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Placements/internship opportunities in engineering

How to get engineering work experience

Work experience is a great way to increase your chances of getting a graduate job – and find out whether you’d enjoy working in that industry. Some engineering students aim to complete work experience in a number of sectors to help them decide which one to pursue a full-time job in.

The industries you can ‘try out’ include:

  • aerospace
  • automotive
  • chemicals
  • construction
  • defence
  • electronics
  • energy
  • fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG
  • marine
  • materials and metals
  • pharmaceuticals
  • rail
  • telecoms
  • utilities
For an idea of the specific companies you could apply to, browse our list of some of the engineering employers that offer work experience to university students.

Engineering internships, placements and insight days

The type of work experience you seek out will also depend on how long you want to spend with an employer. Starting with the lengthiest work experience stint, your options include:

  • placement years – also known as an industrial placement or sandwich year and offered by both large, well known engineering companies and small and medium-sized enterprises.
  • summer internships – these typically last between six and eight weeks and are also offered by engineering companies of all sizes.
  • one or two weeks’ work experience – you’re more likely to find these with local, smaller companies and you may need to apply speculatively to ask if a company could provide you with this opportunity.
  • insight days and weeks – a handful of engineering employers, such as Mace, run these and they’re typically for first- and second-years.
  • work shadowing – this involves observing an engineer for a day and you’re most likely to arrange it with somebody you already know, such as a family member, neighbour or friend.
Head to our beginner’s guide to engineering work experience for more information.

Work experience for first-year engineering students

Engineering students in the first year of their degree are increasingly tracking down work experience. This proactive approach is not to be sniffed at: starting early gives you the chance to explore as many options as possible and will result in a jam-packed CV by the time you graduate.

It’s likely that you’ll start small. Industrial placements tend to be advertised for penultimate-year students and it’s often the same for summer internships. However, some employers allow you to apply for their summer internships whatever year you are in, so don’t automatically rule out a summer internship.

Opportunities that you should actively seek out in your first year, though, are insight days and weeks, work shadowing and one or two weeks’ work experience. These are all solid introductions to the engineering industry – and they’ll help you secure a longer placement when the time comes.

Alternative experiences that engineering employers like

You can also boost your employability through activities that have nothing to do with engineering. This is because engineering employers are looking for engineers who also possess vital soft skills, including teamwork and communication, which are often developed through experiences such as part-time jobs, volunteering and travelling.

Find out what other non-engineering activities will help you pick up the skills and experience you need.