The Student Room Group

Placement Year vs Integrated Masters

Hey everyone!
I’m planning on going to uni beginning September 2025. I’m not entirely sure but I’m thinking of doing a degree in biochemistry/pharmacology and then possibly going to work in the pharmaceutical industry (maybe progressing to a QP/RP).
I want to do a 4 year course but I can’t decide whether to do a year in industry or an integrated masters. I don’t want to do both as 5 years is too long.
I want a placement year to get work experience to make me more employable. But will having a higher qualification be even more beneficial?
I just can’t decide!
Any help, advice or experience would be much appreciated.
Thank you!
(P.S. If you have any other advice of well-paid careers that I can do with those degrees I would be very grateful as well!)
Hi @LittleFire10 😄

This is something that I've spent the past year deciding so I understand your struggle! I am a Biology student, and both options are tempting and it's difficult to know what's the best. What I ended up doing was a pros and cons list, and I would suggest for you to do the same. 😄

You could ask yourself questions such as:
What would I get out of the work placement?
Where would I potentially go for the work placement?
What is the fourth year like on the integrated masters program?
Which option would be the most worthwhile use of my time?

I also considered about my overall experience through uni. Whether I wanted to have a continuous 4 years in university or if I preferred to have a split degree with a year somewhere else working. Did I want to move away from the life I've built in the university? At the end of the day, this is a decision only for you to make, but I would also recommend talking to someone close to you. You could also talk to the members of staff and potentially older university students about their perspective. You have time to think this over before you have to apply for a year in employment or apply for the integrated program, so take your time so you can be sure and happy with your decision.

Hope this helps!
Jen (UoS student rep)
Original post by Uni of Southampton Students
Hi @LittleFire10 😄
This is something that I've spent the past year deciding so I understand your struggle! I am a Biology student, and both options are tempting and it's difficult to know what's the best. What I ended up doing was a pros and cons list, and I would suggest for you to do the same. 😄
You could ask yourself questions such as:
What would I get out of the work placement?
Where would I potentially go for the work placement?
What is the fourth year like on the integrated masters program?
Which option would be the most worthwhile use of my time?
I also considered about my overall experience through uni. Whether I wanted to have a continuous 4 years in university or if I preferred to have a split degree with a year somewhere else working. Did I want to move away from the life I've built in the university? At the end of the day, this is a decision only for you to make, but I would also recommend talking to someone close to you. You could also talk to the members of staff and potentially older university students about their perspective. You have time to think this over before you have to apply for a year in employment or apply for the integrated program, so take your time so you can be sure and happy with your decision.
Hope this helps!
Jen (UoS student rep)


Thank you so much for this, it was really helpful! Is it okay if I ask what you ended up deciding on doing? Obviously each experience is individual and what was best for you may not be for me. But I’m really curious as to which you chose and what your reasons were.
Original post by LittleFire10
Thank you so much for this, it was really helpful! Is it okay if I ask what you ended up deciding on doing? Obviously each experience is individual and what was best for you may not be for me. But I’m really curious as to which you chose and what your reasons were.

I'm glad it helped! I ended up deciding to go for the integrated master program which I will be trying to get onto once I get my grades for first year :smile:

My reasoning was more around my lifestyle. I've enjoyed university life so far, and I can't imagine trying to disrupt my degree, go somewhere else for a year by myself and work, and then end up a year behind my friends. I know that for me personally it just wouldn't be good for my mental health, and in the end that trumped over the work experience I would get from the placement. This is obviously just what made the most sense for me, and as you said, each experience is individual.

Wish you the best on your decision,
Jen (UoS student rep)
Original post by LittleFire10
Hey everyone!
I’m planning on going to uni beginning September 2025. I’m not entirely sure but I’m thinking of doing a degree in biochemistry/pharmacology and then possibly going to work in the pharmaceutical industry (maybe progressing to a QP/RP).
I want to do a 4 year course but I can’t decide whether to do a year in industry or an integrated masters. I don’t want to do both as 5 years is too long.
I want a placement year to get work experience to make me more employable. But will having a higher qualification be even more beneficial?
I just can’t decide!
Any help, advice or experience would be much appreciated.
Thank you!
(P.S. If you have any other advice of well-paid careers that I can do with those degrees I would be very grateful as well!)

Hi @LittleFire10

I was in the same position of you pre-university, and decided on a placement year. I'm a biochemistry student currently on placement in a biotechnology company working in drug discovery and I can confidently say this was the best decision for me. I'm going to write the positives (for me personally) below but obviously everyone's experience will be different.

It's reinvigorated my passion for science, university is great but the coursework/exams can end up feeling a little bit of a slog and the combination of the change of routine and the different aspects of science I am learning has been so refreshing.

The lab work I am doing is much more in depth than what I do at university, I get to learn so many new techniques and the work is much more exploratory (things go wrong and I get to look into why things aren't working) as opposed to a lot of university practicals that are kind of designed to work. I'm getting to use new software and equipment that I would never come across at university.

