21 December 2022

The Ultimate Guide to Student Placements

“What is a placement?” is the question on every current and prospective university student’s mind when it comes to going on placement during your university course.

Although some courses don’t offer placement opportunities, there are many others that do – and, if you’re in a position where you’re able to apply for a placement during your time at university, you may be wondering if it’s something you should even consider.

Student placements are definitely a rewarding experience, but if you’re undecided about whether to apply to one, or what a placement even entails, our talented team at Timberseed has compiled the ultimate guide for you.

In this guide you can expect to find:

  • What is a placement and what it means
  • Why placements are important
  • Whether placements offer a salary
  • What skills are needed for a placement
  • Timberseed’s role for your future after a placement

Already a graduate? Send your CV to our Timberseed team and get in touch with us if you are ready to begin your career journey.

What is a placement, exactly?

Placement refers to a job role that students can be placed in during their time at university as part of their degree. A placement allows students to work for a company, gaining professional experience and knowledge, sometimes alongside their usual university schedule.

This can either be a compulsory part of their course – for example, medical courses require clinical placements to be completed – or an optional module that lets students go through an application process such as an interview under the guidance of a placement tutor.

The latter typically means that if you’re unsuccessful in finding a placement after the deadline for applications, you’re unfortunately unable to continue with the placement module.

In addition, you may come across ‘sandwich placements’ or sandwich courses, which offer a placement year that runs on your penultimate year at university. Thus, instead of the usual 3-year course, a sandwich course runs for 4 years, with 1 industrial year.

What do placements mean for a student?

Depending on the placement type and your course, you may end up in a placement for weeks at a time, or simply for a whole academic year – ‘a year in industry’ is what it’s usually termed. Some courses run placements at the end of the academic year, where the first half of the year is focused on studies.

As a result, this means that you may have to find a balance between your placement and studying. Nevertheless, placement students often find that a placement is a great opportunity to create positive experiences that can help them later on in their lives, especially when they begin job hunting after graduating.

Placements can also mean reduced tuition fees if you’re undertaking a sandwich course, so keep this in mind. Moreover, placements give you the ability to not only network with industry professionals who can be points of contact after you graduate but also help to determine what career path you wish to pursue.

What is the purpose of placements?

placement can help with the transition between a school environment and the working world. With a placement, students are able to grasp the concept of working life much earlier than other students who opted out of placements.

For a student who has zero work experience, placement is an excellent way to gain valuable professional experience that enhances your CV. Job applications may be a little more easier and accessible as you already have gained some professional experience – which is super desirable when it comes to our recruiters’ beady eyes.

Do placements pay?

Unfortunately, not all placements are paid. As bleak as that may sound, placements are not just about gaining income – it’s all about valuable experience – so don’t let this deter you from seeking placement roles.

You will also gain the chance to develop your skills and buff your personal offering in a professional setting. After all, placement experience looks great on a cover letter and CV.

So, don’t let the unpaid salary affect your motivation to apply for a placement. Trust the process – it’s an investment of your time and effort for your future, opening doors with plenty of opportunities!

What skills do you need for placement?

A placement helps to teach and develop your skill set ahead of your career journey, which could give you a competitive edge when it comes to graduate job searching in the future. The skills that you’ll need for a placement depend on the placement role, but most placements will desire soft skills such as:

  • Communication
  • Teamwork
  • Problem-solving
  • Time management

These are what are also known as transferable skills, meaning that if you’re struggling with how to provide examples of these in your CV or interview because you have no work experience – these skills are also learned and transferred from university and real-life situations!

Meanwhile, hard skills are industry-specific skills that are beneficial for the role you’re applying for. For example, technical skills may be useful for a role in fintech, but don’t fret about needing this!

Whilst it’s good to have hard skills, a willingness to learn on the job plus ownership of transferable soft skills, can still make you a successful candidate regarding placements. This eventually leads to you being a valuable asset in the future graduate job market.

So, what’s stopping you from applying for that placement?


Are all placements paid?

While some placements offer a salary, not all of them are paid. However, even unpaid placements offer valuable experience that can enhance your CV and future job prospects.


How do placements benefit students?

Placements provide students with the opportunity to gain real-world work experience, develop valuable skills, and network with industry professionals. They can also help students decide on their career path and potentially lead to reduced tuition fees for sandwich course students.


What skills are needed for a placement?

The skills required for a placement vary depending on the role, but most placements value soft skills such as communication, teamwork, problem-solving, and time management. While industry-specific hard skills may be beneficial, a willingness to learn and strong transferable skills can make a candidate successful in securing a placement.

Opening up future career opportunities with Timberseed

We hope that this guide has given you all the tools you need to answer the elusive your question “What is a placement?”.

Fantastic! You’ve taken our advice and decided to seize the opportunity to go on a placement… but, what happens after?

A placement is that stepping stool to help you reach the start of your career ladder, regardless of whether you’re already 6ft tall or 5ft tall. After you complete your placement and studies, your employment opportunities will surely be vast!

No more struggling to apply for entry-level positions at Timberseed – our expert team are with you every step of the way in your graduate career journey.

Don’t hesitate to get in touch with us at 0800 3030 5045 or by dropping us an email at info@timberseed.com.