What Is Relevant Work Experience?

What is relevant work experience? We explain what counts as relevant work experience to add to your Personal Statement and Interviews.

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 the process of gaining 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 Interviews.

What Are The Different Types Of Work Experience?

There are different types of work experience that you can get involved with:

Read our article on How To Find Work Experience for more information on the different types of opportunities.

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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.

Why is Work Experience Important for University?

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

technology work experience

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:

Which Degrees Require Work Experience

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 which takes you through what to expect during GP work experience

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. 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.  

How to incorporate work experience into your application

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 or how else will Admissions Tutors know you are the right applicant for them?

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 will likely 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 we analysed.

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 an understanding of good medical practice. 

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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