You know how it is. You'll be up for your undergrad, you'll be halfway through the second year, and once you've settled into uni life, a spanner gets thrown into the works. A lady from PWC comes in to talk on 'sandwich placements', there's whispers or an exotic year in industry, and somebody's dad tells you that the thing is better than education. Add to the mix phrases like 'good salary' and 'student for longer', and a placement year can start sound mighty appealing. It's not right for anyone, however, and once you've done three months of merchandising at L'Oreal, it's pretty tough to rescind you and re-enrol into the academic year. So it's best that you know what you're getting into before you commit to one. And by know, we mean to read this article or course.

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When to take a placement year

If you're wavering between two sectors

Frankly, if you're in your second year of struggle between two career paths, then you're already way ahead of the game. It is estimated that only 5% of people are in the first job that they do not know what they want to do. Having a year in the industry means that you'll be able to gain a clearer idea of what at least one of your options and recommendations on a day-to-day basis, and if you find yourself loving your placement year, then the decision has probably been made for you.

And if you do not love the placement year? Then the decision has probably been made for you.

If you're planning on entering a highly competitive field

By which we mean: law, engineering, medical research, or anything creative (especially if that involves journalism). Sadly, there are no two ways around it; some career paths require much more than a 2: 1 and three years of good service in a respected institution. According to a survey done by City & Guilds, 80% of employers consider work experience to be 'essential' in recent grades, and if you're in the industry known for its dog-eat-dog culture, then this figure rises closer to 100%. It is also worth mentioning that a well-strategized placement year does not just give credence to your resume, it also connects you to people in high places, and if you're one of the hundreds of new grades for an entry-level role. , then it may really boil down to who you know.

If you want to travel once you've finished your degree

It is a right of passage for many students; they graduate, they get their TEFL, and then they leave the freezing shores of England for red-hot ones abroad. And while bar or farm work is a life-saver for supporting yourself down under, it does not exactly line up interviews for when you decide to travel home again. If you are a graduate, then you can make a difference in your career. And what's more, you could easily save the cost of flights with that salary.

When not to take a placement year

If you are doing a languages degree, you want to do the final year together

Ditto your boyfriend, your flatmates or your crush. It can be tempting when your diehards are taking a year out to join them, but if you're madly scrambling for something, then you can pretty much bet that it will not be well spent. And besides, if you really do not want to spend another year apart, then you can always look for a grad-job in your university city when they come back.

If it's already built into your degree

Medicine, dentistry and modern languages all have placement years built-in, and rightly so; you can hardly become fluent in a language if you've never lived in the country. But unless there is a compelling reason, then one placement year is probably enough. If you're going to spend 5+ years as a student then you will have a masters to show for it. Plus, too much time away from the classroom and it is becoming increasingly difficult to return.

If you could get the experience elsewhere

Summer internships, term-time placements and work experience are all important ways to get in with your dream company, and often these are easier to secure than a year-long placement scheme. When the 'year in industry' applications are emailed around, it can be used to jump on the bandwagon and apply for one, but if none of the openings is relevant to your chosen career path. course. A year is a waste of time, and you could find yourself resigning the job when you realize that, although they are quite reduced, you are still undergoing university fees throughout your year in industry are relevant to your chosen career path, then it may be best to just continue with your course. A year is a long time to waste on an impulse, and you could find yourself resenting the job when you realise that, though they are greatly reduced, you are still charged university fees throughout your year in industry.

Amelia Banks writes for Inspiring Interns, which specializes in sourcing candidates for  internships . To browse our  graduate jobs London listings, visit our website. 

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