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Placements/internship opportunities in science and research

How to get science and research work experience

When it comes to applying for a graduate job in science and research – or for a postgraduate degree – work experience in a laboratory will improve your chances of success.

You can gain scientific work experience in a number of different industries, including:

  • chemical and pharmaceutical companies
  • universities
  • hospitals
  • research institutes
  • biotechnology companies
  • food and drink manufacturers

Internships and placement years in industry

If you would like to do some work experience in industry then you should look for summer internships, which usually last between six and ten weeks during the summer holiday, or sandwich placements, which involve spending a year in industry as part of your degree.

Many large companies recruit summer interns and placement students annually. These include:

  • AstraZeneca
  • Bayer
  • GlaxoSmithKline
  • Novartis
  • Pfizer
  • Reckitt Benckiser
  • Unilever

Work experience with SMEs

There are also lots of smaller science companies and laboratories that may be able to offer you some work experience. There are over 100 science parks across the UK that are home to a number of science employers, for example.

University departments and careers services often have connections with small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) in the local area and may be able to put you in contact with them. You can also do your own independent research to find potential employers.

While some SMEs may formally advertise for placement students, others won’t; you will need to submit a speculative application in these cases.

Science work experience overseas

If you’d like to combine your work experience with living and working abroad, there are plenty of opportunities to do so in the science industry. The larger employers are usually international and, as a placement student with them, you could be based anywhere in the world, from Austria to Canada. Where you are placed, though, will depend on the employer’s requirements.

If you’re determined to complete a work placement outside of the UK, you could also look into SMEs that are based overseas and whether they offer summer internships or placement years. Like in the UK, though, these opportunities may not be advertised, so you’ll need to apply speculatively.

Scientific research experience

If you’re considering a PhD or a career in research, you can seek out work in a research laboratory during the summer holiday (often called undergraduate studentships). The most obvious location for this is the university where you are currently studying, although you can approach a different university or research institution.

These opportunities aren’t usually advertised; you’ll need to find a research placement on your own. Start by approaching your tutor or another member of academic staff whose research interests you and asking if they’d be happy for you to assist on their project during the summer.

Research work during the summer is usually unpaid, but some students will be able to secure funding. A number of organisations (such as the Royal Society of Biology) offer bursaries. These bursaries are often targeted at specific research areas, so you’ll need to find one that fits your project. You’ll also need to find a willing supervisor before you seek financial support, as they are usually required to apply for the bursary, not you.