Placement Year: Is It Worth Taking The Time Off

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    “Placement year” is a generic word used to describe a year where a student spends their time in industry rather than in school. There are many types of placement years, or “sandwich years,” such as the ones in the United Kingdom where a school offers them as part of a program. However, for the purpose of this article, a placement year will have the general meaning and can occur during or directly after undergraduate education. A placement year isn’t for everybody, but for students who are overwhelmed, confused, or just want to get an idea of what their career is like, placement years can be a mature decision. 

    When to Consider A Placement Year

    • If you’re considering graduate school, but you’re not sure about it.
      • You can choose to take one during your undergraduate education or the year after. 
      • It helps to decide if industry is the right place for you at that point in your life. If you’re liking industry, you’re succeeding, and you’re forming good relationships at your internships, then you might decide that graduate school isn’t necessary for you. If you’re not comfortable in industry, you might decide to get the additional years of education in your field. You might also find in your placement year whether the higher-level degrees guarantee you additional income and upward mobility in the company, influencing your decision to go to graduate school or go straight to industry.
    • If you’re struggling personally and need a break.
      • Sometimes when a family emergency happens, your mental health is poor, or something else is preventing you from doing as well as you’d like to, it helps to take a year off to get yourself back together.
      • Sometimes taking a placement year can be healthy for your maturity. College happens at an awkward point in most people’s lives because you’re finally an adult, but you’re still restricted to a college lifestyle where you can’t be fully independent. A placement year can help you be more independent and gain a better perspective on your education and career. 
    • If you’re curious about the industry and want to learn more about it.
      • As mentioned above, some schools offer specific placement year programs as a learning experience. It helps you make some connections with management in the industry and it helps you learn more about your career. 
    • If you get a good internship, but you don’t have time for it. 
      • You might get accepted for an internship you’ve always wanted, but it’s 40 hours a week and you just don’t have time for it. A placement year can be a good alternative to trying to pack it into a semester during college.

    What to Do During A Placement Year

    • Apply for jobs or internships.
      • Technically, a placement year is usually focused on doing internships and work related to your career, but if you’re just taking a break from school, you could get a job anywhere.
    • Start living by yourself, paying bills, and having other responsibilities that you wouldn’t have in college.
      • Being mature and growing up is a significant part of taking a placement year, so take advantage of it. It might help you in many other areas of your life and it’ll help you prepare for life after college.
    • Look for research opportunities or other side jobs.
      • Since you won’t have all the extracurricular activities you will in college, you should have plenty of time to do side work and add new credentials to your resume.

    Sean Fowler


    Aerospace Engineering at UMD, intending to specialize in aeronautics with a focus on aerospace structures and design.


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