Placements and work-based learning

Work-based learning is a mini placement where you gain work experience over one module during your normal studies. Different courses have work-based learning modules in various years, so ask your lecturer or personal tutor if this is an option that is available to you.

“Having completed an internship with SANCCOB during my placement year, I would highly recommend it to anybody! It was such an amazing experience for me that it changed my entire outlook on life and broadened my knowledge of careers in the animal field. I loved every single moment (even the tired ones), and can honestly say it was the best thing I have done in all of my life.”
Lucy Burge – BSc Animal Behaviour and Welfare, 2015

Many courses at Plymouth University provide the option of a placement or work-based learning. Before looking for opportunities check your programme specification or speak to your personal tutor to find out whether a placement year or work-based learning option is available to you as part of your studies.

If your course doesn't offer a placement or work based learning, the Careers & Employability Service can explore other options with you such as part time work through Student Jobs, temporary holiday work, volunteering and internships. Just drop into the Careers & Employability Hub and we can help you with this.    

Programmes that include professional practice and academic partnership colleges

Where work placements are a compulsory requirement of practice and study, and are integrated into the course structure such as education, medicine, dentistry, healthcare or social work, placements are administered and managed by the relevant schools and different arrangements, processes, time frames and practice will apply from the information provided here. See the relevant course pages for more details.   

The full support of the Careers & Employability Service, including access to workshops, online resources, careers events, information, advice and guidance is available to all students going out on placement from these schools, however please adhere to the procedural advice given to you by your faculty placement team and academic staff for these courses.   

Similarly placements undertaken by students in partner colleges are to follow the guidance of staff in their college.   

The Careers & Employability Service works in partnership will all of the other schools to support and administer the placements and work-based learning processes.

What is a placement?

A placement is a structured programme that counts towards your degree. You will work in a subject related role for an organisation as a full time staff member before returning to your university for the final year of your degree course. A placement is 48 weeks in duration.

What is work-based learning?

Work-based learning is a mini placement where you gain work experience over a one module during your normal studies. Different courses have work-based learning modules in various years, so ask you need to ask your lecturer or personal tutor if this is an option that is available to you.   

These shorter placements last for four to six months and are a minimum of 26 weeks full time with one or more approved employer(s), with a minimum of 13 weeks with each employer, unless there is a legitimate reason (determined by your faculty) for why this cannot be achieved.

What is in it for me?

  • be their first choice – many employers favour graduates with real and relevant work experience
  • a familiar company when you graduate – employers regularly choose their previous placement students for their graduate schemes
  • earn some money whilst gaining experience – you will earn between £12,000 and £20,000 depending on subject and location
  • get a taste of your chosen career and find out if it’s really what you want to do
  • take the chance to work abroad – students often chose to complete their placements internationally, which looks great to future employers.  

What are the benefits of a placement or work-based learning?

A placement year or work-based learning provides a valuable complementary experience for your programme of study and is an opportunity to: 

  • obtain or increase your employment experience 
  • build a network of contacts and connections in industry 
  • apply knowledge gained during the first part of your degree programme 
  • develop key graduate attributes and standards appropriate to your career objectives
  • acquire further programme relevant practical skills, knowledge and experience
  • gain an insight into the world of work, particularly management and management methods, commercial settings and culture 
  • gain greater self confidence 
  • critically reflect and develop

  • prepare for your final stage studies
  • consider your career development and start to firm up a plan for your next steps as you complete your degree and enter either further study or the graduate labour market.    
Upon successful completion you will be awarded a Certificate of Work Experience which is awarded at the end of your programme of study and gives recognition of particular strengths and abilities that you gained in the work place. 

To be awarded the Certificate of Work Experience you will need to participate in a full placement or for work-based learning for a minimum of 26 weeks full time with one or more approved employer(s), with a minimum of 13 weeks with each employer, unless there is a legitimate reason (determined by your faculty) for why this cannot be achieved.

