Ways to get work experience

There are lots of different ways to try out different careers to see whether they’re right for you. Use work experience to show employers what you can do.

Work experience explained

Work experience is time spent in a workplace learning about a job role, a company or a career sector.

Most work experience is unpaid though there are some types of opportunities where you can earn money.

Companies are starting to develop ‘virtual’ placements, where you work remotely using digital technology, without having to go in to the workplace.

Work experience is not just for young people. It can be useful for career changers and people looking to get back into work. It can help you to gain skills and decide what to do.

Benefits of work experience

Doing work experience gives you the chance to:

  • try out your career ideas
  • find out more about what’s involved in a job and see if it’s for you
  • learn new skills or build on those you already have
  • meet new people and grow your network of contacts
  • boost your confidence
  • get back into a work routine if you’ve been out of work for a while
  • show employers what you can do so they consider you when a job is available
  • identify any reasonable adjustments you need because of a disability or long-term health condition

Types of work experience

There are lots of different ways to get work experience. Some might be more useful or only available at certain points in your education or career. They include:

School or college work experience placement

Usually 1 or 2 weeks in year 10, 11 or 12. School or college staff may help to organise it or you might have to fix it up yourself.

Placements on work-related courses

Courses like T-Levels, BTECs and some degrees include work experience as part of the course. It might be one day a week over a few months or full time for a few weeks. You may have a placement officer or tutor who can help you to find work experience during your course.

A traineeship

traineeship is a course with work experience that gets you ready for work or an apprenticeship. It can last up to 12 months.

Work shadowing

A chance to watch someone doing a job for a day or a few days. You could do this to find out about a new job. If you’re in a job, you could use it to explore opportunities for personal development or promotion within your company. It gives you an idea of what might be involved in a job rather than hands-on experience.


Paid periods of work experience lasting around 2 to 3 months in the summer. Mostly aimed at undergraduates and newly qualified graduates with some opportunities for school leavers. You can get information from your university careers service. There may be internship schemes dedicated to students at your university.

Year placements

This is a paid year in the workplace as part of a higher education course. You apply for these in the same way as graduate jobs. University careers services can help you to find opportunities relevant to your course.

Insight events

Usually organised by companies or careers organisations -you spend a day or a few days finding out about a specific sector such as finance, law or IT. It could include networking, career presentations and hands-on activities.

Gap year and year abroad experience

Gap year and work abroad experiences can be organised by commercial organisations and charities or something that you set up for yourself.

Virtual work experience

Sites like Accenture’s Skills to Succeed Academy and Barclays Lifeskills can help you to develop skills to deal with situations in the workplace, without having to go out on a placement. FutureLearn has a virtual work experience course for exploring the work of a vet. You can search online for other online work experience, virtual internships and insight-into-work opportunities.

Other ways to get work experience

There are other useful ways of gaining work experience, like:

  • volunteering
  • part-time jobs
  • going to company events, real and virtual and open days
  • helping friends or family with a business
  • setting up your own small business
  • entering competitions and skill challenges like World Skills

Next steps

For more information and help with work experience, take a look at our advice on how:

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