Work placements: How to get graduate jobs

Experience of working in an English-speaking country is incredibly valuable when you come to start your career, but it can be difficult to get work experience under an international student visa.

So what is the solution?

Some degrees have a placement year included, which gives you a chance to put your skills into practice in a professional working environment - and it goes towards your degree!

Graduate employabilityEmployment and employability are two different things. Being employed means having a job, being employable means having the qualities needed to maintain employment and progress in the workplace.

Higher education institutions look at employability in terms of producing graduates who are capable and able to gain initial employment, and to this end they include work placement opportunities in their academic programmes and as extracurricular activities.

For you as an individual, employability depends on: your assets in terms of knowledge, skills and attitudes, the way you use these assets and how you present your assets to potential employers. A placement year is one way to help you to fine tune your assets.

Why take a placement year? 

A placement year is integrated into many degrees. This means during your degree you have the opportunity to spend a year working in the industry you are studying towards. The placement year gives you the opportunity to take on graduate-level responsibility and 'try out' a career path before committing to it. You are able to put what you've learnt on your course into practice, whilst gaining valuable professional, and often paid, experience. 

Many international students take this opportunity to gain work experience in the UK, and this time is covered by their student visa. In addition, many students are offered graduate jobs by their placement employer so this is great for graduate employability.

The vast majority of placements are paid and so contribute to your finances as well as your CV! On average students earn £16,000 on their placement year with many earning significantly more. Research has shown that, students who take a placement year consistently get higher results in their degrees than those that don’t.

The placement year enhances your graduate employment prospects and can help you make more informed career decisions. 

Find out more

Some universities have more than 50% of their students out on a placement year. For example, Aston University in the UK has over 50 years of experience in providing students with integrated employer placements and was one of the pioneers of this approach to university degrees. 

Aston has developed relationships with a large number of local, national and international employers, who come back year after year to employ Aston students.

Dr Julia Brown
Head of External Relations
School of Life Sciences
Aston University (UK)

comments