The Importance of Field Placement in Education

Updated on July 14, 2023
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Over the years, the labor market has become increasingly harsh on fresh graduates as many potential employers require degree certificates and experience. The latter used to be quite tricky for graduates until the introduction of work placement.

Nowadays, graduates don’t just go into the labor market with an impressive degree but also adequate skills and experience. Nonetheless, for these experiences to be valuable and relevant, students must find the right work placement. Read on to learn more about this training, why it’s essential and the factors to consider when choosing a work placement.

What is field placement?

Field placement is a course in the curriculum of most tertiary institutions that involves students undergoing a training program. This mandatory program is an opportunity for students take on experiential learning and apply what they have learned in the classroom.

This placement spans a couple of weeks, during which the students must fill logbooks that will be evaluated later on. Students may also have to finish up the field placement with a presentation. For many, this period of supervised work opens up employment doors that would have been shut otherwise. Several companies use these placement programs as a recruitment funnel to find potential employees.

Difference between field placements and internships

There are plenty of similarities between these two concepts as well as significant differences. Firstly, field placement is a course students must pass before getting their certificates, while an internship is usually for graduates. The former is an initiative by the school, while the latter is organized by companies and potential employers.

Another significant difference stems from the objectives, which, although similar, are not perfectly identical. The aim of field placement aims to prepare students for life after school by equipping them with skills relevant to their field of study. The goal is not to guarantee employment, although in most cases, it increases your job opportunities in the labor market. On the other hand, the objective of an internship is employment. Companies organize these programs to train graduates to become employees.

Lastly, there is the issue of payment. An internship usually pays higher than a field placement. In some cases, students in field placements do not make any money from the several weeks of work that they put in. This is why students and other stakeholders must perform due diligence before opting for a work placement at any company.

Why should you opt for a work placement

In universities or degrees that require work placement, this training becomes indispensable to your degree. A good example is the Keuka college online master of social work. Should you still opt for a work placement where this is not the case? The answer is yes.

Beyond the necessity, work placement gives students on-the-ground experience relating to their course of study. For instance, social work students can apply their academic knowledge in a real-life setting, thereby understanding the program from both a theoretical and practical point of view.

Here are the primary benefits of having a good field placement:

  • Practical skill and knowledge

Many tertiary institutions focus on the theoretical aspect and use field placement as an opportunity to derive the needed balance in terms of practicality. While some occupations depend highly on theory, productivity almost always boils down to practical skills. What can you achieve on the ground with all the information you have gathered? For instance, a person who studied computer engineering might know all about how a computer works on paper but should also know how to fix a faulty monitor or CPU.

  • Taste of the industry

By the very nature of field placement, students are exposed to the industry that encompasses their study area. Beyond applying the knowledge received from school, it’s also an opportunity to acclimatize to the industry.

Every industry has its own unique qualities, protocols, hazards, precautions and more. Understanding these elements goes a long way in determining how well students will fare in the said industry. More importantly, field placement is the perfect arena to make some of those inevitable novice mistakes. You’ll find less tolerance for errors in full employment.

  • Network of influential personalities

During work placement in an organization, students get to mingle with staff in different hierarchies. Some may have the influence to secure you a job. Others might be thoughtful enough to help you discover the particular aspect of the field for which you are best suited. Simply having this network of people and contacts is a significant advantage.

Factors to consider when choosing a field placement

Field placement is an extremely important part of the education system. However, finding the right one is crucial, as there are often many field opportunities for any single program. Here are five things to consider when choosing a field placement:

  • Salary

Not all field placements come with sufficient pay or any at all. While students can walk away with tangible experience, financial remunerations are equally very important. As a student doing a work placement in an organization, the ideal value derivation should be both ways. 

Companies bring experience and the aforementioned benefits to the table for students who need to brush up on their skills in a real-life working environment. Conversely, students have a lot to offer these organizations in terms of human resources and knowledge. As such, payments are necessary to show appreciation for the contribution.

  • Placement period

While searching for that well-paying work placement, another factor to consider is how long the training would last. The designated placement period from the school must be in sync with that of the organization offering the placement. If the university assigns only four months for placement, students might have to look out for organizations with training programs that last for that long.

