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Internships for chemical engineers

Chemical/process engineering internships and placement years

It’s always a good idea to complete some work experience in the career you want to enter. The good news is that many employers advertise formal work experience opportunities for chemical engineering students. You can choose between taking a year out from university and completing a placement year (also called an industrial placement or year in industry) or doing an internship during the summer vacation.

These opportunities are usually aimed at second- and penultimate-year students, although this isn’t always the case. Read our beginner’s guide to engineering work experience for more information and advice.

Which engineering employers offer work experience?

The big engineering employers will usually begin hiring for their internship and placement year vacancies in September each year. Take a look at the listings on this page to see who is currently advertising intern and placement opportunities. We’ve also put together a list of engineering employers who offer either one or both of these types of work experience.

There are plenty of smaller employers that you could get some experience with. These companies may not advertise formal opportunities so try looking on their websites and applying speculatively. Take a look at our article on the art of speculative applications for help with this.

Your lecturers, placement officers and university careers service may also have connections with engineering employers in the local area, so it’s worth talking to them too to see if they can help.

Applying for chemical or process engineering internships

The recruitment process for an internship or graduate scheme is often identical to the process used for an employer’s graduate scheme. So, even if nothing else comes of your application, it will at least be great practice ready for applying for engineering graduate jobs.

As well as the initial online application or CV and covering letter, you may be invited to complete:

Will an internship or industrial placement lead to a graduate job?

It’s possible to secure a graduate job off the back of an internship or placement year, although there is no guarantee that this will happen. It depends on your employer and your performance during your time with them. It is common, though, for employers to hire students who impressed them.

Some employers may offer you a job outright, while others will fast-track you through the graduate application process, for example by putting you straight through to the final stage – the assessment centre – without needing to complete the other stages. The employer may also offer to sponsor you during the rest of your time at university, which typically includes some form of financial support.

Other ways to develop the skills that chemical and process engineers need

If you haven’t been able to secure a chemical engineering placement year or summer internship, there are plenty of other ways to gain the skills that engineering recruiters are looking for.

If you want to do something else within the engineering industry, you could consider:

  • applying for internships in a different area of engineering
  • completing a week or two of work experience with a local engineering employer
  • creating your own project
  • learning a new programming language

You can also join the Institution of Chemical Engineers as a student member. Look out for any competitions or events that you could get involved with.

If you’re a female chemical engineering student, don’t miss our Future Female Engineers networking event. You will: meet a mixture of engineering recruiters, senior female engineers and students in the same position as you; get exclusive application tips; and potentially even get a job with one of the employers attending the event.

Equally, don’t dismiss your extracurricular activities as irrelevant. Recruiters will be impressed by your wider interests and activities, including membership of sports clubs and societies, part-time jobs, volunteering and travelling. For more ideas, have a read of our article on how to spend your summer if you can’t find an engineering internship.