Work experience and internships

Work experience is anything that gives practical experience of the workplace, from an internship with a large city employer to working as an unpaid volunteer.

Employers value graduates with work experience. Gaining work experience whilst at university can help you determine what you want to do after you graduate, as well as rule things out. It can also help you build your professional network and develop your employability skills. If you impress the employer during an internship, you might be fast-tracked through the recruitment process or even offered a graduate job at the end of the placement.

For volunteering opportunities please see Bristol Students' Union and Bristol Hub.

Over a third of recruiters who took part in the research repeated their warnings from previous years – that graduates who have had no previous work experience at all are unlikely to be successful during the selection process and have little or no chance of receiving a job offer for their organisations’ graduate programmes.

The Graduate Market in 2017, Highfliers

What is an internship?

  • These are often paid placements offered by firms who regularly recruit graduates.
  • Most are between 8-12 weeks in the summer, but there are also part-time, term-time and vacation opportunities.
  • They are usually structured and will give you an insight into the company, the work involved and you may be given a specific project to carry out.

Internships are advertised on the Careers Service as well as through companies' own websites and specialist graduate and placement sites. For more information see The Complete University Guide’s pages on internships.

SMEs, charities and not-for-profit organisations

Internships in smaller organisations are a great experience as working in a small team exposes you to a wider range of work areas and responsibilities. However, these organisations are less likely to recruit graduates on a regular basis into permanent work and in some cases they are unpaid.

I would definitely recommend a substantial work experience or internship during the summer between 2nd and 3rd year. When applying for grad schemes it’s such a bonus.

Luke Anderson, English graduate, working in PR and Events

SME Internship Schemes

The Careers Service runs the SME Internship Schemes, working with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to offer a chance for students and graduates to get high quality paid internships.

Finding your own placement

Many students are keen to get work experience and internships but sometimes can’t find the right type of placement for them or may be unsuccessful in the competitive internships market. Do not panic, many students find their own placement through contacts and by speculatively applying to organisations.

When to apply

Be prepared to start applying for these positions early in your penultimate year (most schemes stipulate that you are in your penultimate year).

Application process

The application process will be the same as for graduate jobs, so follow the advice on CVs, application forms and interview pages.

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