What is work experience?

Internships

As internships become increasingly popular in the UK, the term is used more flexibly, but normally, internships are fairly structured, formal work placements.  They are far more common in larger companies with a significant annual graduate intake.  Firms often use them as an extended interview process to spot future graduate recruits, so interns may have opportunities to work on real projects and gain a good insight into the firm and role. 

Internships are normally aimed at current students and often take place during summer vacations for a set period, often 6 - 12 weeks long. Positions are normally paid, except in some charitable and political organisations. Hour are normally full time, although some opportunities to work part time during term time may arise.

Where do I look?

Internship are normally advertised and for formal summer schemes in financial services or consulting firms, application deadlines can fall as early as the preceding December. 

  • Looking at the specific internships page for the sector you are considering for detailed advice, application deadlines and interview information
  • The Internships timeline (pdf) provides an approximate overview of when applications take place per industry sector
  • Look out for the Internships fair, which takes place every November on campus
  • LSE CareerHub is regularly updated with internships - particularly from smaller and niche companies
  • Collect the free, take-away brochures from LSE Careers in the resource centre on the 5th floor of the Saw Swee Hock Student Centre for lists of firms with schemes and information about their application procedures
  • InternJobs - hosts hundreds of internship advertisements globally and a list of employer profiles from past advertisers

Work experience

Work experience is a far more flexible term but normally refers to some form of temporary work placement within a company where you will work on junior-level tasks for the purpose of gaining experience and insight into the industry.  The work can vary hugely, from making the tea to offering administrative support or working on projects.  If you prepare well and are proactive, you may be able to make shape the placement to suit you and gain fantastic insight into an industry or role and a set of valuable contacts for the future.   

Work experience is far more common in smaller firms, charities, media, marketing and PR (where it's the accepted first step on the ladder).  Placements are often a short-term, lasting from several days to several weeks, but work is normally full time. 

UK law states that employers must pay the national minimum wage for any work undertaken by students that is not part of your course of study.  However, the line between voluntary placements, which can be unpaid, and work experience can be difficult to define.  If you are in doubt, contact the Careers Service for further advice. 

Where do I look?

Work experience opportunities are seldom advertised; you will need to create a placement for yourself through well targeted, speculative applications and persistence.

  • Read more about making speculative applications
  • Look at the specific internships page for the sector you are considering for detailed advice, application deadlines and interview information.
  • Make good use of your network to find out if they can suggest possible leads

More types of work experience

Summer jobs

Casual, paid work during the summer vacation - see the summer jobs| page for inspiration and look on LSE CareerHub| for summer opportunities.

Part-time jobs

Paid work for up to 15 hours per week during term-time, which can sometimes continue over the holidays. Look at part-time jobs| for ideas and lots of links

Work shadowing

A day or more observing a person in their role to gain real insight into the work. These positions are unpaid and unadvertised, so you'll need to create the opportunity by approaching someone directly - see speculative applications| for some ideas.

Industry placements (sandwich placements)

A year long placement in industry during your degree.  Some universities have sandwich courses where students have to take a placement as part of their study, but no programme at LSE currently offers this.  Each LSE department may have different policies on whether students can take a year out so check with your department first.

Volunteering

Working with a charity or organisation on a voluntary, unpaid basis. Voluntary positions can vary widely, but the LSE Volunteer Centre advertises a range of opportunities and offers advice on how to find a position and how to use the experience to develop employable skills. 

  • Our Volunteer Centre pages are the best place to start
  • We have a volunteering fair every Michaelmas term - watch out for adverts           
  • LSE CareerHub is regularly updated with opportunities for volunteering
  • Our Volunteer Centre Co-ordinator has regular appointments during term if you need advice. Log into CareerHub to book a volunteering appointment.
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