Placements and internships are two forms of work experience that you can do while you’re a student ahead of a full-time career. Both of these can be useful ways to help you figure out what you want to do in the future and give you really good insight into possible future jobs. Therefore, it’s a good idea to figure out which one you would like to do first before you start looking for potential options. Although they’re sometimes used interchangeably, understanding what the difference between an internship and a placement is can help you decide which works best with your availability, type of role and more.

What is an internship?

What's the difference between an internship and a placement
Source: LinkedIn

So, what is an internship? An internship is a form of work experience that students take for a limited period of time, usually somewhere between a month and four months. This is done to gain experience in a specific field of work or to satisfy any requirements for a specific qualification. It was a term that was initially solely for medical students, but it has expanded to include a wide range of fields.

What is a placement?

work experience placements in different sectors

Now, what is a placement? Similar to an internship, a placement is a type of work experience, but it is a more extended form, lasting for around a year (typically). This will mean that you will (technically) spend an extra year at university, making your three-year degree into four, four into five, and so on. This allows you to experience working full-time in a company, gaining skills and making connections that could potentially lead to a full-time job post-graduation. 

What’s the difference between an internship and a work placement?

difference between an internship and placement

So, now you know what an internship and a placement is, what is the main difference between them? Well, there are actually a few. One of the key differences is that an internship usually takes place during the summer or after graduation, while a placement takes place during your degree. Although, you can technically do an internship during your degree – find out more in our guide about doing internships while studying. Also, placements typically last around 12 months, while internships tend to last between one month and four months. Placements are also essentially full-time jobs, meaning you are paid as an employee of the company, while internships can sometimes be unpaid. 

Overall, the key differences between an internship and placement surround:

  • when you do them
  • how long they last
  • whether you get paid

Where can you get them?

internships and placements at university
Source: University of Nottingham

Well, you can get them pretty much anywhere. In terms of places to start, company websites and job sites like Indeed or LinkedIn are a great place to start. If you know that you want to go for a placement, then your university careers team will have many resources to help you find your perfect placement. If you know that you want an internship, again, your university careers team will also be able to help you. But, you can also check out our numerous guides to finding and applying to internships in a wide range of sectors right here at Unifresher. 

Should you do an internship or a placement?

So, should you do an internship or a placement? Well, that depends on what you want to do! If you’re unsure of what exactly you want to do as a job, an internship can allow you to gain some experience in a field that can be transferable if you realise that sector is not for you. But, if you know exactly what you want to do after graduation, a placement year may be more suitable. It completely depends on you and what you want to do in your career. 

So, to answer the question, what is the difference between an internship and a placement? Well, there are many differences in terms of time spent or payment. But, simply, one may be more suitable for you and your career plans than the other. So, make sure you do some research and decide which one makes more sense for you and your career plans first. 

If you’re looking for a job alongside your studies, there are plenty of freelance jobs available for students. Check out this article for some of the best freelance jobs for students.