What Is Relevant Work Experience?

Finding work experience isn't hard, but making sure it's relevant is much harder. University careers are incredibly competitive and demonstrating real-world experience and industry knowledge is a great way to stand out and show your passion for your chosen career. To help you in your university admissions process, we explain what counts as relevant and beneficial work experience.

Author: Rob Needleman

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Finding work experience is not difficult, making sure it is relevant is much harder.

University degrees are incredibly competitive and demonstrating real-world experience and insight into a sector is a great way to stand out and show your passion for your chosen degree.

 

To help you with your university admissions, we explain what counts as relevant and beneficial work experience that will bring real value to your Personal Statement and interviews. 

What is Work Experience?

Work experience is usually experience from time spent in a workplace. It is the opportunity to learn more about a job role, a particular company, sector and field. Schools often require work experience during GCSEs or A-levels and some universities expect their applicants to have evidence of work experience written in their Personal Statement and spoken about during their interview.

technology-work-experience

There are different types of work experience that you can get involved with such as work shadowing where you spend a day or two ‘shadowing’ someone in a workplace. It is less hands-on than a longer placement but it gives you an idea of what is involved in the job. There are also internships that can last around 3 months or across the summer holidays. Internships give you a very in-depth insight into the sector and the career paths you may want to pursue.

For more information on the different types of work experience and how to find them, read on here.  

Why is Work Experience Important for University?

There are many benefits to work experience. It gives you the opportunity to:

Universities favour work experience because it shows passion and a real interest in the subject. It is a fantastic opportunity for you to back up your interest with real evidence in your Personal Statement and interviews and demonstrate skills such as:

Another important consideration is that some degrees require work experience, so which ones are they?

UCAS suggests that the following university degrees require work experience: 

Degree:
Work Experience:
NHS-funded healthcare coursesUniversities require work experience or voluntary work in a health or social care setting for courses including Physiotherapy, Occupational Therapy, Healthcare Science, Midwifery and Nursing.
MedicineUniversities look for work experience that demonstrates resilience, learning from life experience, communication and interpersonal skills and understanding of the values of the NHS Constitution.
TeachingUniversities frequently require over 10 days of work experience in a school. Experience working with children and young people outside of school is also valuable. This can be gained from volunteering with a scout group or youth club.
Social workUniversities commonly require students to have experience of working with social care. Remember you will likely need a DBS and make sure you leave enough time to arrange this before starting if the work experience requires it. Experience is not limited to local authority social services, it can be gained from youth clubs, advice service and voluntary agencies.

Also, there are degrees where work experience is more expected and favoured than required. These degrees usually lead to being qualified for a profession such as:

  • Accountancy
  • Architecture
  • Civil Engineering
  • Media Production
  • Town and Country Planning

It is clear that work experience for Medicine is vital to get your university place. Admissions tutors are looking for you to write or speak about your experiences in healthcare in your Personal Statement and interview. It is also a brilliant opportunity to get some first-hand experience in the career you are pursuing after university. If you are curious to know what GP work experience is like, we have an article for you here

What makes work experience relevant for University?

Relevant work experience is really anything that includes tasks and duties that develops your skills and knowledge that line up with your chosen degree. It is important to note that relevant experience does not have to be in the same industry or field as the degree you are applying to, although that obviously helps! 

 

As long as the work experience improves your personal and professional skills such as communication and organisation, then they are transferable skills that will likely be relevant.  

An easy way to identify what experience might be relevant is to read through the skills and qualities that universities are looking for in their students. University admission tutors are not interested in your Bronze Duke of Edinburgh or if you like playing tennis at the weekend. Universities mainly want to know how you’ll be an asset to them academically.

Cambridge-University-key-criteria-for-medical-admissions
Key qualities of a medical student (source: Cambridge University)

For example, the Key Criteria for Cambridge Medical Admissions mentions ‘have excellent communication skills for use in the health care of diverse populations’. You could therefore include work experience from placements on a ward or from volunteering regularly at care homes, interacting with residents and attending to their needs.  

Our Enrichment Supervisions, delivered by expert tutors, provide you with valuable topics to mention in your Personal Statement and interviews. These sessions ensure you gain a wider understanding of your subject and an interesting look into the field. Read more about our Premium Programmes.

How to incorporate work experience into your interviews and Personal Statement?

As we said earlier, finding work experience is not difficult, making sure it is relevant is much harder. Building on this, it is all good having relevant work experience but you need to be able to incorporate it into your Personal Statement and interviews. 

Starting with interviews, the most important thing you can do is to practice talking about your work experience. This can be with your friends or family. If we take the question ‘tell me about your work experience’ you will want to have a strong and concise answer to this.

Begin with clear statements that effectively outlines your skills and abilities. This will help you come across as confident and passionate about your experience if you can easily explain it. As we keep mentioning, you must only include relevant details.

 

Provide numerical evidence if it is possible, you want to be able to quantify your experience. Data, such as the number of sales made or the number of patients cared for is a strong way to show your impact. Then make sure to conclude what you learnt from your experience, the insights it has given you or the skills you have gained and what you would like to do with the experience and how it relates to the degree course content.

A quick reminder:

Anything you mention in your Personal Statement may be brought up in an interview, so make sure you go back through the wider reading and work experience you included in your Personal Statement to be fully prepared. Don’t get caught out!

The process of incorporating your experience in a Personal Statement is similar to how you would speak about it in an interview. It has to be very concise with the character limit.

 

We shall use this example from a successful Personal Statement for Cambridge Medicine (the full analysis of the Personal Statement can be found here):

THE PERSONAL STATEMENT

Work experience and volunteering have intensified my desire to pursue the profession; it gave me the chance to observe doctors diagnosing problems and establishing possible routes of treatment; I found the use of monoclonal antibodies in kidney transplantation fascinating. A doctor needs to be skilled, dexterous and creative. Medicine is a scientific discipline that requires a profound understanding of the physiology of the body, but the application of medicine can be an art, especially when communications between the doctor and the patient can influence the outcome of the treatment. I admire the flexibility of doctors; an inpatient needs to be approached with sensitivity and reassurance, whereas an acute admission patient would benefit more from hands-on assessments.

The student has used relevant experience throughout their Personal Statement and in the paragraph above, there is clear evidence of their passion for medicine. Linking back to the key qualities of a medical student that we mentioned earlier, the student shows a knowledge of the scientific basis of medicine and they demonstrate understanding of good medical practice. Lastly, they also indicate the importance of showing respect for parents at all time which will tick some of the boxes that admissions tutors are looking for. 

Final Tips work experience tips:

How do I demonstrate my passion for my chosen degree?

Being passionate about your chosen degree is great but it won’t help your application if you can’t demonstrate it. Our Personal Statement support will help you to incorporate your work experience to really demonstrate your interest and suitability to the Admissions Tutors. 

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