10 things you need to know about placements
This page is about a specific type of placements called ‘sandwich placements’, one of several types of work experience at Sheffield Hallam. Find out more in our placement terminology video:
If you were looking for Health and Social Care placements; Education placements; or if your course has a ‘short’ placement within a work experience module, read our specific pages on those topics. Or read on to find out about sandwich placements!
1. Placements last a minimum of 24 weeks, but we still call it a ‘placement year’
We recommend that every student completes a full year on placement to have the most impact on your academic & professional development. All undergraduate courses at Sheffield Hallam require a minimum of 24 weeks on placement, doing ideally full time hours wherever possible, but no less than 21 hours per week as an absolute minimum. Our postgraduate courses have different requirements (usually between 3-12 months), so check with your course team. This doesn’t have to be done all at once in a single placement; it can be split into multiple placements, for example, 12 weeks at one company and 12 weeks somewhere completely different. We cannot accept zero-hour contracts as a placement. The minimum hour requirements must be met in order for a placement to be approved, therefore zero-hour contracts cannot be considered, as there is no guarantee that the minimum will be met. Remember: it’s not a placement until it’s been approved by the Work Experience Team, and you must never start work that you intend to use as your placement until this is approved. If you do, it won’t count toward your degree and you will breach your student visa conditions (if you’re an international student).
2. They don’t have to be subject-specific, they don’t even have to be called ‘placement’
Most degrees at Sheffield Hallam don’t have specific requirements that require you to work in a role that directly relates to your degree, quite the opposite! Therefore you’re encouraged to think creatively about the type of experience you want and what you think might add that ‘real world’ value to your final year or graduate employment. Remember this can also include setting up your own business or social enterprise too, supported by the Sheffield Hallam Enterprise team. When looking for a placement opportunity, don’t just search for roles that are called a ‘placement’. A lot of placement providers use different terms to advertise placement opportunities like ‘Year in Industry’, ‘Internship’ etc. so make sure you widen your search. If you’re thinking about different options, you can talk to your Academic Adviser (find your named advisers on Blackboard), or any of our Employability Advisers (Book an appointment via the Careers website).
3. The best opportunities for you might not even be advertised
That’s right – previous students have gained extremely valuable experience by writing a speculative application to organisations they had their eyes on. It’s also a great way to significantly reduce the competition! Some of those placement providers liked those students so much they wanted more, so don’t overlook the placements we advertise either. Find out more on how to find a placement.
4. You can take up a placement abroad, or closer to home, or perhaps both
You aren’t limited to Sheffield, or even the UK! If the type of opportunities you want aren’t in Sheffield, don’t worry! Students find placements all over the UK and internationally, which can be an incredible life experience. If you’re thinking of travelling outside the UK for placement, we have a dedicated international placements page. If you’re thinking of staying in the UK, you might want to think about accommodation and travel. Try not to limit yourself too early by booking accommodation in Sheffield that you can’t be released from before you’ve fully considered your options. Our accommodation team have flexible options available.
5. You’re there to learn, and to be learned from
This is really what sets a ‘placement’ apart from a regular job – the fact you’re there to learn! Yes, we do want you to treat your placement as a regular job and of course, all roles throughout your career will involve learning but this is really emphasised in placement roles as they’re an integrated and assessed part of the course and your development will be supported by an academic throughout. We expect all placements to have a strong focus on your development and likewise, your placement provider will want you to bring your ‘uni’ knowledge into their organisation too. The experience you have on your placement will also help you to enrich your academic assessments by adding an authentic real-world context.
6. Being paid is not a requirement, but we certainly encourage you to secure a salaried role and there is funding available
Many placements will enable you to earn good money with salaries regularly between £15-£20k but that isn’t always the case in all industry sectors, particularly the charitable and voluntary sector. We give this guidance to placement providers when they advertise placement roles with us, but we don’t formally require your placement to be paid. Nevertheless, we want you to be treated fairly and to be able to sustain your living costs, so if your placement salary is below average for the industry, we will ask you to fully consider the implications on your welfare and finances before we approve your placement. In addition, there are a variety of different sources of funding available for unpaid and paid placements and we have a funding page which outlines each of them.
7. They can start anytime between second and third year, or before your course ends if you’re on a postgraduate degree – you have to be on a sandwich / work experience degree
If you’re an undergraduate student on a 4-year degree, the placement year is usually in your third year (sometimes it’s in the fourth year if you’re on a 5-year degree). If you’re a postgraduate student, the placement year is usually your second year, before your dissertation. In both cases, placements can start when teaching has finished for the year and you've handed in all of your assignments. Placements should not be longer than your course end date (for postgraduates) and no longer than 12 months (for postgraduate international students), or your final year induction week (for undergraduates). If you are an undergraduate student, the latest you would be able to start a placement during your placement year is usually up until the end of Semester 1 of your placement year, but placements should always start as early as possible; if you are a postgraduate student, your placement should start as soon as possible after your taught studies and any University vacation periods. If you are a student studying with us on a Student visa, there are additional things you must consider and these are in our International students on Student visas page.
8. You need a supervisor, even if you’re working for yourself
You will be supervised by an academic member of staff while you are on your placement year and you will also need a line manager (or equivalent, if you’re setting up your own business) to supervise your day-to-day work. Make sure you know who your supervisor is at the employer you work for! If you’re working for yourself on our ‘Work for yourself placement year’ scheme – we’ve got that covered for you. Exploring whether ‘working for yourself’ might work for your placement? Chat to the Enterprise team.
9. You’re still a student, and there’s still work to do!
The placement year counts as a year of your degree, so that means you will need to enrol on your placement year (usually in August, or January for some courses). This maintains your ‘student status’ for a year and gives you access to the support and resources that come with it, e.g. those mentioned on the funding page. The placement year tuition fee is significantly lower than a standard teaching year (£1,200 for undergraduate students or included in the course costs for postgraduates). Naturally, being a student still means there is still ‘uni work’ to do, set by your Placement Academic Adviser (or equivalent) and by doing so you will be eligible for the Applied Professional Diploma, if this is available on your course.
10. Your placement needs to be formally approved, and there’s a deadline!
Finally, as placements are an integrated and assessed part of your degree, they need to be formally approved before you start. This approval also makes them legal in some cases, e.g. if you’re being sponsored on a Student Visa. The best time to get your placement approved is immediately after you have a job offer from a placement. You must inform the University you have a placement before these dates, whichever is the earliest that’s relevant to you:
- 31 July – for all Undergraduate courses; or
- One calendar month before your placement is due to start – whichever comes first.
The very final date to let us know is the week before your final year induction week – we will ask you for an update in June to see if you need more time beyond the 31 July date, otherwise you will be transferred to the full-time version of your course. You must contact the Work Experience Team if you don’t have a placement secured by then and you want to continue looking for a placement.
- The deadline set by your course team (e.g. May); or
- 31 July – for all courses that started in September; or
- 30 November – for all courses that started in January; or
- One calendar month before your dissertation deadline, or module (if applicable); or
- One calendar month before your placement is due to start – whichever comes first.
The very final date to let us know is set by your course team, this is usually your dissertation submission deadline, or when your dissertation module is due to start. Otherwise, you will need to submit your dissertation and your course will come to an end.
Any requests to approve a placement after these dates are by exception only.
If you’re worried a placement might not be approved at all or not approved in time, feel free to get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org