This post is directed at those who are interested or are doing undergraduate programs at Surrey. For those who do not know, one of the distinguishing factors that set UK schools apart from American schools is the opportunity to do a placement year in industry during the third year of the degree. If you choose not to do a placement year you can graduate in three years which is also a plus if you want to take that route. Taking a placement year is highly recommended. You get that coveted job experience that is needed to get a job after graduation. The jobs on placement years are also paid! For computing, my department, we can expect to get between £16,000 and £19,000 for the 12 months that you are on placement. The university gives you a “soft landing” into the real world, by monitoring you and making sure that you do work that is relevant and at your level. The UK is very familiar with placement year students which confirm that you will be placed on projects that are within your skill level. Placements can also give you an opportunity to travel somewhere else within England that you may not have at another point. However if you do not want to leave Guildford, many companies locate themselves here because London is not far and it allows them easy access to the big city without the high costs.
As the recruitment cycle starts in October of the second year, it is encouraged that you start creating your CV, or resume, early. My course has had me make a CV at the end of my first year, so when next year comes around, I am ready. I had both my teacher and the on campus careers service centre look at my CV and give me feedback. They want you to succeed, so it is recommended that you visit. Appointments are only 15 minutes, so they will not take up all your time. Content, style, space usage, word choice, and applying your experiences to a company’s qualifications are very important and the careers service will guide you how to improve these areas of your CV and cover letter.
The university has a database of placement jobs that are available. It contains companies that have come to them requesting Surrey students. This makes finding a placement super easy because it is all in one place. There are multiple databases for different faculties (ex. Faculty of Engineering and Physical Science). Within the faculties, the different departments (ex. Computing) are listed with all placements for that year are listed. You can also check out placements from previous years. However, this does not stop you from trying to find one yourself. Something to keep in mind, that I found interesting, was the different benefits between going to a large company vs a small one. A big company can offer you the name recognition for the future and potentially greater opportunities to work on well-known projects. A small company, on the other hand, could give you a position that is more integral to the project thereby giving you more experience. In both cases, companies do offer positions to placement years that they like and have performed well. One of the guest lecturers we had this year did his placement year at IBM and is still working there 20 years later.
In summary, placement years offer opportunities that are not granted in many other places. Many of the students that take placements learn things that are beyond what people who do not take placement years. You get paid and are monitored by the university to make sure you are doing applicable work at your skill level.
If you have any questions about placements feel free to email me at email@example.com 🙂