- For a number of vocational degrees it is essential that students have some relevant experience and that you write about this on your personal statement. For many courses, work experience could make the difference between getting an interview and instant rejection. It is therefore crucial that you arrange something before writing your personal statement. Listing experiences you hope to get is not enough.
Universities like students to have undertaken work experience for two main reasons:
- to demonstrate commitment to your career choice
- to prove you have chosen this career path fully informed and that you have seen it for what it really is
Generally subjects which require work experience are usually those where you are going to be working with people ie medical or care settings, very competitive courses in media, veterinary medicine, teaching and law.
Not everyone is able to find a placement in a hospital setting so you need to be creative. Care homes or hospices are just as good. Working half a day a week for a prolonged period in these environments show your commitment to caring as well as being able to interact with professionals who work in these settings. It maybe difficult to shadow a GP due to confidentiality but talk to them about their job and developments within the NHS. Above all a range of experience is the most impressive – just one week shadowing in a hospital is not enough.
You should aim to shadow and NHS and private dentist to see a range of procedures. Start with your own dentist and try to shadow for at least a week.
Nursing & Midwifery
Again care homes and hospices are ideal places. For Midwifery you need to spend at least one day on a maternity ward – being a midwife is not just about babies its actually about looking after the mothers.
Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy and other healthcare Careers
Physiotherapy continues to be one of the most competitive courses to apply for so getting work experience is essential. Most jobs are within the NHS so you should be aiming for experience there – even if you are aiming to work within the sports industry. Also, would be Occupational Therapists and other healthcare applicants should get some experience in a hospital or community setting.
With only 7 Vet Schools in the UK it is not enough to love animals – excellent students with extensive experience may still get rejected. You need to get as much experience as possible (ideally at least 6 weeks). You need to have a variety – small and large animal practices, helping out with lambing, visit to an abbatoir, work on a farm, safari parks, zoos – whatever you can get. Some of this may require a stay from home but it could make the difference to your application.
For primary courses its a good idea to have both upper and lower primary experience so you can explain why you have chosen a partiuclar age group. Summer play schemes are also a great way to get experience with children – contact your local council to find out when they take place.
When applying for these type of courses you are competing with students who may have worked for the college magazine, radio or TV you will also get applicants who have volunteered for hospital radio or their local newspaper. You must be proactive and find the opportunities where you can use your skills – its a tough industry to get into.
- Whilst shadowing a Barrister could be seen as the best work experience you need to show that you have experienced various roles within Law. Shadow a solicitor, make a visit to the local court. Use this time to find out exactly what is really involved and that you are aware of the many different fields within Law.
Now you have organised and done the work experience you need to present this information on your UCAS form and during the interview. To get the most out of the work experience keep a record of what you have done and what you learnt from it. You need to prove that you have extended your knowledge of the career through the work experience and remember if you have mentioned it on your personal statement they will expect you to talk more in depth about it during the interivew.
This is a great way to improve your skills, help others and try something new. Whatever you do it will look great on your CV/University application. Volunteers are people with motivation, dedication and the ability to work hard. Being a volunteer is fun! it will give you a sense of personal achievement, development and satisfaction. You will also gain ‘soft skills’ which employers value such as team work, communication, develop initiative, problem solving and time management.