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Commercial Placements – A Guide to Getting Started

At Newcastle University Business School, we refer to the placement year as a ‘commercial placement’. This is also known as an ‘industrial placement’, ‘year in industry’ or a ‘sandwich placement’. A commercial placement is usually a structured programme where you spend approximately 12 months (full academic year) working in an organisation, or two shorter placements (6 months each). The minimum duration of a placement is 9 months.

Students are briefed in Induction for Stage 2 about the commercial placement. The placement shall involve work in any approved business and may be within the UK or abroad. Students should be making the necessary preparations as early as possible in the Stage 2 academic year if they wish to undertake a commercial placement.

Placement students are classed as ‘intercalating’ and will pay £1000 in tuition fees for the placement year. In addition to being a full time employee, students will retain all the advantages of being a full-time student, including council tax exemption and access to all University IT systems.

Why do a placement?

The placement year is optional, but if taken it makes an important contribution to both your academic and personal development during your degree programme. It is situated after Stage 2, so that you have extended knowledge into areas specific for your degree programme and of relevance to your placement provider’s business, and before Stage 3, so that your approach to your Stage 3 studies can take advantage of the increased maturity, better time management and other personal skills and appreciation of your academic subject’s application gained while on placement.

An undergraduate placement aims to:

  • provide students with the experience of seeking and securing a position within an appropriate placement organisation
  • encourage self-appraisal and the ability to present themselves effectively to potential employers
  • provide a period of practical experience which will benefit the student’s academic study and longer term career
  • provide the opportunity to recognise and record the development of work place skills
  • facilitate personal development in a non-university setting
  • provide an additional foundation to enhance the learning experience at Stage 3

There is also much evidence to show that a placement can also lead to a higher degree classification. In 2015, 100% of Business School graduates who did a placement achieved either a 1st or 2:1. In 2016, this figure was 97.5%.

In a very competitive job market, work experience can provide you with:

  • valuable employability skills
  • commercial acumen
  • occupational awareness
  • practical examples to help you apply for graduate jobs successfully
  • a clearer idea about the job you want
  • networking opportunities and the chance to make useful contacts

Many employers will consider work experience as more important than your degree. Because the number of graduates has risen over recent years, employers are looking for students who can stand out from the crowd and offer something more than just an academic qualification.

A review of ‘The Graduate Market 2017’ by High Fliers Research reports that “over a third of recruiters warn that graduates who have had no previous work experience at all are unlikely to be successful during the selection process and have little or no chance of receiving a job offer for their organisations’ graduate programmes”. A number of recruiters commented that regardless of academic results that a graduate had received, it would be very hard for an applicant to demonstrate the skills and competencies that they were looking for if they’d not had any prior work experience at all.

For a future employer, work experience shows that a candidate is serious about their chosen career path, has invested time and energy in to pursuing it and joins the organisation ‘work ready’ with skills they can put to use from day one.

What type of work might I do?

The nature of work you undertake varies widely, depending on the placement. Many of our students undertake work in the fields of marketing, events management, finance, HR, operations, logistics, sales, management and retail. We would expect employers to provide work that is challenging, suitable for someone well on their way to graduate status and that allows the student to develop their employability skills (eg. team work, communication, commercial acumen). Read the student profiles to find out what some of our students have been doing. Some of the companies who have employed our students include:


Marks & Spencer Procter & Gamble


British Airways





Barbour L’Oréal


Many students work in large organisations, like those listed in the table above, but many students work for much smaller companies (SMEs) where the placement programme may not be as structured, but where the extra pair of hands certainly makes a difference. You may get involved in all aspects of the business rather than just one particular area. The size of the company you apply to depends on your own personal preference.

There are placements available in the North East; however these are limited and highly sought after so please do keep your options open – the more flexible you are about location, the more chance you have of securing a placement.

Will I be paid?

The vast majority of placements will be paid. The average salary of a placement year is £16,000 but this depends on the organisation and the location (salaries tend to be slightly lower in the North East than the South, for example, but living costs in the North East area are lower). As you are still registered as a student for the year, you are still eligible to apply for your student loan, although please note you will receive a reduced amount.

Some companies offer unpaid work placements. Those students who have done an unpaid placement have often reported that it can be difficult to stay motivated, so please consider it carefully as you will likely need the financial support of your family. Ensure it is a career path you are keen to get experience in (for example this is more common in industries such as advertising, music and fashion).

Is the placement year assessed?

