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Durham University

Careers & Enterprise Centre

The Benefits of Work Experience

Helps you to decide what you might want to do

Gaining work experience can confirm career aspirations or, just as usefully, help you to realise that the career that you thought was right for you, is perhaps not. One of the purposes of work experience is that it allows you to gain an insight into a career; you see the every day activity as well as the parts that you hear about in graduate recruitment presentations and read about on company websites and career guides. The right work experience enables you to see for yourself a snapshot of what working in that particular career could be like.

Allows you to put the theory about what you have learnt at University into practice

Often employers are happy for you to test our theories or ideas you have whilst you are working with them. Frequently students choose to base their dissertation or final year project around an initiative or project they have worked on whilst on placement. The support that the organisation can offer in this situation can be invaluable, whilst it allows the student the opportunity to see how something works first hand.

Gain extra knowledge that can apply to your course

Theoretical knowledge gained during your course is invaluable but can only go so far prepare you for working in the industry. By completing a period of work experience you gain first hand knowledge of what actually working in the industry is like and get the advantage of learning about new initiatives within the industry or sector.

Improve your chances of getting a higher degree result

Research has shown that students that have completed a placement or an internship are more likely to obtain a higher degree result. And with increasing competition for highly sought after graduate jobs, your degree classification is crucial.


A placement or internship provides you with a foot in the door and the opportunity to meet and network with people who can help you with your future career plans

Secure a graduate job early

Lots of organisations use periods of work experience as a recruitment tool. For most, the purpose having a student completing a period of work experience with them is not to benefit from cheap labour or someone to make the coffee. Increasingly, more and more organisations are using students working with them (particularly on placements or internships) as part of their recruitment strategy. Recruiters could be much more likely to employ a student they have seen ‘in action’ rather than one they have only met in an interview situation.

What graduate employers say about work experience

More than four-fifths of the country’s top graduate employers are offering paid work experience programmes for students and recent graduates during the 2017-2018 academic year

Three-quarters of employers provide paid vacation internships for penultimate year students and three-fifths offer course placements for undergraduates

More than a third of recruiters (said) that graduates who have had no previous work experience at all are unlikely to be successful during the selection processes for the top employers’ graduate programmes.

The Graduate Market in 2018, High Fliers