Work experience helps students gain valuable experience to prove their suitability for vocational degrees, as well as transferable skills for all UCAS applications.
The following courses will expect to see evidence of work experience on university applications, but even if a student is applying for a course not listed here, it will enhance their application.
For courses such as nursing, midwifery, physiotherapy, occupational therapy, and healthcare science, universities look for evidence of work experience or voluntary work in a health or social care setting. They may even ask for experience in more than one setting, so applicants understand the scope of the role.
It is equally important that students use their work experience as a means of checking that a caring job is right for them, so encourage them to reflect on this before submitting an application.
In addition, applicants have to demonstrate that they share the values and behaviours of the NHS Constitution. Work experience is the best way to provide evidence of these values for a UCAS application.
NHS Trusts offer a limited number of placements in their local hospitals (search individual NHS Trust websites for these) – but they stress that this experience does not involve giving direct patient care.
Remember that there are many settings where students can get general care experience or develop communication skills, all of which will be useful to them. Think about placements at:
- nursing or residential homes
- mental health units
- charities that help people with physical or learning disabilities
When applying for a medicine degree, universities look for work experience that demonstrates:
- self-motivation and resilience
- ability to reflect on and learn from life experiences
- ability to communicate and interact effectively with others
- an understanding of the values of the NHS Constitution.
Again, be creative and open-minded when searching for placements. Universities stress that these experiences do not necessarily have to come from health and social care settings. General care experience can be more valuable than just observing in a hospital or GP surgery.
For teaching degrees, universities often ask for 10 days or more experience in a school. This is often easier to set up in a school that students, or their siblings, attended – so start by applying to any schools where they already have contacts.
Get into Teaching offers a School Experience Programme where students can use a freephone number to enquire about possible local placements. The website also provides useful information on arranging placements.
Any experience gained with children and young people will be useful, so talk to students about volunteering in youth clubs or within a scout or guide group, too.
It's likely that universities will expect applicants to have some direct experience of working in social care for social work degrees.
This experience does not have to be gained in a local authority social services department. The British Association of Social Workers suggests this can be gained in youth clubs, advice services and voluntary agencies.
For work experience involving contact with children or vulnerable adults, students may need a Disclosure and Barring Service (DBS) check and should leave ample time to arrange this.
Some degrees that lead to being qualified for a profession or specific area of work — such as accountancy, architecture, civil engineering, media production and town and country planning — may also expect students to have work experience.
For these, universities like to see applicants who have had some experience that demonstrates their interest in and suitability for a specific career. They may also look for commercial awareness - some understanding of how a business or profession operates on a daily basis and the reality of what it may be like to work in their chosen career.
Work experience helps students improve many key transferable skills. Universities will be looking for the following skills in all potential degree students:
- organisational skills
- communication skills
- problem-solving, analytical skills, and critical thinking
These are skills that can be gained from most types of work experience, such as shop, bar and restaurant work, and should not to be undervalued by your students! So talk through all their work experience – both related and unrelated to their field of study.