What Is A Placement Year? Everything You Need To Know

Wondered what a sandwich or placement year is? We’ve got the answers to your burning questions.

Lots of universities across the country offer something called a sandwich course or placement year. They’re becoming commonplace due to the fact they offer students the opportunity to gain practical experience before they’ve even graduated university.

Let’s look into what a placement year is, the benefits, drawbacks and some placement year alternatives if you can’t land a placement.

What is a placement year?

A placement year, also known as a Year-In-Industry or Sandwich Year, is a term between eight to 12 months where you can take on experience in the world of work during your university degree. It typically takes place between the second and final year of study.

Benefits of placement years

There are tons of reasons why placement years are beneficial for those studying for their university degree. Here are a few reasons why you should consider a placement year.

1. It enhances your career prospects

A placement year puts you in the world of work where you can develop professional on-the-job skills. Not only will this give you a section of practical experience on your CV, but it’ll help you stand out from the sea of graduates when you come to applying for a graduate scheme or other job when you finish your degree.

2. Helps decide if it’s what you want to do

Having a placement year means you can experience what it’s like to work in your industry and whether it’s the right job for you.

3. Increases your network opportunities

Working with professionals means you get to make some decent connections. If there’s a job going at the firm you did your placement year in, then you’ll have made a name for yourself and developed a decent relationship to increase your chances of a full-time job.

4. It gives you (somewhat) of a break from studying

You’re still technically on your university course when you’re doing a placement year, but it certainly breaks up your degree which could be quite nice for someone who wants to switch things up and gain some valuable industry experience.

Drawbacks of placement years

While the benefits are fantastic, there are a few drawbacks that may deter someone from doing a placement year.

1. Late graduation date

You would complete your final year after everyone else has graduated. This shouldn’t really matter when it comes to strengthening your career, but we can see why this could bruise the ego a little, or you simply had your heart set on graduating by a certain date.

2. You won’t know anyone in your final year

You’ll technically be studying with a totally new cohort in your final year. You’ll be far too bogged down with final year prep to realise, but for some, this could be quite unsettling.

3. Increased stress

Doing what is technically the fourth year of university may be quite a lot for some people (and could even lead to academic burnout), so you’ll need to check in with yourself and see if this is something you can realistically do.

Is a placement year right for you?

A placement year is absolutely worth doing if gaining practical experience during your studies is important for your career. This is true for competitive fields like the arts or marketing.

What happens if I don’t get a placement in my placement year?

There are unfortunate circumstances where someone simply can’t make it on a placement. When this happens, there are tons of placement year alternatives you can look into. Always chat to your course tutor and university to see what other options there are for you.

If a placement is a compulsory part of your course (especially if you applied for a sandwich course) then the university should be able to help when things go awry. Universities will have crisis management processes for events like this and may even be able to secure a place for you elsewhere or within the university grounds.

Placement year ideas and alternatives

Consider applying for several shorter internships, part-time work in your field, shadowing work-experience roles or volunteering. All of these things will boost your CV in some way and will cumulatively fill your placement year.

And that’s everything you need to know about placement years! Got any questions? Tweet us and we’ll do our best to help you out with all things placement year-related.