When there is a disparity in the time frame, the placement might not be as fruitful as it should be. Some organizations slate field placements for the summer holidays. You may have to look elsewhere if this doesn’t align with the learning schedule of your course of study.

  • Chances of getting the work placement

These placements have become very competitive. In some cases, it takes as much effort to secure a work placement as it does to secure a job. Each year, there are hordes of students looking for a slot and applying en masse to companies.

The acceptance process usually requires you to tender your CV and other documents, such as an application form or cover letter. Companies also require face-to-face interviews. However, companies may impose more cumbersome requirements when there’s a large influx of applications. This is often a red flag. There’s no point in trying for a work placement whose application process is too tedious or comes with outrageous demands.

Some higher institutions allocate work placement to students, so you may not have to apply personally.

  • Area of study

After many weeks of fruitless searching, it’s easy to become desperate for any work placement, even when it’s outside your study area. Sadly, this defeats the purpose.

As mentioned earlier, these work opportunities are significant for applying the vital knowledge gathered in school. For instance, when students who studied nursing dabble into work placement in the media industry, they do themselves and the company a disservice.

You should gravitate toward organizations where your area of study is applicable. This improves the effectiveness of the placement and helps you improve the skills you need for your career after school.

  • Role

Another major factor to consider is the role you will fill in the work placement. Unfortunately, some companies run their work placement as a scheme to use students to fill the positions of full-time employees. The purpose of this is to take advantage of these young people. Instead of employing regular qualified workers, some companies hunt for students, knowing fully well that they can underpay them or not even pay them at all.

More so, the role during work placement should be designed for beginners and help them integrate into the organization. Students should not just jump at the most exciting offer at face value. It’s essential to check out the job description and understand what role you’ll be expected to play in the organization.

Some goals to hit in the course of work placement

Getting the perfect work placement is only half of the equation. Students must also play their part to make the most out of the opportunities. Here are some of the goals you should set for the training period:

  • Develop a good network

The functioning of every organization boils down to teamwork. Employees must work cohesively to achieve the objectives of the company. Naturally, when working together, students get to meet and network with other employees and highly placed members of the organization.

Beyond working hours, extra activities like forums, breaks and awards evenings are perfect opportunities to connect with other employees and even external partners. Some of these contacts will come in handy for future ambitions in the labor market and life generally.

  • Get answers

While students are put into field placement to practicalize some of the concepts they have learned, they are also there to learn some more. The best way to acquire knowledge in a non-academic environment is to ask questions.

Note that the system ideally considers students beginners, so there is no need to feel ashamed for not knowing some basic procedures or protocols. Feel free to ask questions and seek clarification. These answers will also come in handy long after the field placement. Remember that questions need not only be directed at your supervisor but anyone with the experience to proffer reliable answers.

  • Develop your skills

This is one of the primary objectives of a placement. Students should look forward to brushing up on their skills. This might involve going through different development processes. While some companies might pair each trainee with a supervisor, students may also be left to take on tasks independently. Whatever the case may be, trainees should try as much as possible to develop or sharpen already existing skills.

  • Get involved

Work placement is the time to take the front seat. Every opportunity to be of help, learn or even make a mistake is worth taking. Let everyone in the organization see your eagerness to learn, as this will encourage them to teach.

Don’t just wait for opportunities – seek them out. Students can also volunteer to participate in activities. Be sure to make yourself available for projects within the organization.

  • Balance work with fun

The best learning environment is one where you can enjoy yourself. You don’t want to be clogged up with work all day throughout the field placement period. Most organizations have social events for employees and staff. This can help maintain an aura of fun during your training period and make it easy to approach and interact with others.


Work placement is more than a course requirement needed to achieve your degree. It’s not just a few extra lines of text to add to your CV, but skills any employer would run after. During the job-hunting process, interviewers want to hear what you can do, not just what your certificate says. Work placement is a chance to get a taste of your area of study outside the walls of a school. It’s also a fantastic opportunity to sharpen your skills and find the best way to apply them.

The actual value of a work placement is tied to getting the right one. Although many companies will need trainees, not all will be relevant to you. With the proper field placement, you can secure life skills after school along with top employment.

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