A period spent gaining experience of working or shadowing a geoscientist can help you make decisions about where you want to be in the future, as well as enhancing your CV or university applications. However, this is usually organised on an ‘ad hoc’ basis rather than through a formal process, so it’s up to you to be proactive. Generally placements are only available through industry, for example, with engineering, petroleum, environmental or water companies.
The Geological Society does not offer any work experience, but we do offer help and advice on placements and organised schemes.
Note: There are several degree courses that offer placements as part of the course, with the third year spent with a company and then a fourth year back at your place of study.
The Geologists’ Directory
is a useful source of contact information. The telephone directory or a focused Google search will give similar results for your local area.
You could make a list of companies who might offer you work experience themselves, and other organizations that you can approach for general advice according to the topics you are interested in. If, for example, you are a recent geology graduate who is still deciding what to do next but has an interest in petroleum geology, your list might include the following:
- Petroleum companies of all sizes
- Universities and research labs etc who employ petroleum specialists and research staff
- Recruitment agencies ( eg ‘Working Smart’)
- Other bodies such as the UK Offshore Operators Association (UKOOA); the Petroleum Exploration Society of Great Britain (PESGB); the London Petrophysical Society
- The Geological Society Petroleum Group; also your local Geological Society Regional Group
Some things to think about when you are identifying organisations to approach:
- What do I hope to get out of the time I spend there?
- If they ask me why I have approached them can I give a couple of reasons, enthusiastically! Do a little bit of research so you know the basics of what they do, how many staff they employ, etc.
- Do I have any relevant geoscience experience I can tell them about (ie membership of a local geological group; inside knowledge through a friend or family member; fieldtrips; appropriate qualification!)
- Where geographically speaking, is going to be convenient for me to get to? Does it have to be near to your home and on a bus or train route etc?
Make sure that your letter/email is well written and presented, and as concise as possible (use decent notepaper! Use ‘Yours sincerely’ and Yours faithfully’ correctly.) If possible find out the name of the person you want to contact, either an actual geoscientist or the right person in the HR department. Remember that at some times of year, for instance just before Christmas, you are not as likely to receive attention. Enquiries made in the spring or autumn will probably be most successful. Allow a few weeks for a reply and then consider following your written contact with a phone call if you don’t hear back. (If this doesn’t trigger a response, it’s best to move on).
There are limited opportunities, at different levels, to gain a place on a more formal scheme. These include:
1. Anglo American Student Technical Experience Programme (STEP)
Anglo American is an international mining company. STEP offers approximately 30 summer vacation work placement opportunities for undergraduate students currently studying mining related disciplines in UK or European universities. Visit www.angloamerican.co.uk/careers
2. British Petroleum (BP)
BP offers a range of ‘internships’ for undergraduates, some of whom will go on to join their graduate development programme. Two schemes are available: Summer internships that last from 8-13 week; and one-year internships that give in-depth work experience. See www.bp.com/careers
for full details.
Shell offers internships for undergraduate students in the final two years of their course, from eight weeks to 12 months in duration. For full details see: www.shell.com
4. Parliamentary Office of Science and Technology (POST)
This is rather different from the average job shadowing experience as it gives experience not of a particular job, but of the part that science plays in government. POST runs a fellowship scheme that allows PhD students to spend three months working at POST through an extension of their maintenance grant. See www.parliament.uk
for full details.
5. The Environment Agency
There are opportunities for unpaid work experience placements within the Environment Agency. Typical placements are for school children but it is also possible for undergraduates to get work experience, for instance sandwich year placements, that are paid positions. For further information on any of these schemes students should contact their local Environment Agency office; the general web address is www.environment-agency.gov.uk