future applications for graduate jobs. It will also help you to analyse the skills you have developed through your placement.
A placement year can also help you to make decisions about your future career - to discover what you like and dislike about the work, where your strengths and weaknesses lie and what possibilities there are for long-term career development in that field of work. Taking time to reflect on what you have seen and done during your placement, and how you have developed as a result, is an important part of learning through your work experience.
You can use our Skills pages to find out more about the skills needed by graduate recruiters, to analyse and record your own skills and to prepare answers to skills-based questions on graduate application forms.