Placement Year Application Recipe

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Shopping List

  • >70% first year mark
  • Strong lab skills
  • Basic understanding of the sector you are applying to
  • Short-term career planning


  1. A rough idea of something related to your degree, that you would enjoy doing for a whole year
  2. Knowing what is definitely not for you
  3. A CV that precisely describes your education and interests
  4. Interview skills development en route – but make a start here
  5. (Optional) Relevant work experience
  6. (Would recommend adding) Lots of student club or other extra curricular engagement as this makes you stand out
  7. A pinch of luck!


Outline of my degree structure

Year 1: Study in Birmingham – the MSci/BSc course with additional training sessions.

Year 2: Study in Birmingham – placement applications made during this year!

Year 3: Placement year with distance learning.

Year 4: Chosen Master’s research project in Birmingham.

Successfully completing a placement during a degree programme can be extremely beneficial to both personal development and employability as an individual.

  • To start with, towards the end of first year, the School of Chemistry Industrial Course Leader arranges skills workshops and one-to-one meetings.
  • Next, it is a good idea to start practising writing online application forms, preparing examples and cover letters.
  • Add a little extra support from the university careers network, which provides extensive guidance on the application process, including CV drop-in clinics, which I went to a lot, one-to-one appointments and online mock interviews. Also, going through the very first few CV drafts with experienced academics really gives you a better idea of what the HR department is looking for during the first few stages.
  • Then, you will need to keep an eye out for placement opportunities. The first position I applied to was due on 6th October, so fairly early in the year. But don’t worry if the first one you are interested in isn’t open till late as the application process can indeed spread over the whole academic year.
  • Once you’ve submitted an application, it usually takes 2-4 weeks for the company to reply if you are successful in proceeding to the next stage, which is often a telephone interview.
  • The whole application process can vary and in addition to submitting an online application form, CV and cover letter and telephone/skype interviews, there may also be assessment centre days, which include group exercises and personal/technical interviews. Depending on the size of the company, the application process can be as simple as just a face-to-face interview with your future line manager (takes about a month), or as complicated as the full process as mentioned above (varies between 1-2 months).
  • Throughout the process, I would definitely recommend going to all office hours held by your industrial advisor, particularly before interviews or assessment days, in order to help you prepare.
  • Finally, always bear in mind that job applications are not going to be easy and there are many factors affecting your interview outcome so always ask for feedback – emailing the early careers team politely cannot hurt. Looking back on the “mistakes” you might have made will help you improve on it next time!
  • Repeat for all placement opportunities you are interested in!

I highly recommend doing a placement year during your degree as you gain invaluable experience both during the application and as a test run for your dream job. I have developed my communication, teamwork, public speaking and problem-solving skills, which are all crucial to any job application for graduate scheme roles, etc. I felt I have become more vocal and confident dealing with things, either academic group studies or even getting my deposit back for my student house in Selly Oak!

I can say with great confidence that the day I received my job offer was the best day of my second year. Now I am about to start my organic chemistry placement in August and I am super excited for all the upcoming challenges.

By Seraphim Leng, MSci Chemistry with Year in Industry