Sponsored feature, words by Fay Millar


Choosing a degree is tough at times – you want to do a subject you love but you also want to come out with a qualification which gets you a job as well.

You’ve probably heard all the urban myths about certain degrees not being too great for your future employment prospects but that’s simply not true. The vast majority of degrees will lead to a good job and future working life.

Tiffany_Chung

However, one way you can increase your chances of landing that dream role is to take a degree with an integrated placement year – not only do you get to study a subject you have a genuine interest in but you build up real life work experience that could well lead to a job when you graduate.

Aston University in Birmingham has recently launched an English Literature degree which allows you to do just that and here they explain why opting for a placement is a cracking idea.

Loads of work experience



It doesn’t matter how much you bury yourself in the books, you will gain lots more practical experience in your chosen industry if you undertake a work placement. You will have a much better idea of what the job actually entails and you will build up your soft skills as well.


Marianne Cowie, a former Aston University student and now project manager at Comtec Translations, says: “My placement year was great because I learned so much and came back to university with a greater focus than ever before.”

Money



There are no two ways around it – being a student is expensive. So how would you like to do a placement and get paid for it? Unlike internships, many placements are paid for. After all, you will be working for a company for a year and using your developed skills as well as providing a service. Of course you should be paid for that!

Rajin Patel-Winnington Professor Urszula Clark, programme director, says: “For the average student, four years instead of three can seem like an extra year of delay and added cost before they start working. But some placements are paid and the fact they dramatically increase your chances of securing work after your degree means they are more than worthwhile. Rather than serving your time in a lower paid position you will find it easier to start a graduate level position because of the experience you have already gained.”

Get your foot in the door with an established company



Ultimately, you want to land a job at the end of your degree in an industry that you enjoy. But with tales of unemployment and lack of graduate jobs regularly appearing in the news you might naturally worry you’ll miss out.

However, a placement with an established company can give you a head start over your peers. You may get offered a job upon graduation but even if you don’t, undertaking a year in industry will give you the experience and skills that will set you apart from other job hunters. For example, if there are two of you with the same degree and same results but one of you has spent a year working in industry, who do you think is more likely to get the job?

Prof Clark says: “All the research shows that if you do a placement year you vastly increase your chances of employment. Lots of English graduates go into teaching but if they have already done a placement in a primary or secondary school it makes their entry into teacher training easier and increases their chances of getting a job.”

Develop your interpersonal skills



Beulah Davis Your academic history may be first class but placements are a brilliant way of developing those all-important soft skills employers look for. Developing skills such as working in a team, project managing, meeting deadlines and collaborating are all things recruiters look for to make a well-rounded individual.


Prof Clark says: “There are plenty of opportunities for students who have done placements. Employability is a key focus for Aston University and employers tell us that what they look for as well as subject knowledge are soft skills – communication and beign able to present yourself articulately.”

Get a higher and better degree



You will learn lots of useful skills during your placement year which you can then apply in the final year of your degree. If you make the most of them it can increase your grades and lead to a higher class degree, which also leads onto a more promising career.

Michael De Thoi

Greater awareness of the industry you want to work in



How do you know you want to work in a particular industry if you’ve never experienced it. Going on a placement gives you a flavour of what it is really like and whether that is an industry you want to base you career in.

A placement year also offers you greater awareness of the developments in that particular industry – all important things when it comes to the job interview.

Find out more about the Aston Placement Year

Find out more about studying English Literature at Aston University