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What employers think about sandwich courses and work experience

If you’re going to go to university – or even if you’re not – you’ll hear a lot about how important work experience is and how employers love it. Here’s why…

You can search for courses with work placements right here on Which? University. 

Employers and work placements 

The Graduate Market in 2013 report from High Fliers found that over half of high-profile graduate employers featured in the Times Top 100 employers offered formal industrial work experience for students as part of a university course, with six to twelve months work placements – (these are ‘sandwich courses’). Half offer work experience placements during vacations, and in total, four fifths of these well-known recruiters offer some form of work experience. 

More than half of these recruiters said they’d be unlikely to offer a job to a graduate without any work experience, no matter how good a graduate’s academic results or if they'd attended a 'top university'

In fact, the survey shows that some employers now expect to fill most of their vacancies using students who have done work experience with them in the past. More than half the vacancies at law firms and three quarters of those at investment banking firms interviewed were expected to go to work experience trainees.

Take a look at the High Fliers report for more examples.

What is a sandwich course?

Sandwich courses are a great way to study and gain work experience, or the opportunity to study abroad for a year. Courses are usually around four years in length with a work experience or study abroad placement in the third year. 

What employers think about sandwich courses

Work in some guise – even if that’s a Saturday job at a local garden centre - is obviously important. So should you take it one step further and take a sandwich degree, which combines three years of study with a year in work? We asked some graduate employers to tell us what they think:

These courses are a great way to balance education with work. The classroom experience then becomes more practical and learning comes to life.

Donna Miller | Enterprise Rent-a-car - European Hr Director

What employers think about work experience

It’s not just the big employers who like work experience. From last year’s graduates, about one in three got a job with a company they’d worked for in the past (though bear in mind, some of those may have had to go back to term-time jobs while looking for a graduate-level role). Either way, employers are looking for work-friendly candidates:

The opportunity to complete a few days, or a few weeks, in a commercial environment will allow you to gain a deeper insight into the demands of the career. You’ll be able to articulate your motivations for pursuing this as a career more convincingly, whilst also showing concrete examples of where you’ve developed skills such as team-working, problem-solving, managing workloads and dealing with competing deadlines

Laura Yeates | Clifford Chance Llp - Graduate Recruitment And Development Manager

There are lots of industries where some form of work experience is especially beneficial - local government, construction and civil engineering (where sandwich courses are quite common), health, social work, the Armed Forces and the arts.

Retail management, IT, engineering and the public sector were amongst the industries where it was least necessary for last year’s graduates to have previously worked for their new employer.

Making your work experience count

  • Don’t just list off the work experience you’ve done on your CV  explain what skills you’ve gained and how the experience has benefited you.
  • Don’t discount part-time job experience  a stint working behind a bar or on a checkout can be beneficial, especially if you’re after a job looking for customer service or client handling skills.
  • An internship can be another route into a company you want. 
  • Don’t be shy – show some initiative and volunteer to take on extra work or get involved in other projects while you’re there. When it comes to a job, make sure you’re the first person that comes to mind.

To make your CV even more impressive, find out how else you can improve your job prospects while you're at uni and what other qualities employers look for in graduates


Which? University provides guest spots to external contributors. This is from the Higher Education Careers Services Unit (HECSU), an independent research charity specialising in higher education and graduate employment. 

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