All intercalating students on placement will be registered for 2 modules:

  1. Intercalating Year Personal Learning Record (100 credits)
    • Students are required to submit three pieces of work, of no less than 1,000 words each, over the course of their intercalating year. Each submission provides an opportunity to look back over the last few weeks or months and present a reflective summary of what has been going on in your life. All pieces of work will be submitted via Blackboard.
  2. Intercalating Year Reflective Learning Account (20 credits)
    • Towards the end of your intercalating year, students are required to submit a reflective account of no less than 2,000 words accompanied by a completed Graduate Skills Framework record. The aims of writing this reflective account are to enable you to evaluate and personalise the experiences and learning derived from your intercalating year and consider ways of developing strategies to further improve your personal learning and development.

These modules are assessed on a pass/fail basis but students must pass both modules in order to progress to the final year of their degree back in Newcastle.

Where will I find vacancies?

You will be the most successful in your search for a work placement if you are focussed and have a clear idea about what you want to do. The first thing to do is look on the Careers Service website and read the sections that are relevant to you in planning for your career. It is sensible to think about what you want to do as a graduate, and to seek work experience that is relevant and will help you achieve your goals:

Vacancies Online
When looking for a work placement, you should sign-up for the Newcastle University Careers Service ‘Vacancies Online’ website, which is where you will find hundreds of opportunities that are advertised by employers throughout the UK and overseas. You can set your search profile to receive email alerts to internships, placements and information that is relevant to you:

Rate My Placement / Target Jobs
Rate My Placement and Target Jobs are websites dedicated to providing advice and information to students searching for a placement. On Rate My Placement you will find hundreds of student placement reviews, which is very useful if you are considering applying to a particular organisation. Both of these websites advertise many placements and internships (12 month and short term/summer internships) and are a great source of information for students. The website addresses are and

You should like us on Facebook, by searching @nclbusinessplacements or NUBS Placements. Here you will find regular updates including exclusive internally advertised vacancies for Newcastle University Business School students, as well as any events which will be happening with regards to placement opportunities.

In order to see what our current placement students are getting up to on their placement year, follow our Instagram page @nubsplacements.

Student Blog
Within the student blog, there is a ‘Placements’ category where vacancies will be uploaded on a regular basis. These are vacancies that have come directly into the Business School from employers wanting to target Newcastle University Business School students. There will also be blogs from students who have done a placement, and details of upcoming employer presentations. Please visit the blog on a regular basis:

Placements Channel on Newcastle University App
On the Newcastle University App, there is a dedicated ‘Business School Placements’ channel accessible only to Stage Two Business School students. Vacancies advertised directly through the Business School will be uploaded onto this channel regularly. These vacancies are also available to view on the Student Blog. To access this channel you will need to make sure that the ‘Business School Placements’ channel is ticked in your Newcastle University app settings.

Hidden Jobs
A high percentage of vacancies are not advertised because employers can draw on a pool of CVs that have already been sent directly to them by motivated and focussed individuals who have written speculative letters. You can take the initiative to seek out the successful companies in an industry sector you would like to work in and approach them directly. You can also network and use your own personal contacts by letting your friends and family know you are seeking a placement.

Overseas Placements

An increasing number of students are interested in gaining international experience, particularly if wanting a career in a global organisation. A placement overseas can certainly be very rewarding, as you get the chance to develop your employability skills, experience a new culture, perhaps learn a new language and you may have the opportunity to travel and explore a new country.

Finding a placement is the responsibility of the student, and finding a placement abroad is not easy. The majority of Business School students who work overseas usually find their placement through their own connections. However, there are a number of online websites you can look at for further information. On the Newcastle University Careers Service website you will find information on working outside of the UK:

You can also find overseas placements at the following websites:

Prospects have a huge number of country profiles listed within their work experience section. Look at the country you are interested in for information about placements and where to look for jobs:

Searching for a placement abroad requires a lot of hard work and persistence, and please bear in mind the costs involved of working overseas (eg. Visa, travel).

At Newcastle University, we have a subscription to which gives our students access to the leading provider of country-specific and industry-specific career and employment information. With 16 million job vacancies and internships updated daily, students at Newcastle University have the opportunity to search the world for jobs. The software includes guides on anything from permits/visas, to living costs, to industry trends/areas of expertise in demand and even allows for job searches in a variety of languages. This unique opportunity means that our prospective placement students have a competitive advantage when it comes to applying for jobs around the globe.

