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So many students seem to be scared of what I’ve heard called ‘the real world’, entering the workplace and suddenly working 9 to 5 (cue Dolly Parton). However, courses which offer a placement can help prepare you for your chosen profession in a way that sitting in a lecture theatre just can’t, however dynamic that lecturer is!

Many subjects now offer placements as part of the course. Some courses will have a sandwich placement, where the placement aspect of the course is one whole year, while other courses, such as my own MA Social Work, have shorter placements. This year, my first year, I have just completed a 70 day placement and next year I have a 100 day placement.

It is a requirement of certain qualifying courses, such as Social Work, to have a minimum number of days in placement and, having now completed my first placement, I can easily understand why these are considered essential; there is so much that is learnt on the job which you can’t learn in a classroom!

For the MA Social Work, the university finds a placement for us based on our needs. For instance, I let them know on the pre-placement form that I cannot drive and what areas of social care I had worked in before. The university then found me a placement on a bus route nearby in a social work setting I had never worked in before; indeed, an area I had never considered working in before, but which was incredibly important to my learning.

For my course, the placement this year is structured in such a way that I had four days a week in placement and the other three for part-time work and/or studying. The placement structure ensured that I had supervision every week with either my placement supervisor or my practice educator, and I even arranged a few extra catch-ups with my academic tutor, who is always willing to find time for a cup of tea and a chat when I need it! The advice and feedback throughout placement was invaluable in aiding me to get the most out of it, so I must advise anyone undertaking a placement to seek this feedback to find areas of strength and areas to improve.

Some courses leave it up to the students to locate their own placement and I can only advise that you look up the specific course you are interested in to see how placements are structured for that course, or ring up the department to ask! I would certainly argue that the placement aspect of my course was the absolute clincher on letting me know what Social Work is really like and that it is a profession I am definitely glad I have chosen to pursue. After all, a classroom can only prepare you for so much!

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