Work placements and Work Based Learning

Work placements

A work placement allows you to learn more about a particular sector, company or job role, and apply your academic knowledge in a practical working environment, giving you ideas of what you want to do as a future career.

As part of your degree, you work in an organisation for an agreed amount of time to gain experience and develop professional skills to make you stand out from the crowd when you're applying for jobs in the future. During the placement, your experience and study combine into an integrated package where your practical work and academic study enhance each other. You can show employers that you can use your subject understanding to add commercial value, and demonstrate you can deliver on challenging projects that meet client demands.

Benefits of doing a placement

  • Make your application stand out when applying for jobs in the future (such as Graduate roles)
  • Apply your academic knowledge directly to the workplace
  • Enhance your professional and interpersonal skills
  • Learn more about a particular sector, industry, company or job role
  • Start building your network

Types of placement

Many large companies and organisations offer nationally advertised work placements with excellent development opportunities; and many small and medium-sized companies (SMEs) are increasingly taking on placement students too.

The different types of placement may include:

  • Placement year (equivalent of a year’s academic study, between 30-52 weeks carried out between the penultimate and final year of your undergraduate course) and counts towards your degree
  • Termly placements (equivalent to an academic term of 12-15 weeks which could be part-time or combined with academic studies); these may be suitable for certain modules within your degree
  • Vacation placements/internships (short term placement taken during vacations) which are extra-curricular, and do not count towards your degree but give you excellent experience nonetheless
  • Projects (negotiated pieces of work, either group based or individual, usually carried out in third year of undergraduate study)

How to get a placement

You are responsible for identifying and securing your own placement positions, but the Placements team, and your Department, will support you and help you with every step of the process. They can give you advice on things such as CVs, applications and interview techniques. Get in touch with the Placements Team at placements@essex.ac.uk.

When you're looking for a work placement it's useful to research creatively. Identify your key skills and don't restrict yourself to the obvious sectors, as many other industries will offer work placements that match your skills.

Finding a placement

A number of websites advertise national work placements of varying length: For placements years and other placements that count towards your degree, you may wish to search:

For extra-curricular activities and other paid experiences, why not visit:

  • Essex Interns - helping students & graduates find paid internships with local or national employers
  • Frontrunners - paid placements around campus
  • UROP - placements for undergraduates to assist academic researchers

Support you will receive 

The Placements team and your Department are here to support you with every step of the process; both in terms of securing placement opportunities and whilst you are out on placement.

The Placements team can provide more information about placements for the particular course(s) you are interested in, and will also be available to help and offer advice to you and your Placement Provider throughout your placement.

You will be allocated an Academic Supervisor who will keep in contact with you throughout your placement and will give you advice on your academic assessments.

Your Placement Supervisor will be a member of the organisation you are working for and will help you manage your day-to-day work and support your learning and development.

Managing a placement

If you aren`t yet on a placement year degree but you want to do a placement year, simply contact a member of the Placements Team at placements@essex.ac.uk who will tell you how to register your interest.

It is important that you keep the Placements Team updated regarding your placement year, as if you secure an opportunity it will need to be approved by both the Placements Team and your Department before it begins, in order for it to count towards your degree. Please email placements@essex.ac.uk 

Work Based Learning

Work Based Learning (WBL) is the term for learning through placements or “live” projects provided by an organisation or client. A “live” project is one that meets a real need and is set by an external organisation. Organisations or clients include companies, government bodies, charities, community groups, entrepreneurs and university departments, other than a student’s “home” department.

WBL travel costs

If WBL is integral to your module you should be able to claim back the costs of any travel required to complete that placement or project. Please check with your module supervisor to ensure that the activity is eligible before making any travel plans.

Some schools/departments may direct you to utilise the online travel expenses claims system. This system allows you to upload tickets/receipts and claim back any money you’ve spent on travel for integral WBL. The system is accessible via MyEssex and you will only be able to access it if you are studying an eligible module.

Please note: Although they contain integral WBL, paid Placement Years do not qualify for travel expense reimbursement. If you are completing an unpaid placement year you may be eligible for a travel bursary. You will have been emailed by the Placements Team if you are eligible, but if you are unsure whether this is applicable to you please contact the Placements Team on placements@essex.ac.uk 

WBL travel expenses are not always fully reimbursed for practice placements (placements in Physiotherapy and throughout the School of Health & Social Care) and separate arrangements exist for these courses through NHS bursary schemes. For full details on eligibility for practice placement travel expenses please contact practiceplacements@essex.ac.uk.

Get in touch
Placements team