Getting work experience before starting a degree
Many courses that you apply for will ask for relevant work experience, which can be a struggle to obtain especially when you’re still a student, and when you don’t know where to look.
I desperately want to apply for Graduate entry Medicine at Warwick for 2019 entry as Medicine has been my dream since I was 6, and started walking around the house with a plastic stethoscope.
However, with Medicine (as well as with other degree programmes) comes the need to prove to the admissions team that you not only have the academic qualities, but also have the relevant experience and skills required to apply. Warwick for example stipulate a minium of 70 hours of work experience as well as volunteering, which can be difficult to arrange if you don’t know where you’re meant to be looking .
Tips to get round this issue are:
- Speak to your careers advisor – They would have met thousands of applicants across a number of degree streams that people are interested in. This will be your first point of contact.
- Research the requirements across the institutions you are interested in – some will specifiy work experience and some may just say that work experience is preferred. If you’re not sure email the relevant universities and ask them what work experience or volunteering opportunities they believe would be the best to obtain.
- Talk to your teachers – Some of your teachers may have had experience from previous applicants in a similar boat, or they may even know someone that is studying that subject and could provide you with some contact information.
- Once you know where you’re looking, apply to as many places as possible. For Medicine for example, it’s extremelely difficult to find the work experience within a hospital environment, hence I have tried emailing as many GP surgeries locally as I can find. I’ve also applied for work experience in Sri Lanka as I’ll be there in the summer. This would give me the chance to look at Medicine from a rural/third world perspective. This is something that I have always been interested in as I naturally have a curiosity to see if the methods used over there will be the same as here such as the general diagnosis of a patient, if they use the same machinery over there. Perhabs even if they prefer treating illness using herbal remedies over medication.
- To gain the volunteering experience, you can always try asking in a hospice or a care home. The care and support you can offer them will give you skills that you may otherwise never need to apply.
Of course, what work experience is required will depend on your chosen degree. When I decided that I wanted to apply to Warwick for my Chemistry degree, I undertook a week’s worth of work experience within the undergraduate laboratories at Warwick University. The different professors, different practicals and the environment itself showed me that this is the degree I want to study at undergraduate level. I immediately fell in love with the place!
If you’re really not sure, try to find out if any of the universities that you are considering would offer something like this. Email them to find out if they don’t specify on their website. Some univerities also offer summer school programmes for sixth form especially and these are again highly recommended by me. Not only does this solidify your decision to study a particular degree, but also gives you the whole exposure to student life. This is where you can decide for yourself if you prefer a campus uni over a city uni, or if you want to live at home or not.
With some degrees it is harder to find this as work experience may not necessarily be something that expertise over within the field. If you’re applying for computer science, it would be really hard for you to get the right experience as companies may not readily offer this. However, this is where you’ll have to settle with something that is vaguely close to what you’re applying for.
Sometimes you’ll also have a passion for a particular subject, but may then at a later point that this isn’t the route you want to take as a career, which is also perfectly fine! Everything I have said is personal to me, and you may not agree with everything on here or question some of the points I’ve mentioned. Find what is right for you, and make sure the choice you have made is one you’re happy about.
Have a lovely week everyone!