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Internships and placements

Your degree alone is almost never enough to guarantee a good graduate job. Employers will expect you to have a CV demonstrating work experience. On this page you'll find out about the different types of work experience, the opportunities offered to you at York and where to find work experience.

Interested in how to get experience in specific job sectors? Our job sector pages include advice on relevant work experience. 

Placement Year Programme

Take a year out from your studies on a structured placement year.


Opportunities to build skills, meet people and help the community.

York Internships

Paid internships in and around the city exclusively for York students.


Support to start a business or develop your commercial awareness.

Why should you get work experience?

Most students get work experience because it helps them get a job when they graduate, but there are many other reasons why it’s important to get experience while you study:

  • Learn skills you can’t develop on your course
  • Work out what jobs and job sectors you like
  • Get an understanding of what the working world is actually like
  • Build up a network that could help you find a job in the future
  • Earn money while you study

Check if you're eligible for a York Futures Scholarship to get financial and practical support to help you get work experience. 

What types of work experience can you do?

Work experience isn’t just a ‘summer internship.’ It can be anything from an afternoon of job shadowing to a placement year. Read about some of the common types of work experience below.


Internships are structured, sometimes project-based, work experience opportunities lasting anywhere from weeks to months. Many happen over summer, but some are available at other times of the year.

They are available across different job sectors, but they are particularly popular with large organisations. Many summer internships are targeted at students between their second and third years, but some are open more widely.

We run York Internships, advertising paid, project based internships around York that are exclusively for York students. Last year more than 100 students completed one of these internships.

You may occasionally see internships advertised as ‘placements,’ so read the description carefully to make sure it’s what you’re looking for.

Unpaid internships

While many internships are paid, some are unpaid. If you are thinking about taking an unpaid internship, make sure you understand the law. TARGETjobs' information on unpaid internships covers your legal rights and the current debate around them.

If you are considering taking an unpaid internship, consider these questions:

  • Who is the internship with? Can you find reviews from people who have done an internship with them before? Try RateMyPlacement and Glassdoor for company reviews.
  • What value does the internship offer you? Will it give you an experience that would be difficult to find elsewhere?
  • Is it clear what you are expected to do? Remember, if the internship looks a lot like a normal role in a company, it’s likely you’d be classed as a worker and by law should be paid.
  • Are the financial arrangements clear? Will you be paid expenses for your travel and lunch?
  • Is there a clear end date? We recommend that unpaid internships should be no longer than four weeks.

Virtual work experience

An increasing number of employers are contributing to programmes offering virtual work experience. These offer you the chance to

  • gain an insight into an industry sector and specific organisations
  • experience companies you might not normally get access to
  • develop and practise skills in a safe environment
  • get involved in realistic tasks and activities, simulating the "real world" of work
  • explore possible options to inform your career decisions
  • add some valuable and recognised experience to your CV

Find out more at

  • Forage - programmes designed to simulate real world experience; leading companies are involved from a range of sectors including law, accounting, finance, tech consulting, marketing and engineering. There is flexibility to complete the courses in your own time, and you can get a sense of the different companies in a given sector.
  • Barclays Life Skills - virtual work experience on real world projects, and a virtual work experience hub for more tools and tips
  • Bright Network's Internship Experience UK for students and recent graduates offers virtual experience in a range of sectors, 17-20 June 2024, apply by 11 June. If you can't make these dates, you can join the on demand programme from 1 July.
  • Handshake blog: Making the most of a remote internship, and TARGETjobs Student's guide to virtual internships (TARGETjobs article).

Placement Year/Year in Industry

A placement year is structured work experience that lasts between 9 and 12 months. It’s an opportunity to learn more about the world of work and increase your chances of getting a graduate job.

Almost any student at York can take a placement year. Some courses have a ‘year in industry’ built in, and most other courses give you the option of doing a placement year between your penultimate and final year of study through our Placement Year Programme.


There is a big culture of volunteering at York. It is a good way of meeting people and giving back to your community, but it is also a way of building up skills and getting experience for your CV.

Many students use volunteering to work on skills they can’t develop elsewhere. For example, you could volunteer in a role where you develop customer service skills, which may help you get part-time work where 'customer service experience' is essential.

We advertise volunteer opportunities regularly, including opportunities with the popular York Students in Schools programme. You can also find volunteer opportunities through YUSU or your college. You can also find them advertised elsewhere online; the I want to volunteer page from the National Council for Voluntary Organisations (NCVO) is a good place to start.

Work Shadowing

Work or job shadowing is where you observe an employee for a short period, observing the day-to-day activities that make up the job. This can help you understand more about what a particular job is actually like and whether you could see yourself doing it in the future. It’s also a good way to meet people and make contacts to help you find work experience or jobs in the future.

You might find some work shadowing opportunities advertised online, but most students organise it by sending speculative applications to organisations where they want to shadow people.

Other Work Experience

Some employers will advertise ‘work experience’ opportunities that are not exactly internships or placements. For example, they could be one or two week paid or unpaid opportunities. Many students will try to organise their own work experience by sending speculative applications to potential employers.

Insight Days

Insight days are usually run by large organisations, and offer the chance to learn more about a company or particular job sector. They may include presentations, workshops and tours of workplaces. Some insight days are run exclusively for first year students. They are particularly popular in law and finance, but can be found in other industries. You may also see ‘insight weeks’ advertised, which offer the same opportunities spread over a week.

Enterprise Activities

You have opportunities to develop your enterprise or commercial awareness skills while studying. This isn’t just for students who want to start a business; commercial awareness is highly valued in many industries and will help your job applications stand out. Read about the enterprise opportunities available through Careers and Placements.

Part-Time/Vacation Work

A lot of students work part-time while studying. For many, the money earned is essential income. But part-time work or vacation work can also help you get a graduate job in the future. You can use it to help you identify your strengths (what are you good at? what parts of your job do you particularly enjoy doing?) and, whether you realise it or not, you’ll develop skills that will help you in the future. For example, you could be dealing with difficult people and improving your negotiation skills or developing excellent attention to detail by doing repetitive tasks.

Where do you find work experience?

Start with Careers and Placements. We offer work experience opportunities through York Internships, the Placement Year Programme, Volunteering and Enterprise. We also oversee York Futures Scholarships, which you can apply for to help fund your activities.

Other places to look:

  • Websites like Handshake, TARGETjobsMilkround and Gradcracker for advertised internships, placement years and insight opportunities. Use the job sector pages to find websites focusing on specific industries, or our sector-specific resources if you're looking for experience in arts and heritage, media/creative industries, music or science/engineering. Some organisations, such as 10000 Interns, offer internships to under-represented groups.
  • YUSU and your college offer volunteering opportunities, and Do-it advertises many more if you can't find what you're looking for.
  • Create opportunities for yourself by sending speculative applications and making contacts through networking. 

International students may face regulations that affect the kind of work you can undertake while you are studying. See the Working during your studies page for more information.

Other resources to help you

Use these resources to do further research and find work experience opportunities:

Virtual careers sessions / recordings

Other work experience resources from Careers and Placements

General websites


Related pages

  • What's on - we run a range of events through the year, giving you the chance to meet employers and find out ways of getting work experience in your field. 
  • Talk to us - find out about our appointments, including our drop-in which runs daily to help you get started with career planning.
  • Networking - learn how to make contacts and use them to get work experience.
  • CV support - get your CV ready to send off for internships.