Some employers use the placement or work-based learning experience as an 'extended interview' and they can sometimes lead to the offer of a permanent role when you graduate.

When do I go out on placement and for how long?

All UK placements can start from 1 July but must have commenced by the first week of September as you are required to complete 48 working weeks (not including four holiday weeks) to validate your placement.

The requirement for overseas placements is 44 weeks (not including four holiday weeks).

For work based learning the duration is a minimum of 26 weeks full time with one or more approved employer(s), with a minimum of 13 weeks with each employer, unless there is a legitimate reason (determined by your faculty) for why this cannot be achieved.

You must work a minimum of 35 hours per week.

Where can I find out information about placements?

Digital Learning Environment (DLE)

All of the information about placements and work-based learning are stored on your course Placement Year Module Page on the Digital Learning Environment (DLE). 

You will automatically be enrolled on this page before the start of semester 1 if you have the option of a placement year on your course of study.

The handbooks and information on the DLE are there to assist you in your placement search and to follow the approval process. 

On your DLE page you will find the following:

  • a placement handbook associated with each placement module
  • all of the forms and paperwork that need to be completed associated with your placement
  • useful information such as a funding guide and health and safety in the work place
  • lists of employers who have previously taken placement students that we suggest you could contact
  • placements opportunities that we are aware of that you can apply for 
  • information on the approval process for placements
  • teaching and learning materials used by Placements and Employer Liaison Advisers from the Careers & Employability Service during their lectures with you 
  • templates for CVs and covering letters that you can use to apply for the placement opportunities that you are interested in.

Placement and work-based learning employability curriculum offer 

If your placement is being administered by the Careers & Employability Service you will receive pre-placement and post-placement curriculum inputs from Placement and Employer Liaison Advisers and Careers Advisers. Where possible during these sessions you will meet some employers and students who have experienced placements so that you can share their experiences.

Each placement and work-based learning curriculum input is designed to deliver key knowledge and understanding, to support identified career management skills and behaviours and to support the Plymouth University graduate attributes framework (Compass).

The placements and work-based learning employability curriculum content on any given course is negotiated with the school and delivered in timetabled sessions by professionally qualified and experienced Placements and Employer Liaison Advisers and Careers Advisers from the Careers & Employability Service.

Our placement and work-based learning employability curriculum offer is designed to:

  • support you to consider the benefits and value of undertaking a placement
  • help you to find and choose the right placement for you
  • introduce you to application processes such as CVs, covering letters etc
  • help you to successfully apply for placement and work based learning opportunities
  • prepare you for interview and assessment centres
  • help you to manage all of the required administrative procedures so that your placement or work-based learning opportunity can be authorised
  • support you to reflect upon your experiential learning in the workplace and how this can support you to evidence the skills and attributes that graduate recruiters look for.

Download the Placements and work based learning employability curriculum offer.

The Careers & Employability Hub 

If you have any questions, want to talk through the process or get help with any of the paperwork you can: 

  • drop into the Careers & Employability Hub 
  • book an appointment to see an adviser from the Careers & Employability team either through your faculty office or the Careers & Employability Hub    
  • email –
  • call us on +44 1752 587456.

How do I find a placement?

Finding a suitable placement is a task that should be started as early as possible. Placement positions are advertised throughout the year and you want to be ready to respond quickly in order to take advantage of the available opportunities. Lots of employers start advertising their vacancies from September, and some of the closing dates are during the first semester, so you will need to start applying right at the start of the second year.   

Placements vary in type and location, so you may need to be flexible.

You are encouraged to find your own placement using the resources and support available, as this will often match your own career plans and interests most closely. 

Look for a placement online: 

Or take a more proactive approach:

  • check out the employers are listed as potential employers on your DLE pages
  • use your own contacts or those of family, friends, and academic staff 
  • take a look at the professional body for your sector to see what opportunities they offer 
  • be proactive and approach employers that you have a strong interest in but who don't regularly advertise for placement students
  • network on Linked In – our Accelerate employability skills development workshops can help you to set up your profile on Linked In and show you how to use it to network with potential employers.

