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The Importance of Internships and Hands-on Learning During University Studies

Trust me, I know that there’s nothing more important than maintaining a healthy work-life-study balance. I also know that I don’t always manage to practice what I preach (although I do always try!).


But if you think you can manage the time, there is value in taking a hands-on approach to your learning, be it in internships, job placements or part-time work. That’s why in this blog we’ll be looking at some ways those in the music field can get some ‘real world’ experience during their studies.


Internships


Internships have gained a bit of a controversial association in recent years. The prevalence of the ‘unpaid internship’, which limits the spectrum of availability to only those who can afford to work for free, has seen them labelled as inequitable and exploitative.


It’s a fair assumption, and you should balance the value of the experience you’re expecting to gain (as well as how good it looks on a CV) with whether you can afford to work for free, and how long for.


That said, there are still plenty of paid internships around, and many evolve into part-time work. That’s exactly what happened with me, now alongside my studies and artist career, I work part-time within music publishing. From personal experience, I can see the value that my internship gave me, and it also opened up a lot of possibilities and future career progression.




Job Placements


Job placements are typically arranged by your university and happen within the semester limits of your study. Degrees that place a high value on hands on experience, like teaching, may include them as a standard.


It’s not typical for music students to ‘go on placement’ but you can supplement this experience with voluntary work at the university if your degree is an in-person one.


Many campus universities also have audio visual departments, and a raft of other jobs that require your particular musical skills. You might consider joining a society as a way to get into them.


It’s also worth noting that many universities do also offer paid roles to their students. For example, I’m a student ambassador at the university I’m studying at, BIMM in Birmingham. This role is on an ad-hoc basis, but when you’re a student, any extra cash can go a long way.


Part-Time Work or Temporary Gigs


Internships can evolve into part-time work, but there’s still plenty of part-time work available to those without any experience who are studying for a music related degree.


If you can’t find anything strictly musical, you might look for jobs are music adjacent, such as working in a pub or social club which hosts live events.


Otherwise, temporary gigs such as festival stewarding are a way to supplement your income whilst potentially allowing you to see your favourite artists. Of course, there’s always the option of getting a part-time role that isn’t related to your studies at all. Sometimes, this can give people a little bit of a break/balance, as I can appreciate it’s tough to live and breathe a certain subject 24/7 for 3 years straight.


Now that we’ve looked at four ways of doing hands on work, let’s talk about what can be gained from it. It really comes down to three things: money, CV accolades, and experience.


Though the latter two are often conflated, they’re a little different. Early experience is valuable in and of itself, as it may help you decide whether a career in the music industry is right for you. It might also help you to decipher which sector of the music industry you want to go into, it’s a “small world” as they say, but there’s a vast amount of roles available. Get in touch and let me know about your intern/uni experience.


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