I now have a year's experience in industry and have met so many amazing people throughout the year who have added to my network and offered me advice on my future career pathway. It's also confirmed to me that I want to work in scientific research (as opposed to me only getting experience after I graduate) so I have a much clearer goal in mind entering my final year.

I've now experienced the routine of a 9-5 job, and I've learnt about the art of balancing project/teams meetings, lab work, and writing ELNs (electronic lab notebooks) following a high standard of data compliance. Having a 9-5 job also means I am no longer scrambling to do coursework in evenings and weekends (a bad habit I developed at university) so I now have more routine in terms of hobbies/gym etc. which I'm hoping to carry forward to final year.

Many of my friends are either doing a placement or a Masters, so they will still be at university when I return, and as I was part of a placement intake I now have even more friends from across the country (I actually live with 4 other placement students from my company).

I honestly have not experienced any negatives this year (apart from how tired I was the first month or so of a full time job - I really missed the coffee breaks between uni lectures haha), I would not have changed a thing and I would always recommend everyone considers a placement year.

It's also worth considering that you don't have to end up going on placement, even if you sign up for a "with placement degree" as many will just let you continue on to 3rd year if you don't get a placement. You could then apply to transfer to the MSci degree.

Lab experience/research has been more appealing to me than taught modules, so personally if I was to consider a Masters I'd probably prefer a MRes than needing to sit more exams anyway! Currently I'm thinking I'll apply for a PhD after I've done my BSc, and probably return to industry in the future.

It's really a personal choice, everyone will have different advice and have a valid reason for that advice - good luck with your choice! If you have any more questions, please let me know.

Rebecca (Lancaster Student Ambassador)
(edited 3 weeks ago)
Original post by Lancaster Student Ambassador
Hi @LittleFire10
I was in the same position of you pre-university, and decided on a placement year. I'm a biochemistry student currently on placement in a biotechnology company working in drug discovery and I can confidently say this was the best decision for me. I'm going to write the positives (for me personally) below but obviously everyone's experience will be different.
It's reinvigorated my passion for science, university is great but the coursework/exams can end up feeling a little bit of a slog and the combination of the change of routine and the different aspects of science I am learning has been so refreshing.
The lab work I am doing is much more in depth than what I do at university, I get to learn so many new techniques and the work is much more exploratory (things go wrong and I get to look into why things aren't working) as opposed to a lot of university practicals that are kind of designed to work. I'm getting to use new software and equipment that I would never come across at university.
I now have a year's experience in industry and have met so many amazing people throughout the year who have added to my network and offered me advice on my future career pathway. It's also confirmed to me that I want to work in scientific research (as opposed to me only getting experience after I graduate) so I have a much clearer goal in mind entering my final year.
I've now experienced the routine of a 9-5 job, and I've learnt about the art of balancing project/teams meetings, lab work, and writing ELNs (electronic lab notebooks) following a high standard of data compliance. Having a 9-5 job also means I am no longer scrambling to do coursework in evenings and weekends (a bad habit I developed at university) so I now have more routine in terms of hobbies/gym etc. which I'm hoping to carry forward to final year.
Many of my friends are either doing a placement or a Masters, so they will still be at university when I return, and as I was part of a placement intake I now have even more friends from across the country (I actually live with 4 other placement students from my company).
I honestly have not experienced any negatives this year (apart from how tired I was the first month or so of a full time job - I really missed the coffee breaks between uni lectures haha), I would not have changed a thing and I would always recommend everyone considers a placement year.
It's also worth considering that you don't have to end up going on placement, even if you sign up for a "with placement degree" as many will just let you continue on to 3rd year if you don't get a placement. You could then apply to transfer to the MSci degree.
Lab experience/research has been more appealing to me than taught modules, so personally if I was to consider a Masters I'd probably prefer a MRes than needing to sit more exams anyway! Currently I'm thinking I'll apply for a PhD after I've done my BSc, and probably return to industry in the future.
It's really a personal choice, everyone will have different advice and have a valid reason for that advice - good luck with your choice! If you have any more questions, please let me know.
Rebecca (Lancaster Student Ambassador)


Thank you so much! I was just wondering how much your uni supported you in finding the placement and during your placement?
Was it quite difficult/competitive to get one?
Do you work 9-5 Monday-Friday?
Original post by LittleFire10
Thank you so much! I was just wondering how much your uni supported you in finding the placement and during your placement?
Was it quite difficult/competitive to get one?
Do you work 9-5 Monday-Friday?

Hi @LittleFire10

My university was incredibly supportive, however the amount of support will vary between universities and you have to be prepared to reach out and ask for additional support if you feel like you need it. I know from talking to the other placement students at my company that my university seemed to offer a lot of support during my application year - but obviously things might change.