Preparing for success

If you have decided to do a placement, your first port of call should be the Careers Service: The Careers Service is located in the King’s Gate Building on the ground floor. The website contains useful information, including career planning, CV writing and application forms, interview techniques and details of employers on campus. Lunchtime workshops on all of these skills are repeated regularly throughout the year so please look at the ‘Events’ section on the Careers Service website to find out which workshops are happening and when.

Your first requirement will be to put together a CV. To assist with this the Careers Service run a series of lunchtime workshops in which students are encouraged to attend to help prepare a CV and covering letter. You can also receive specific help and training in writing your CV on a one-to-one basis. You can drop in to the Careers Service anytime between 11:00 and 16:30 Monday to Friday and ask to see a CV Advisor who will check your CV for you.

You should make sure to check our social media and your emails for any updates regarding events taking place at the start of the year, such as our annual Career Development Week and Placement Fair.

Many companies will ask you to complete an online application and the Careers Service can also assist with this and check your answers over for you.

With any CV application you should:

  • make sure you pay attention to spelling and grammar (pet hate of any recruiter)
  • tailor your application to each company and position (do NOT just copy and paste)
  • make sure you don’t miss the deadline
  • make your application look professional

If successful you may be asked to attend an assessment centre. The process of attending an assessment centre can be very daunting so attending a mock assessment centre can take away some of the fears you may have and will help you prepare for the real thing. The Careers Service run mock assessment centres, and often employers will come onto campus to run these.

For any information about Careers, or to make an appointment with a Careers Advisor, please contact: or 0191 208 7748.

Barriers to finding a placement

There are some reasons why a student gives up on finding a placement, or decide outright not to do one, and research carried out by a Business School intern found that:

  • Some students are not willing to travel too far away from home leaving friends and family, while others are caught in long term accommodation contracts which makes taking a year out less appealing. If you are serious about finding a placement and recognise the significant benefits to undertaking one, then it is important to be flexible and make sure you do not sign up for next year’s accommodation too soon, which many students feel unnecessarily pressured into doing.
  • Some students do not realise the significance/benefits of carrying out a work placement and therefore decide not to undertake one, while others rule out the whole process due to the time it takes to make applications which they would rather dedicate to their studies. It is time consuming and does require a lot of effort but it is those students who have a positive attitude, who are determined and motivated, who will succeed. Just remember that all the effort is worth it when you graduate from University with a great degree, and a great range of employability skills on your CV, therefore significantly increasing your chances of getting the graduate job you want.
  • Due to the competitive job market some students may give up on the job search after a few rejections. However, by using the Careers Service and getting each application and CV checked over, the chances of being offered an interview are much higher.
  • Lack of preparation – in attending interviews and assessment centres. Interviewing is a learned skill so make sure you are as prepared as possible by reading all the available material to you, preparing for questions you may be asked, and attending practice interview sessions and mock assessment centres. Better preparation = higher rate of success!

What do I do when I find a placement?

If you get offered a placement – congratulations!

Please ensure that your Placement Employer provides you with a formal job offer letter, which should include salary details, place of work and start date. Please then email the Placement Officer, and you will be sent a copy of the Placement handbook and some forms to complete.

You will be expected to attend a presentation briefing prior to starting your placement, which will include important information about health and safety, the placement module and the contact you can expect from the Placement Officer during your placement year.

Other types of work experience

The focus of this guide is a one year commercial placement, however if you decide that a commercial placement is not for you, then we would recommend gaining work experience in other ways.

Newcastle Work Experience
Newcastle University Careers Service run a programme called Newcastle Work Experience (NWE) which offers paid work experience opportunities in local small and medium sized companies (SMEs) to bright and enterprising students.

The term-time programme is open to all Newcastle University students from any degree discipline. You will be required to undertake a total of 100 hours work over 3-4 months, fully flexible around your timetable.

The summer programme is open to all current or graduating Newcastle University students from any degree discipline. You will undertake a full-time placement over a 5 or 10 week period.

In addition to enhancing your employability, you will receive a training bursary: earn £700 for completion of a term-time placement and £2400 for a summer placement:

Global Experience Opportunity
Global Experience Opportunity (GEO) gives you the chance to boost your employability through an innovative programme of extracurricular activities and events. It introduces you to the international business community to help you gain the skills needed to succeed in global markets.

Through Global Experience Opportunity, we offer:

  • global study opportunities
  • business case competitions
  • global and regional internships

Find out more:

Volunteering is another way to develop your skills and enhance your CV. To find out more about voluntary work with Newcastle University please look at Go Volunteer which is run by the Students’ Union:

Read what past placement students have said

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