Why you should do a sandwich placement (the uncut student version)

Hi Everyone!

Something that I read quite often on places like The Student Room and on degree course Facebook pages is whether or not people would recommend participating in an industrial placement year during a degree.

Now for those of you who are newbies to a degree course (Fresher’s I’m looking at you), this is, bluntly put – taking a year out of your degree, usually in your third year, to work for 9 months to a year in a workplace and complete some form of diploma or experience in workplace qualification. This usually takes place through a sandwich degree, which is a 4 year course instead of your standard 3.

What is worth noting is that even if you aren’t already on a sandwich degree, you absolutely can change over and do a placement. I’m a great example of that. I went into my first year at university studying a three year BSc (Hons) Biological Sciences course. For my university, all first years who fell under the umbrella of ‘biology’ subjects, had the same first year lectures, regardless of whether or not they were studying for example; Pharmacology, Biomedical Science or Ecology.

However, at the end of my first year I got the choice to ‘specialise’ and choose a discipline that I wanted to become my degree. I had no idea where I wanted my degree to go but I knew that I loved the medical modules of my first year, so decided to go down that route, choosing Biomedical Science as the degree I would continue into my second year. As I mentioned, I had no idea what I wanted to do, so I chose the three year full-time course as opposed to the sandwich degree. Then, at the start of my second year, I started to learn more about industry placements, and decided that I really wanted to do one to get more experience in the workplace – I’d never had a ‘proper’ job before, so I knew that doing a 9-5 job would be a new and challenging experience and to learn more about how Biomedical Sciences can be applied in the real world outside of my lecture theatre.

In terms of gaining a placement, it is quite a stressful and time-consuming couple of months. I was quite lucky in that I got my placement quite quickly, but I know many people who applied and were rejected quite a lot, but perseverance is the key and they all got placements in the end, so trust me, the sleepless nights are worth it!! It normally involves some form of application and interview process, but it’s also always worthwhile emailing businesses directly to see if they would be interested in ‘hiring’ you for a year, which is what I did. You can also still apply for student finance but get roughly 1/3 of what you usually get so bare that in mind when applying to cities where rent is high!

I might talk about my actual placement (I worked in an NHS hospital laboratory) in another post if it’s something that would interest you, but these are the reasons why I would recommend doing an industrial workplace placement:

  1. You meet new people
    It seems obvious when I write this, but doing a placement means that you meet so many new people, not only friends, but also fellow professionals. It is so worthwhile to start building up your workplace contacts for when you eventually graduate and it’s also really nice to meet people who have done your degree (or something similar) and are smashing it in the workplace. It really gives you hope that there is life after university.
  2. You gain valuable workplace experience
    Again, another obvious one, but doing a placement also means that you have a years worth of experience doing graduate work or gaining qualifications that you would have to get anyway when you finish your degree. Recruiters and managers are always looking for the people that have the most experience, and it will stand you in such a good chance of getting a job after university if you already have training.
  3. You (sometimes) get paid!
    Most industry placement students get paid for the year that they work for their chosen company. This is roughly the standard minimum wage but can be higher. This is obviously great if you want to live in a new city for the year as you can put the money towards rent, or you can save it for final year. However, some students do not get paid – most notably the ones who work within the NHS. Therefore, definitely think about where you are going to live and how you are going to fund travel, etc. As mentioned, I did my placement within the NHS so I worked for 9 months without any pay and because of this, I chose to live with my parents for the year as they lived near to where the hospital was. It was pretty hard not getting paid for your efforts but it was completely worth it in the end so please don’t let it put you off applying to certain placements!
  4. It shows you if you want to actually do this job after your degree
    This is possibly one of the most important points that I have. Doing a workplace placement will show you what it is like to perform a role in a particular workplace and ultimately, will tell you whether or not you want to be doing that when you finish your degree. In my case, I don’t want to be doing what I did on my placement, not because I didn’t find it interesting, but because it’s sparked my interest in something else and I’m now pursuing that. However, I don’t regret doing my placement one bit, because it’s amazing experience and it’s shown me something else that I really want to do.
  5. You might get a job out of it
    It’s slightly tongue in cheek but you’ve been fully trained to perform a particular role for a year so the chances are, you might get offered a job at the end of your placement or when you graduate. Obviously it’s not a sure thing, but if a company have invested so much time and resources training you, you’re an easy person to hire either after you finish your placement or graduate because you can be thrown straight into work with minimal training. That’s good for businesses and clearly – great for you. I was actually offered a part time position over the summer after my placement because of this and it was amazing.
  6. You go back to university for your fourth year with more experience, more confidence and with a new drive
    This is something that to be honest, I was surprised with, but after 9 months of hard draft and 21 days off.. I definitely know what hard work is, and know that I will have absolutely no problem working really hard and revising all year. I’ve had very little time to myself this past year as my placement was 9-5 Monday through to Friday and when I wasn’t there, I was volunteering on the side and completing university work on the side and I know that if I’ve done it once – I can do it again.

So there you have it. I hope this post has helped or even inspired some of you to want to do a placement year. I honestly couldn’t recommend it enough, no matter what degree you are doing whether it be biology degrees or engineering. I have come out of my placement year older, wiser and much more confident in my technical ability. Sure it wasn’t always plain sailing, but there are always going to be bumps in the road, and without sounding cheesy, the journey has definitely been worthwhile.

Until next time,

M x


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