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Science experience

Would you like to gain experience of working within a particular job role, sector or develop specific scientific skills? See work experience sections of relevant job sectors for suggestions.

Try to think creatively about different ways to experience work and how they will benefit you. While many graduate jobs will require specific scientific experience, they may also require a range of general transferable skills, such as teamwork, communication, leadership, problem solving, project management and public engagement. These skills can be gained through a variety of work and volunteering roles and extra-curricular activities. Your Career Journey gives you an overview of the variety of ways you can gain experience throughout your time at university - just take your pick!

Start planning your experiences early in your course. Some people begin with company insight events and general experiences of work and volunteering towards the beginning of their course, and build on this to gain relevant experience before their final year. 

If you feel you may have barriers to gaining work experience, please make an appointment to speak to a Careers Consultant about your particular circumstances. 

Volunteering

Volunteering can be a good way to develop a wide range of skills that employers look for and to show motivation and commitment to your chosen career path. Opportunities can include working in schools and outreach events, IT projects or you could try scientific museums or environmental organisations. Some academics allow undergraduates to do voluntary research work with them, or your department may be involved in outreach projects which you could join. 

Examples include:

Internships

Some organisations offer formal internships to undergraduates. They often require you to be in your second or penultimate year of study. Examples include Reckitt, BAE Systems, AstraZeneca, Mars and Unilever. Opportunities may be available in a range of roles, from scientific and technical to more business-related functions. Some organisations come to our autumn recruitment fairs, but few life science and pharmaceutical companies attend, so it is best to search for opportunities through HandshakeProspects, Gradcracker, or on company websites. 

Below is a list of examples by subject area. Please be aware that this is to give some ideas and is not a comprehensive list.   

Biology/ Chemistry/ Life Sciences  

Physics/ Computer Science/ Electronic Engineering 

Any science or engineering discipline (including international opportunities)  

Research and lab work

Some organisations provide funds to support summer vacation work in research laboratories. While some opportunities are advertised widely and you can apply to them directly, others are offered by professional bodies that provide funding to support research projects, and you will need to approach a research supervisor to put in an application. The Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council has information about vacation internships. The STEP Programme has opportunities for undergraduates to undertake project placements with small and medium sized businesses in the UK.

It may be possible to get a temporary position working in a lab. This may be at a basic level, but it will provide a good introduction to lab work, and demonstrate to future employers that you are familiar with the lab environment. Jobs might be advertised through GOV.UK, Find a Job, local newspapers and their associated websites, or recruitment agencies. Use Agency Central to locate agencies which specialise in scientific and technical recruitment.

Student Internship Bureau 

You may also want to apply for internship opportunities through the Student Internship Bureau (SIB). SIB works with local businesses to set up project-based, paid work experience for University of York students. Some internships are based within University departments and services. Make sure you read our emails and update your profile in Handshake to get the latest alerts from SIB.

Virtual internships are also an option. These may be offered by employers using SIB, as well as other companies and consist of work (such as desk-based research) which can be carried out online, without needing the intern to be on site. 

Placement Year

A placement year or year in industry can be integrated into your studies, giving you a substantial amount of work experience that is recognised within your degree title. Placement years generally last 9-12 months and usually take place before your final year at university.

If you are enrolled on a year in industry course, staff in your department will be able to advise you on how to research and apply for an appropriate placement. You can also search vacancy websites, including Handshake, Gradcracker, Cogent Skills and Prospects. Find more suggestions in Searching and applying for science jobs.

If your department does not offer this as an option, or you would prefer to have a placement year unrelated to your subject area, you may be able to join the Placement Year Programme through Careers and Placements.

Find science student placement year stories on our padlet.

The hidden job market

Not all opportunities are advertised (the hidden job market). Many students manage to find work experience, or shorter work shadowing opportunities, by contacting organisations directly.

Use any contacts or networks you have to try to get informal experience. Let friends, family, tutors and neighbours know that you’re looking for work experience. Use social media such as LinkedIn and Twitter to join interest groups, follow organisations and find contacts.

Attend careers events and conferences by learned societies such as the Society of Biology’s Bioscience Careers Day, IOP, WRIPA and RSC careers events.

Our finding scientific vacancies web pages have more suggestions about making speculative approaches to employers. See also the networking page for further tips.

...and finally

To fund work experience you may be eligible to apply for the York Futures Scholarship. Applying for a York Futures Scholarship also provides you with access to other professional development benefits.  These include networking with previous scholars, access to additional guidance and support, employer visits and application/CV support.

Start by looking at York Futures: get skills and experience or make a careers advice appointment via Handshake for advice on finding and applying for work experience.