Mechanical engineering internships and placement years
While completing a mechanical engineering degree is an impressive feat in itself, when it comes to applying for jobs, engineering employers will be even be more impressed if you’ve got yourself some work experience.
The good news is that many employers offer paid work experience opportunities for engineering students. The two main types of work experience offered are:
- Placement years. Sometimes also referred to as industrial placements, these are largely aimed at penultimate-year students and are the gold standard of engineering work experience. Some degrees include a year in industry but, if your degree doesn’t, it doesn’t mean you can’t do one. Ask your university department if it would be possible to take a year out.
- Summer internships. These typically last between six and ten weeks and are usually run between your penultimate and final year at university.
It can be easier to secure these opportunities in your second and third year of university, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek out work experience in your first year. Some employers will accept applications from first-year students for their internship programmes and some offer insight weeks specifically for first-year students.
Read our beginner’s guide to engineering work experience for more information and advice.
Which engineering employers offer work experience?
Large employers will typically start advertising their internship and placement year vacancies from September onwards. Browse the listings on this page to see who is currently hiring for interns and placement students and take a look at our extensive list of employers who offer engineering internships and industrial placements.
Smaller employers tend not to advertise their opportunities as much so try hunting around on their websites and applying speculatively. You can use our advice on discovering hidden internships and speculative applications to guide you.
Your university careers service, lecturers and placement officers are all good ports of call, too. They have often close links with employers in the local area and may be able to point you in their direction.
Applying for mechanical engineering internships
The application process for work experience is usually very similar to those for graduate jobs. You could be asked to complete some – or all – of the following:
- an online application (this may involve attaching a CV and covering letter)
- psychometric tests
- games-based assessments
- a telephone or video interview
- an assessment centre
- a technical interview
Will an internship or industrial placement lead to a graduate job?
Many engineering employers like to offer graduate jobs to placement students and interns who performed well during their time at the company. Some employers offer their interns a permanent job outright and others fast-track you through the recruitment process for the graduate scheme (for example allowing you to skip the application stage). Some employers may even sponsor you for the remainder of your degree.
Other ways to develop the skills that mechanical engineers need
If you don’t want to do an internship or placement year, haven’t been able to secure one or are in your first year, you could do one or more of the following instead:
attend insight days and weeks with engineering employers
spend a day shadowing an engineer
complete a week or two of unpaid work experience
create your own projects
learn a new programming language
You should also look out for any engineering-related competitions or events. The Institute of Mechanical Engineers’ Formula Student competition, for example, invites teams of students to produce a prototype for a single-seat racing car
If you’re a female mechanical engineering student, consider applying to attend the TARGETjobs Future Female Engineers networking event. You will meet a number of engineering companies, who will all receive a copy of your CV, and you’ll take part in skills sessions and team challenges.
Don’t discount your non-engineering experience either, whether that’s a part-time job, involvement in sports and university societies, volunteering or travelling. All of these experiences will help you develop the skills that engineering recruiters look for in their graduate hires.
Get more inspiration by reading our article on how to spend your summer if you can’t find an engineering internship.