Work Experience

For a number of vocational degrees, work experience could make the difference between getting an interview and instant rejection.  It is crucial that students have undertaken a placement before writing their UCAS personal statement.  The personal statement doesn’t look good if it is simply full of things they are planning to do, students need to discuss what they have learnt from undertaking work experience/volunteering in their chosen career field.  The college will be able to organise some work experience but students should also make an effort to find a placement and make the best use of any contacts that you have!

Work experience is important for two main reasons:

  • to demonstrate commitment to your career choice
  • to prove you have chosen this career path fully informed


Both in their personal statement and at interview students will be expected to explain what they have done as a volunteer and the insights they have gained into the profession from any placement. Some universities specify time scales (usually within the 2 years prior to applying) and minimum days/hours of placement time they expect applicants to have completed prior to making an application.  It is best to check the chosen University prospectus for their exact requirements.  Students need as much relevant/varied experience as possible.  Don’t just consider hospital or surgery placements (Medicine/Dentistry) also consider working with people outside their normal contact areas – children, the elderly, people with mental health problems, the terminally ill, people with disabilities, the homeless, asylum seekers etc. They will primarily be working with people so they need to have experience of as many different types as possible, especially the ones outside their comfort zone!  Such placements are highly regarded alongside time shadowing the professionals!   Veterinary Science has specific requirements and it is best to check the university prospects for the exact types of placement you will need to have undertaken prior to applying.  You will need time within a vet practice but also time with large animals like horses and cattle, getting experience of poultry and lambing season on a farm is a great way of gaining an insight of life as a vet.  Students should consider voluntary groups and get involved, going once doesn’t count you need to prove commitment, motivation and dedication! This needs to be sorted out very early.

N.B. These courses are extremely competitive and require a minimum of 3 A grades at A’Level, you also need to consider each university will also ask for specific grades at GCSE for between 6 to 9 subjects – It is worth looking at the course qualification requirements for each university to ensure you meet the criteria.


All healthcare professional courses will require an interview where they will be expected to discuss their insights into and experience of their chosen professional area.  All applicants need a minimum of English, Maths and Science GCSE grade C/4 or above.  The NHS Constitution is worth downloading and reading.  Some universities will specify a minimum period of work experience.  It must be a priority to gain experience of communicating in a healthcare setting with a range of client groups.  Work experience within the NHS is very competitive; students should expect to travel to hospitals that are not in their local area to gain a placement.  Children’s Nursing, Adult Nursing, Midwifery and Physiotherapy continue to be some of the most competitive courses to apply for so getting work experience is essential be it in the NHS, any care setting, clinics, care homes, mother and baby groups, summer play schemes and for Physio therapy sports clinics, working with a sports teams and private physiotherapist .  Most jobs are within the NHS so they should be aiming for experience there – even if they are considering working within the sports industry.


For Primary courses it’s a good idea to have both upper and lower primary experience so students can explain why they have chosen a particular age group.  Summer play schemes, youth clubs and sports teams are also a great way to get experience with children.  There are several routes into Secondary teaching, it is advisable to study A’Levels related to the subject you want to teach.  For any Teaching course you are expected to have a minimum of grade C/4 in English and Maths (and Science for Primary).  You will also be expected to do a skills test in literacy and numeracy alongside your application to university.


When applying for these types of courses students are competing with students who may have worked for their college/school magazine, radio or TV.  You will also get applicants who have volunteered for hospital radio or their local newspaper.  Students must be proactive and find the opportunities where they can use their skills – it’s a tough industry to get into.


Whilst shadowing a Barrister could be seen as one type of work experience, students still need to show that they have experienced various roles within Law.  Shadow a solicitor; make a visit to the local court.  Use this time to find out exactly what is really involved.


There are many different fields in Engineering and by undertaking work experience it demonstrates they have gained a thorough insight and understanding of their chosen field.  Many large companies run ‘work experience weeks’ these are advertised on the company website, students apply via the online link.


This is a great way for students to improve their skills, help others and try something new.  Whatever they do it will look great on their CV/University application.  Volunteers are people with motivation, dedication and the ability to work hard.  Being a volunteer can be fun! It will give students a sense of personal achievement, development and satisfaction.  Students will also gain invaluable ‘soft skills’ which employers value such as team work, communication, develop initiative, problem solving and time management.