Lancaster offered multiple workshops across first year aimed at people on a "with placement" degree on topics such as CVs, cover letter interviews, assessment centres etc. alongside offering 1:1 drop in sessions throughout first and second year, links to careers resources, and weekly emails during second year with new placement opportunities they found that had opened each week. The first year placement careers workshops were really appreciated as the department career-based module is in second year, and the team at Lancaster were so lovely; I went into second year feeling really ready for applications! I didn't have to spend as much time looking for placement opportunities and I could simply check the weekly list for new roles that felt like a good fit for me.

In terms of how competitive placements are in the biosciences, in my experience the vast majority of people who were on a "with placement" degree who didn't get a role either decided against a placement during second year (usually they didn't want to add that extra year or wanted to do third year with their current group) or missed out on the earlier applications for "bigger name" companies and weren't passionate enough about getting a placement after that, so didn't really apply.

I applied for 5 placement opportunities across 4 companies. I got rejected from 2 roles as they was more DMPK-based and it wasn't really the best fit for me (I kind of knew I wasn't going to get them when I applied tbh, I wanted a more biochemical role), got ghosted for one role, and got through the application process for the 2 other roles.

I had my interview and was offered the job for the role I'm at now the week before the final interview for the second role, and I knew that it was the right fit for me in terms of the techniques I could learn (protein sciences/biochemistry/biophysics - super interesting to me!) and the environment so I accepted.

I was finished with all my placement application/interviews by mid-December, however, so many new roles continued to appear throughout the next year so even if I'd not been offered a role then I would have kept looking!

During my placement I've been assigned a contact at the university from the placement team, there are a few required meetings in terms of welfare checks that we have to do but aside from that they're very hands off unless you reach out and ask for help. I don't have to do a lot of coursework during my year out, just things like a short reflective activity/an updated CV/poster/STAR format interview answers (all the stuff seems to be more aimed at reflecting on your placement in a way that'll help you once you apply from graduate roles/studies). Compared to some of the other placement students I've met, I have little assigned work from my university, so I can be much more flexible in what I do while working.

After chatting with my manager before my placement began, I decided to focus my year around learning a variety of different skills across my department rather than having one big project (it has interestingly all mostly fallen into place into 2 project areas though) as I didn't need to do a big report at the end. This felt like the most useful use of my time during this year and it's been so much fun.

I work Monday to Friday and my contract is 8.30-5.30 but it'll depend on the company/role and your manager. Sometimes I'll come in early/leave later as experiments often don't fit perfectly into the day, and sometimes if I'm all done I'll head off earlier, but there's no pressure to work 24/7 and stay till like 8pm haha.

Obviously everything will vary by university/company/role, and the placement support/schemes may be different in different years, this is just my experience during the year I was applying!

Feel free to ask my any other questions!
Rebecca (Lancaster Student Ambassador)
Original post by LittleFire10
Hey everyone!
I’m planning on going to uni beginning September 2025. I’m not entirely sure but I’m thinking of doing a degree in biochemistry/pharmacology and then possibly going to work in the pharmaceutical industry (maybe progressing to a QP/RP).
I want to do a 4 year course but I can’t decide whether to do a year in industry or an integrated masters. I don’t want to do both as 5 years is too long.
I want a placement year to get work experience to make me more employable. But will having a higher qualification be even more beneficial?
I just can’t decide!
Any help, advice or experience would be much appreciated.
Thank you!
(P.S. If you have any other advice of well-paid careers that I can do with those degrees I would be very grateful as well!)

Don't forget you'll earn money during your placement year and tuition fees for that year are small.
Original post by Muttley79
Don't forget you'll earn money during your placement year and tuition fees for that year are small.


Wow really I had no idea. Do you know if they have to pay you minimum wage or are they not required to so they pay less? Is it the company itself or the uni that pays you?
Reply 9
Original post by LittleFire10
Wow really I had no idea. Do you know if they have to pay you minimum wage or are they not required to so they pay less? Is it the company itself or the uni that pays you?

From what I've seen, paid by the company and usually somewhere between 18-23K per annum depending on the role and company. Tuition fees are something like 20% of what you usually pay when you are on placement.
Why is 5 year ls too long? You’ll likely be working for 45+ years… 1 extra year isn’t that long. A placement year will certainly give you the a leg up in graduate recruitment, a master’s will help keep open certain doors.

For STEM graduates id advise just doing both. I’ve never known anyone regret this, but certainly met people who regretted not doing a placement and not doing a master’s.
(edited 3 weeks ago)
Original post by LittleFire10
Wow really I had no idea. Do you know if they have to pay you minimum wage or are they not required to so they pay less? Is it the company itself or the uni that pays you?

A placement year is a professional job (and are not guaranteed), you get paid by a company who employs you after going through a professional recruitment process.

Most placement years pay roughly 2/3rds what a graduate scheme would pay (think (£20-£25k).
Original post by LittleFire10
Wow really I had no idea. Do you know if they have to pay you minimum wage or are they not required to so they pay less? Is it the company itself or the uni that pays you?

Others have answered by here's one of the websites advertising placements: https://www.ratemyplacement.co.uk/

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