Practical experience is a key factor in the learning of computing. Many universities have a vocational focus, offering hands-on courses where the students practice the learnt computing skills in computer laboratories. Placements play an important part in the development of successful computing professionals, giving graduates real life experience.
The benefits of a postgraduate computing placement are numerous to both students and employers.
- An opportunity to put into practice the knowledge acquired in the classroom and to learn new skills that are sought-after by employers, including communication, problem-solving and team work skills.
- A growth in confidence and help becoming more independent, responsible, proactive and mature.
- An advantage in the race for graduate employment. Not only do they have a good chance of being recruited by their placement provider, but they can often earn more in their first graduate job than students who have not gained relevant experience.
- A solution to short term staff shortages and the chance to check out potential graduate recruits.
- An intelligent, motivated, cost-effective labour resource with valuable technical skills and fresh ideas.
- The chance to work on projects which otherwise would not be undertaken due to a shortage of resources.
Despite the above benefits, the offering of placements on computing MSc courses is scarce. Thus, computing placements represent a unique selling point for computing MSc courses. Postgraduate students are seen as more skilled and more mature individuals who can bring immediate benefit to the placement company.
Such opportunities are usually sourced from local private and public companies and organisations in a wide range of sectors including IT and software companies, energy and engineering companies as well as local authorities.
The roles that MSc students will be undertaking while on placement can include software engineer, analyst programmer, web services developer, IT system architect, network manager, and system and database administrator. In general, and given the richer set of skills that postgraduate students possess compared to undergraduate students, companies may have more flexibility in terms of the nature of roles/jobs they can make available to postgraduate students.
Case study – computing placement
As an example, one postgraduate student at Robert Gordon University, Aberdeen was recruited by a governmental agency as a software developer within the Information Systems Services. He was given the task of leading numerous projects including the development of a database and web portal using technologies such as Java, Java Server Pages and Oracle; technologies that are well covered within the MSc course.
The student went through a 360 degrees review and received the following feedback from colleagues:
“He is very knowledgeable and very willing to help... very committed to producing a high standard of work. It’s been a pleasure working with him, and he will be a great asset wherever he works in the future.”
“I have been very impressed with his enthusiasm and positive attitude. He has soaked up all the training we have given him and applied it to his work. His output has been impressive both in quantity and quality, exceeding some more experienced developers.”