Work Experience

Every pupil should have first-hand experiences of the workplace through work visits, work shadowing and/or work experience to help their exploration of career opportunities, and expand their networks.

By the age of 16, every pupil should have had at least one experience of a workplace.
By the age of 18, every pupil should have had one further such experience.

Work Experience - hints and tips from the Careers Dept.

The Benefits of Work Experience

  • Skills Development. Work experience is primarily about developing skills, particularly employability skills.
  • Helps to secure a graduate job. Employers state time and again that the more experience you get the more chance you have of landing the graduate job you want.
  • Helps with planning your career. Gaining some work experience can help you make informed choices about your future career path.
  • Gives a better understanding of the working environment. It's important to know and understand what your working environment is going to be like as you will spend at least a third of your day at work!
  • Money. Work experience is rarely paid and some opportunities with charities or in the media operate on a voluntary basis.
  • Helps make future contacts. Gaining work experience is a great opportunity to make contacts for future employment.
  • Business acumen and commercial awareness. Employers often comment that having an understanding and experience in this area will put you above the competition. Work experience is one of main ways this can be gained.
  • Putting theory into practice. Depending on your degree, your work experience may be directly relevant to your course, this will help you see how the theory you have learnt works in practice. It will also give you renewed confidence when you return to your studies and can help put theory into context.

​What is Work Experience?

Various activities are commonly covered by the term “work experience”. The common types include:

  • Work Experience
    • Confusingly, “work experience” is also commonly used to mean an unadvertised opportunity, which you have organised yourself. These tend to be shorter than internships, and are unlikely to be paid.
  • Volunteering
    • There are many opportunities to help charities. Voluntary work could be a couple of hours a week, or several weeks during a holiday in an area which is central to career pathways. For example many students have undertaken voluntary work in the elderly care sector.
  • Work Shadowing
    • Work shadowing normally lasts one or two days, where you observe a particular employee and learn about their job and the organisation. These are typically opportunities you have organised yourself, and are always unpaid.
  • Internships
    • Internships are normally advertised, organised schemes, which last a few weeks or a few months in holiday time. They can be paid or unpaid, depending on the sector. 
  • Gap Year Placements
    • Typically one year in length, and often abroad. These tend to involve a cost to you but can be hugely beneficial in developing experience of an industry. This path is usually followed by students either at university or if a student chooses to have a gap year prior to university.
  • Part-Time Work and Vacation Jobs
    • Naturally work experience can be attained through part time work. This often gives an insight into the basic skills required in the work place. Whilst often providing some financial support it may be more limited in helping to identify higher level skills in relation to careers.