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What is a placement year?

Watch this video from the University of Surrey to gain an understanding of what a placement year is, and the opportunities it can offer.
I always wanted a challenging placement. I didn’t want it to be easy. BMW is a blue chip company, and I thought, oh, that’s going to be a good one. It’s not every day you get a chance to work for a company like this. The last game I ever played was probably Pokemon.
It was when the Nintendo DS originally came out, and I got the first version. And yeah, that was basically all I played. Video games inherently are fun. It’s really nice that what you’re selling is what people go to switch off and relax and just bring some fun into their life. When I was accepted, I was elated. Sophie, we’d really like you for the job, and I was like, oh, thank you so much! The relationship between the university and the brand is very important. Knowing that Surrey had this relationship with BMW was– wow, they’ve got good relationships with places you want to get to. So you definitely pick your university based on the relationships they have with companies.
Having that reputation is definitely something that stands you in good stead.
So what I specifically do is I work with retailers– Amazon, Argos, Tesco, and Asda– to make sure that they have everything that they need to actually execute the launch of these titles. And you’re selling a fun product, so you can do all sorts of fun, quirky things with them. And when we launched Star Wars battlefront two, I designed up loads of massive window vinyls for Tescos It was so cool just being able to walk into a store and actually going, I actually did that. You don’t have to be a gamer to work here, which I think is really important. So everyone’s got quite a good understanding of why people love them.
People assume that because we work here, we live and breathe our games, that everyone here is a gamer. And it’s actually really important to have a rounded perspective. So Anthem’s coming out next year, for example. So it’s important to have those non gamers there in the room so that we can go, if we were to try and get you to play our game, what would we have to do? I think BMW really offered me the opportunities that I wanted from the placement. I’ve got to go abroad. I’ve got to organise my own events. I’ve had a fantastic time, and there’s also other experiences that we can use here. So we do training courses.
I’ve done three this year, which I’m really excited about. I’ve done one on emotional intelligence. I’ve done one on assertiveness and developing myself. So there’s a lot of opportunities, especially a big company to personalise the experience. I think EA’s quite different because although it’s a massive international corporation, it doesn’t feel corporate when you work here. I think what really matters is what fits for you. I’m a lot more comfortable with being assertive and realising that being assertive isn’t being difficult or being aggressive. It’s just making sure that you have all the tools to actually do your job. I don’t think I would have learnt that if I had done this placement here.
I now know that the motor industry isn’t necessarily for me, but events is definitely something I want to stick with. If I hadn’t done this placement here, I wouldn’t know that. I think seeing the placement list before you apply to university is definitely something that swayed me, at least. I would really say get in there early. And it felt great to have the security that early on in the year. And if you’re thinking about doing it, but you’re not sure, I would say do it, because you’ve got absolutely nothing to lose, but you have absolutely everything to gain. So definitely go for it if you’re not sure.

Many courses at university give you the opportunity to undertake a placement year, usually between Years 2 and 3 of your study, when you spend between 10 and 12 months in paid work.

Often called a year in industry or, as at the University of Surrey, a Professional Training Year, doing a placement gives you the opportunity to develop your professional, academic and personal potential. Students who do placements are more adaptable, resilient, globally minded, confident, entrepreneurial and digitally savvy in the workplace.

A placement gives you opportunities to gain confidence, maturity and knowledge, find a focus for your final year of study, test out a career path, discover new professional possibilities, become an industry-ready individual, network, and increase your employability potential.

Last but not least, placement experience is widely valued by employers. Statistics show better outcomes for placement students, both in terms of the mark of the final degree and in terms of the jobs they go on to do (Taylor and Hooley, 2014).


Taylor. A. R. and Hooley, T. (2014) ‘Evaluating the impact of career management skills module and internship programme within a university business school’, British Journal of Guidance & Counselling, 42(5), pp. 487–499.

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