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The benefits to completing an internship or placement year are endless. They provide invaluable insights into roles and industries, help you to gain transferable skills and make job applications stand out to employers.
'Placement' and 'internship' are often used interchangeably. An internship is a period of work experience, offered by an organisation, usually lasting for a fixed, limited period of time. They are typically undertaken by students and graduates looking to gain relevant skills and experience in a particular field.
Employers frequently use these to assess a student's or graduate's capability and often recruit employees from their interns rather than advertising their vacancies externally. You should therefore apply for an internship which you have a real interest in.A placement is usually used to describe longer internships (usually a year), and is commonly used to describe the year in industry in some degrees.On some courses, work placements are compulsory in order to get your degree, while on others you can opt to do a placement as one of your modules. If this is the case you may find that the organisation is simply allocated to you.
If this isn't the case then you should arrange your own placement. Your first port of call should be your university careers service as they will have a huge database of employer and alumni contacts. Careers advisers will also be on hand to help with applications. Take advantage of work experience fairs to make contact with employers and search for suitable placements online. You can also target employers speculatively to find and arrange work placements.
If you're arranging your own work placement, ask for the terms to be agreed in writing beforehand as work placements are not covered by employment legislation. If you're in any doubt about the organisation or the activities, you should seek further advice from your careers service.
Internships can last from a few weeks during the summer holidays to a year depending on the sector and employer. Student internships tend to be shorter in length than graduate internships. In the case of medical training, for example, you might be labelled as an 'intern' until you progress to the next professional level.
Usually internships are not accredited by universities as part of courses, but may be accredited or formally acknowledged by professional training organisations. For example, experience gained on an accountancy internship may count towards The ACCA Qualification, which is required to become a qualified accountant.
You should receive at least the National Minimum Wage in the UK if you're performing the role of a worker. The vast majority of interns are classed as workers and you're only not a worker if you're shadowing someone. The most telling factors of a worker are set hours, duties or responsibilities. However, you should consider the arrangement as a whole in determining your right to pay - work experience should be for your benefit, not the employer's. If you're part of the commercial operation of a business, you're likely to be entitled to payment.
However there are exemptions:
To find internships in the UK:
For international internships, search:
Lancaster offers a range of degree schemes that offer a placement year - just search for courses with 'Placement Year' or 'Industry' in the title. Click on the links below to find out more about working as part of your degree.
Explore FASS placement year degrees and the range of internships offered through the FASS Internship Scheme.
All FST students and recent graduates can apply for relevant paid work experience through the FST Internship Programme.
Every year over 150 LUMS undergraduates take paid employment as part of their degree – find out more about opportunities available.
The Faculty of Health and Medicine offer a range of degrees with placement years.