Getting work experience as an international student

Guest BloggerFinal Year, First Year, Graduates, International Students, Postgraduate, Second Year, Work Experience

We often get questions from international students about the possibilities of securing work experience in the UK. So, we asked Iwan, one of our Careers Consultants, to share his advice for finding work in the UK during and after you’ve finished your degree. We hope it’s helpful!

Why should international students get work experience in the UK?

For many international students, getting UK work experience is important. It is likely to be valued by employers when you return home, and will give you a chance to develop skills to help you get the job you want. Working in the UK should help improve your English, understand how UK businesses work, and build personal networks that can be very valuable to your future career.

A small percentage of highly talented international students will be successful in getting sponsored to work in the UK after their course ends. These include students who have already worked for the employer during their course – and shown that they are important enough for the employer to sponsor them.

When can international students get work experience in UK?

Below is a summary of the different points at which you can work in the UK. It is essential for you to check your own rights to work in the UK, as shown in your passport and by contacting Aston’s International Student Advisers.

In general, international students can work for up to 20 hours a week during term-time in a combination of paid or unpaid roles, and for unlimited hours during their vacations (postgraduate students may have some exemptions to this). For information on international student rights to work in the UK see Aston’s Working in the UK during your studies page and this UK Council for International Student Affairs (UKCISA) webpage on student work.

Working during your course

This might mean:

  • Doing a part-time job while studying. Your main reason for doing this may be to earn some extra money, but also to find opportunities to use and develop your skills as an international student. Look out for translation and marketing roles in your university, or local organisations promoting services to international students. Check information on services and vacancies with Aston’s JobShop.
  • Completing a placement or internship as part of your course. For undergraduate students, this might mean industrial placement(s) or other work experience in Year 3 of a sandwich degree. For advice on this, contact Aston’s Placement Team. For Masters students, it might mean completing a placement or internship in Term 3, as part of your course. Your careers adviser should be able to help you find and apply for these opportunities, by introducing you to important vacancy sources and potential contacts. Contact Careers+Placements for advice on this.
  • Doing voluntary work while studying. This might mean volunteering for a local charity or doing a short voluntary placement in a business, including start-up companies. International students should also be aware that the combination of all types of work (including voluntary and part-time work) should not exceed the 20 hour rule unless it is placement carried out as part of your course. The JobShop can also help you source voluntary positions.

After your course

International students may be able work on their student visa for a fixed period of time after their course ends, and until their visa expires. For postgraduate and undergraduate students whose course is 12 months or longer, this period can be for up to four months after the official course end date. This experience must be in a temporary full or part-time role, and cannot involve setting up your own business. Now that you have completed the assessment for your course, this can be a good time to focus on getting UK work experience. It might mean completing an internship, doing voluntary work or getting a part-time job.

The new Graduate Route Visa

At the time of writing (December 2020) the information available on this planned route is very limited. Immigration Rules are expected to be published in April 2021, and current information indicates that:

  • The visa will be available for students with current Tier 4/Student Leave who successfully complete their degree course (at undergraduate level or above) from Summer 2021 onwards
  • You will need to apply in the UK with valid student immigration permission
  • Undergraduate and Masters completers will have two years of leave to work under the visa; PhD completers will have three years of leave to work
  • There is no requirement to be sponsored or have a minimum salary
  • The visa allows you to move into other work routes

Key websites for updates include:

Getting sponsored to work in the UK after your course

This is the preferred option for most international students and possible for a minority of highly talented students. For information on being sponsored to work in the UK please see separate information on the UKCISA website.

What to do next and where to find more information

This information is correct as of December 2020.

Written by Iwan Griffiths – MSc Business Careers Consultant