Internships vs Placements: What’s the difference?

Wondering what the difference between an internship and placement is? Both internships and placements are a great way to sharpen your skills, build industry knowledge and gain experience in the world of work. And guess what? You will stand out from the crowd significantly increasing your chances of getting onto a grad job or scheme!  

Placements, internships, and insights programmes are the three primary forms of work experience provided for undergraduates. Insight programmes are designed to do just that, give you insights into the busines through a short programme. Placements and internships are the most comprehensive work experience options for students. The two programmes are frequently confused. But don’t panic! We’re here to give you the lowdown on the differences between the two, what to expect and where to get them.


Placements are sometimes referred to as sandwich placements, industrial placements, placement years, and years in industry. There are many names, but they are all the same thing. A placement is a one-year programme that occurs between a student’s penultimate and degree-granting year.

Candidates defer their degree for a year and spend that period working full-time for a firm. They then go back to university upon completion to finish their degree.

A placement is often a chosen component of a student’s degree programme. In certain circumstances, it’s a requirement for the course. Most students who decide to take a year out from university to complete a placement do so in order to gain professional experience, knowledge and skills. 

Key info

Who they are for: 2nd years (or 3rd years if it’s a 4 year course)

Duration: 6-12 months

When to apply: Sept-May


Because internships are typically held over the summer, they are also referred to as summer internships. They may last from four weeks to four months and are used in nearly every sector.

Employers typically employ techniques like these to locate the brightest students and possible applicants for graduate programmes. This is one of the reasons why an internship can boost your chances of landing a graduate position after graduation. However, that is not the only reason why students participate in internships; they also provide an opportunity to get insights into a variety of various aspects of the professional world, such as:

  • Using high-tech software or equipment 
  • Learning all about a company culture and visions
  • The distinctions between working for a small, medium, and big firm

Key info

Who they are for: Available for all students

Duration: 1-4 months typically but they can last up to a full year

When to apply: Sept-March

The main differences between internships and placements

There are some big distinctions between internships and placements. Although both are sorts of undergraduate job experience, they are built up of different components. We’ve put together a list of ways you can distinguish between the two.

The duration

The obvious distinction is the duration of the programme. Placement students can work for a firm for up to a year, whereas internships can last anywhere from four weeks to four months. A placement year is a more intensive and time-consuming curriculum. You’ll be extending your degree by a year, which means you may graduate a year later than your peers.

When should I apply?

Many larger, worldwide organisations recruit all of their placement students before the new year, so it’s still a good idea to apply early. You can apply for placements throughout the majority of the academic year, which runs from September to May. 

However, if you haven’t found a job by then, don’t worry; there will still be opportunities available until May.

Internships are often held during the summer months, thus applications close early. Applications end in March, although, like with placements, it’s best to apply in September/October.

Be aware, not every university offers placements

It should be noted that not every university provides placements. More universities and higher education institutions are investing in placement programmes, but you should check with professors or the university’s careers department first.

Internships, on the other hand, can be held throughout the summer, outside of the academic year making them available to everyone.

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