3 Ways to Get Work Experience at University

20/06/20227 minute read
3 Ways to Get Work Experience at University

There’s no denying that competition for jobs is heating up! Many prospective employers even require applicants to have work experience before they even graduate from university.

Unsurprisingly, one of the key factors students consider when picking their dream university is the work experience opportunities they offer!

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It's a well-known fact that your employability will be significantly affected by the reputation of the university you attend. Part of what contributes to a top university's reputation is the meticulously architectured career preparation programs designed to increase your job readiness.

Let's look at three work experience opportunities offered by top universities: internships, co-op programs, and start-up incubators.

3 Ways To Get Work Experience At University

1 & 2: Internships And Co-op Programs

While often used interchangeably, internships and co-ops carry marked distinctions that you should be aware of when conducting your research. Internships are predominately voluntary part-time work experiences completed alongside your study program. Co-ops (cooperative education), on the other hand, are generally completed towards the end of your degree and are full-time paid work immersion programs that count directly toward your course workload.

Not only do these programs provide the work experience highly demanded by prospective employers, but if you participate in these programs, you have a 56.8% chance of getting employed by your co-op company, according to a survey by NACE.

Besides the obvious employment benefits, internships and co-ops provide real-world, hands-on experience and insights into potential career pathways. Imagine exploring the occupations within your field of interest before making the daunting decision around your career trajectory! You also can upskill within a practical setting while applying your theoretical learnings to real-world problems. It’s essentially an apprenticeship in your intended career, conducted during school time.

The physics department at the Royal Holloway University of London, for example, facilitates paid summer internship programs every year for students with reputable companies within the science sector. Northeastern University in the US has a popular co-op program in which more than 10,000 students participate each year. This program spans multiple academic disciplines with organisations from agile startups to Fortune 100 companies.

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Start-up Incubators

If you're more of the entrepreneurial type, you might find more value in starting your own business during your time at university rather than interning or working at someone else's company. Top universities, particularly in the US, are home to elite start-up incubators designed to help students take their business dreams from ideation to production. Let's take a quick look at a few examples.


The Harvard Innovation Labs coordinates a 12-week Venture Incubation Program for students to take their ideas to the next level with a deep network of resources, mentors, and workshops. Additionally, students with the most innovative ideas have an opportunity to win a share of NZD 745,000 in the annual President's Innovation Challenge.


The Student-in-Residence (SIR) scholarship under Stanford University's StartX incubator provides financial aid and support for students starting their own companies. Recipients of the 6-month scholarship program are awarded NZD 6,500 in funding, six months of free office space, and access to a network of coaches, mentors, venture capitalists, legal advice, tenured professors, and industry-leading alumni to help their businesses grow. SIR scholarship recipients also benefit from an exclusive conversion pathway into the full-time StartX incubator, which has supported 700 start-ups since 2011 – each company raising NZD 16 million on average, with a combined valuation of over NZD 37 Billion, including the electric scooter company, Lime!


Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) 's start-up incubator, delta v, supports start-ups of two to five students. Students receive up to NZD 29,500 in funding, NZD 2,900 per month for living expenses, a co-working office space to use all summer, and the opportunity to pitch to investors at Demo Days held in San Francisco, Boston, and NYC. Students also have access to industry leaders and advisors in the greater New York area.

Besides the benefits of the incubator itself, there are several additional advantages to starting a business at university:

  • You can fail fast.
  • You are learning theories in class that you can apply to your business in real-time.
  • You have access to thousands of talented students who can join your mission.

If you're not the entrepreneurial type, you can still benefit from attending a university with a renowned start-up incubator program. Incubators support hundreds of companies each year across many industries, all requiring specialist roles as they grow, which fellow students often fill. Therefore, you will have the unique chance to join a start-up that perfectly converges with your interests and skills. And if the NZD 16M funding average at Stanford's StartX incubator is anything to go by, the university start-up you join could have a relatively high chance of being the next big thing! Or, at the very least, you'll receive the real-world experience that many graduate roles demand from applicants — ultimately boosting your CV for future dream jobs.

If you need help deciding which universities to apply to, contact usWe will connect you with one of our Academic Advisors who can assist you with the admissions process.

To help with your research, visit university websites, and check out Crimson’s university experience videos on YouTube.

The Daily Californian: Journalism work experience at UC Berkeley

Final Thoughts About Gaining Work Experience At A University

As competition for jobs continues to rise, attending a university with reputable work experience opportunities is becoming increasingly important so you can stand out to future employers. If you want to find some of the best work experience programs in the world, look no further than top universities in the US and UK! By utilizing their world-renowned industry partnerships and connections, your dream job could be right around the corner.

Want to learn more about how to choose the right university for you? Download our FREE eBook to unlock the complete 5-Step Guide to picking your best-fit university!