Remember your placement must be approved by the Careers & Employability Service and all relevant paper work and e-learning completed before you go out on placement.

Can I take any placement ?

The placement must be relevant to your course i.e. it must reflect a key topic contained within your degree programme. If you are unsure whether a placement is relevant talk to your tutor or your Placements and Employer Liaison Adviser. 

Can I take a freelance or self-employed placement?

A very small number of students each year ask to undertake a freelance or self-employed placement. As long as we can be assured that you will have a similar learning experience to those students following the more traditional route then it can be considered and agreed. 

Check out Gradlancer. They aim to connect freelance opportunities with university students to complete project work. 

The University provides advice and practical assistance to help you to either set up or develop your own business.

Check out:

  • the BETA Enterprise programme
  • the Formation Zone who deliver business start-up advice every month
  • the Plymouth University Business Challenge, delivered by the Formation Zone provides free workshops and one to one sessions, access to expert support and advice to help develop your innovative business idea and supports you to make it happen. Your outline business plan will be judged by a panel of experts and can lead to the allocation of seed funding and support for viable plans.
For your faculty to agree to a self-employed placement you will need to have engaged with these services and have a sustainable business idea as a minimum. 

What if I need disability assistance or have a health condition?

If you are a student with a disability and require reasonable adjustments and/or disability support during your placement it would be a good idea to discuss your requirements with Disability Services and the Careers & Employability Service during the early stages of planning your placement. Disability Services can give you support with your Disabled Students’ Allowance (DSA). Disability Services can be contacted as follows:, or call +44 152 587676.    

What if I am an international student?

Due to UKBA restrictions you will need to work with ISA and the Careers & Employability Service to check visa requirements. If you are a student with a Tier 4 visa you are permitted to go on placement and work full time if you meet certain conditions. If a placement or work-based learning is not a formal assessed part of your study it may not be possible for you to undertake a placement or work-based learning in the UK as a Tier 4 (General) student visa holder. You may be able to take a placement overseas. Before looking for opportunities, speak to your personal tutor, and we can ensure that a placement is appropriate and that all of the required paperwork is in place.

Guidance for international students on placements.

Can I go on placement overseas?

It may be possible to spend your placement year working overseas. The benefits of this type of experience can be enormous, but you will have to be extremely pro-active in your placement search and carry out your research thoroughly. You must ensure that you have seriously considered all the implications. There are various organisations able to provide advice and guidance and details of these are available, from the Careers & Employability Service.

Don’t forget that you will need plenty of time to organise visas, accommodation, flights etc. and you may be liable for all the costs and possibly agency fees. Please do not commit yourself financially until you have approval from the University.

When considering a placement abroad you should also consider personal health and safety. You will be required to complete a Risk Assessment form before you commence a placement abroad and to ensure that you have sufficient personal insurance.

Consider the following: 

  • are you clear about visas, vaccinations, climatic issues, language, cultural and as far as possible, local conditions? 
  • do you have sufficient health cover for injury, sickness, dental care, eye care, hospitalisation etc? 
  • does your insurance cover personal liability, money and credit cards, travel delay, baggage and personal effects?
  • do you have adequate cover for all aspects of travel, not only getting to the country but also return trips and other journeys within? 
  • are you sure about your accommodation on arrival and for the duration? 

The Plymouth Business School runs foreign language courses if you wish to take up a placement abroad.

If you undertake a placement abroad, a personal tutor visit may not be possible. However, attempts for a visit will be made, either by a representative from another institution, or it may coincide with a conference visit. If a visit is not possible, the Programme Manager will be responsible for the monitoring, assessment and evaluation of the placement via email or Skype. 

Will I need a CV and will I be interviewed by the employer for a placement?

