Work placements

Undertaking a work placement during your studies is a fantastic way to make contacts in industry and is a great addition to your CV, giving you vital ‘hands-on’ experience in the workplace. 

We have strong links with many leading companies and organisations across the creative industries, so we can help you to find a suitable placement from our long list of industry connections.

There are so many benefits to doing a work experience placement during your degree. A placement can:

  • Give you the chance to explore career options
  • Look good on your CV and give you the edge over other applicants
  • Help you to experiment, learn and make mistakes
  • Boost your confidence
  • Enhance your time management and organisational skills
  • Build up your network of contacts
  • Give you an insight into the industry and develop your commercial awareness
  • Lead to a permanent job – around one in five students secures a job at the end of their placement
  • Help you to develop the skills employers really value.


What are the options?

Placements, internships, work shadowing – what’s the difference? Before you throw yourself in at the deep end, think about the various options that come under the ‘work placement’ umbrella:

Work placement
Typically (but not always) a brief period (up to one month) of unpaid or expenses-only work experience within a company or studio. Gives an insight into working life and an understanding of what a job involves and how the company operates and/or is structured.

Generally involves longer periods of time, sometimes as much as a year within a company (often multi-national). Internships are highly competitive, usually paid or at the minimum cover expenses and can often lead to a job offer with the same organisation.

(NB: The distinction between the terms ‘work placement’ and ‘internship’ is occasionally blurred, with employers sometimes using the second to describe the first and vice versa. In the USA, where the term ‘internship’ originated, it’s used for any period of work experience.)

Work shadowing
A short spell of time (ranging from one day to a week) spent closely observing someone doing their job can give you a good understanding about the job and what it entails but won’t help you to develop any skills other than observational. If all else fails and you can’t get a placement, try to organise a work shadow because it will add to your knowledge of the industry and also give you some more contacts for networking purposes.

Sandwich and industrial placements
Generally students will spend the equivalent of one year doing a paid placement – usually in the third year of their course – before they return to finish their degree in year four.

Course-related work placement
Many UCA courses offer students the opportunity to undertake one or two placements as part of their curriculum. If your course offers this option, you’ll find the details in your UCA course handbook. Students will normally be expected to organise their own placement, involving (well spent) time and effort. So it’s never too soon to start compiling your shortlist of employers to contact. In a competitive industry, doing your research and being ahead of the game is crucial.

Broaden your horizons
It doesn’t have to be a ‘placement' – you can also get valuable experience doing other things such as:

UCA Study Abroad programme
Boost your confidence, interpersonal and language skills and your career prospects by studying abroad, which could be done as part of your course.

Gap year
This can be more than just a holiday. Taking some well-planned time out before or after university can be viewed positively by employers, especially if your CV shows that you’ve used the opportunity to develop and/or enhance your skills.

This gets noticed on your CV, showing you have commitment and a sense of altruism. As well as benefiting the organisation, voluntary work will sharpen your skills and can often be a stepping-stone into your chosen career.

Part-time or temporary work
Successfully juggling a part-time job at the same time as studying your course demonstrates motivation, time-management skills and other qualities such as leadership and commercial awareness. If the job is linked to the creative industries, you’ll be able to highlight relevant industry experience and show you’re developing specialist skills and knowledge.

Don’t be tempted to work too many hours in a week, as this may interfere with your academic studies or course work.

If you are an international student, you must not work for more than 20 hours per week during term time, except when a work placement is part of your course.