What is a placement year?

Phoebe Cook

So, you want to find out more about placement years?  You’re in the right place – keep reading!

A placement year, also known as a year in industry, is a year you take out from your degree, usually between second and third year, in order to get real world job experience whilst still being supported by, and in contact with, the university.  A placement year is a great opportunity for trialling a potential career or simply figuring out that a certain route is not for you. You can learn so many new skills on the job and put into practise, skills you may already have from your degree. Plus, not forgetting the fact you get paid!

Sounds good, right?

I certainly thought so, which is why I am now over halfway through my placement with Newcastle Building Society. This year, I have been working in their People Development team as a Digital Learning Designer, and I am loving every day. My role consists of making e-learning modules that will be distributed to the whole building society for them to complete, liaising with stakeholders to identify what is next for the e-learning journey for the society, and then completing administrative tasks which coincide with this. Additionally, at Newcastle Building Society, a placement student automatically becomes part of their early talent programme, meaning I get an extra layer of support whilst also completing a group project that is external to my role.

Why did I choose a placement year?

For me personally, the main reason was that I needed time to think about what comes next. Those dreaded questions about the future are never going to go away, but from taking a year out whilst on placement, I have been able to try a possible career path, learn so many skills I’d need to enhance my CV for when the big wide world does come around. Plus, I feel so much more prepared to finish my degree and take on third year!

What you’ll gain from a placement year

I think the main reason I now have this mindset is definitely owing to the skills and experiences I have had whilst being on placement. If I had been told this time last year, I’d be using what I thought to be my non-existent IT skills and organisation skills as a day job, I’d tell you, “You’re joking, right?” But I’ll be the first to tell you that I’m loving every moment! I’ve been upskilled on skills I didn’t even realise existed eight months ago. Additionally, the transition to office life has been a smooth one as working in a professional team is a lot of fun!

Sound good? Here’s how to apply for a placement…

3 words: apply, apply, apply! RateMyPlacement (link below in Discover More section) will become your new best friend. To be straight with you, applying for placements can be time-consuming, and it does hurt when you get rejected or don’t hear back from an organisation, but you just keep going! There is so much support at Durham when it comes to applying for placements: they have a dedicated careers website where they advertise everything, including all placement opportunities. An assigned placement officer will read through as many CVs and cover letters as you want, plus help you prepare for interviews and assessment centres. You don’t have to apply on your own!

I hope you have enjoyed this little snippet into the life of a placement student.

Discover more

If you’d like to find out more, visit Placement Year brochure and make the most of what we have

For support when applying, visit Develop Yourself – Durham University

To find paid placements and internships, visit RateMyPlacement

Create your own personalised prospectus here

Follow our students on Instagram, TikTok and YouTube

Phoebe Cook

Hey everyone! I’m Phoebe, a current Anthropology and Sociology Student who is currently out on placement. Even though I live 20 minutes away from Durham, I chose to move here and I am a very proud member of the St Mary’s college community! When I’m not studying or living in the library, you will probably find me in college. I have been heavily involved in the Mary's community as their female student Welfare Officer (last year) and co-president of our Random Acts of Kindness Society. I am also a recipient of the Laidlaw scholarship, so reach out if you want to know more about that!

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