An up to date and high quality CV is a must and you can expect at least to be interviewed. You may even have to give a presentation and/or undertake an assessment. 

Our Accelerate employability skills development workshops can help you to update your CV, write a covering letter and prepare for an interview, undertake presentations and participate in assessment centres.

The Career Navigator online careers portal hosts thousands of e-learning courses and videos, and has a module called CVs and Application Advice. There is also a great module on Interviews and Assessments. It even has a CV Builder package to help you to produce and format your CV. 

Your first year grades and your UCAS points will be taken into account by some placement providers; look at your application,  

What about Health and Safety?

A Health and Safety e-learning module has been introduced for all placements administered by the Careers & Employability Service. You will be required to complete the e-learning module before you start your placement.

New users will need to register on the system by selecting the ‘register by clicking here’ link.   

When you have completed and passed the e-learning module you will be required to send us your pass certificate as proof that you have completed this step. This e-learning module is the one used by the University for all of its staff and Ambassadors and covers all of the relevant health and safety in the workplace requirements.

What support do I get from the University while I am on placement?

A placement tutor from your faculty will be allocated to you by your faculty before you start your placement. This will be a member of academic staff such as your personal tutor or an academic staff member who has been assigned to supervise your placement and project. The role of the placement tutor is to:

  • act as your personal tutor and first point of contact should any work of pastoral issues arise 
  • act as a point of contact for the employer and work with them on monitoring progress and supporting your learning 
  • negotiate with you and the employer on the content of a Learning Agreement, linking the experience to your main academic studies 
  • try to ensure that your placement experience is supporting your personal development and your academic development by linking theory to practice 
  • visit you and your employer at least once during the placement. Please note that if you are on an overseas placement you may not be visited, but a Skype contact can be set up
  • mark your professional training report as part of your placement year assessment and ensure the validity of the marks/credits awarded to the relevant University assessment panels and boards. 

The Careers & Employability Service is responsible for: 

  • the management and organisation of placement administration i.e authorisation of your placement, monitoring the completion of appropriate paperwork and progress reports
  • the maintenance of accurate and up to date information on students and placement providers
  • monitoring your progress to ensure that all administrative procedures are complete via submission of forms on the DLE
  • responding to emergencies in relation to your placement when all other options have not been effective.

During your placement you will receive automated progress report forms from the Careers & Employability Service. You will need to complete these at 6 and 24 weeks. At 48 weeks you will be required to complete a final progress report/employer assessment with your line manager. 

The progress reports are designed to be a personal reflection on your learning and development. The report highlights the suggested competences that most graduate recruiters are looking for and will be a valuable tool for recording you employability skills when:

  • you come to write up your final professional training report 
  • you complete the Plymouth Award
  • you update your CV at the start of year 3 
  • you start to apply for graduate jobs in the future.

Am I still a student when I am on placement?

While you are on placement you are still a student and you will be liable for tuition fees. The current fees (for students out on placement for 2015/16) are £900. 

You will still need to register as a student online. This ensures that you can have your tuition fee loan released by the Student Loans Company, exemption from Council Tax and other charges, have access to student discounts, submit and have academic work marked, receive academic, pastoral and wellbeing support, use the library, IT and other support services. 

Further support from Careers & Employability

Placements are competitive. You may need to stand out from the crowd. Drop into the Careers & Employability Hub. We can:

  • put you in touch with likely employers
  • help you create or update your CV
  • give you feedback on your CV and covering letter
  • help you with the application and interview process
  • help you with searching Going Global or using any of the online programmes
  • advise and help with any paperwork.   

Don’t forget we are open right through the summer, and our Accelerate employability skills development workshops run all year round, so if you want to get ahead of the game at the end of year one, why not drop in and book up for the workshops.

Student voice

“The placement year gives the practical experience needed to realise what you want your future career to be.”

Ryan McClory, BSc (Hons) Conservation Biology, Year 3