How the CAL careers team can help you

College of Arts & Law (CAL) careers team can offer advice and guidance on areas including:

  • Deciding what to do after graduating
  • Finding internships, work experience and jobs
  • Support with CVs, cover letters and application forms
  • How to apply for jobs and internships
  • Applying for postgraduate study including personal statements

We also organise careers events and workshops so you can develop your skills and insight into different industries. We send regular emails with details of these, along with internship and job opportunities, so keep an eye on your emails during term-time to stay up to date!

Frequently asked questions (FAQs)

Information and advice to answer common career queries.

On this page:

FAQs: General

Where are you located?

You can find us in the Arts building (R16 on the campus map (PDF - 265KB)). Most of our appointments take place in room 37b which is at the end of the corridor on the ground floor.

How can I book an appointment with you?

If you’re a current student you can book a 20 minute appointment using Careers Connect.

Tip: Log in using the first part of your student email address and password. You can book appointments up to 7 days in advance. If you would like an appointment over the phone please contact us via email: 

We offer 45 minute appointments to graduates. These are available in person (on the Birmingham campus), over Skype or on the phone. Request a graduate appointment.

I can’t find any available appointments. How can I arrange to meet with you?

Our appointments can be booked up to 7 days in advance. If there are no visible appointment slots this means they have all been booked. We recommend checking Careers Connect around 9:00 when new appointments are released.

If you’re having difficulty booking an appointment, please email the College of Arts and Law careers team:

I can’t get on to campus. Can you still help me?

Yes, of course. We offer advice over email, telephone and Skype for students and graduates.

You can send us a question or application/CV to review by emailing

You can also request a phone/Skype appointment at a time convenient for you uisng this address.

I’m interested in doing a year in industry. Can you help?

The majority of students who arrange a year in industry do so between the penultimate and final year of their degree. There are no formal year in industry programmes in the College of Arts and Law so you will need to take a leave of absence to complete one. This means that while you’re on placement you are not a registered student and will not have to pay tuition fees. There will be no reflection of the year in industry when you graduate but you can add the experience to your CV.

Many employers start advertising placements in the autumn term so start looking for vacancies early. Large graduate recruiters will start their recruitment early, so if you have an employer in mind make sure you check their deadlines. Other employers will advertise placements right up until the end of September, so if you decide to do a placement later on you still have a good chance of securing one.

If you decide to do a placement year you must find your own placement position. This is great practice for after graduation, but there is help available:

If you get stuck, book an appointment for guidance from an adviser; we can also provide advice on how to make your application stand out.

I’m thinking about changing or leaving my course. Can you help?

It’s not uncommon for students to have doubts about coming to university or their choice of course. If you’re in this situation we can help support you make a decision.

Common reasons for wanting to change or leave a course include:

  • feeling unhappy with your choice of course
  • feeling unhappy with your choice of university
  • struggling with fees or living costs
  • feeling homesick, struggling to balance other priorities and commitments
  • changing your future career plans

You may find booking a careers appointment to talk to a Careers Advisor useful to help clarify your options and decide the best way forward.

We can recommend resources which will help you research your options, such as course directories and employment opportunities.

FAQs: Choosing a career

What can I do with my degree?

Arts and humanities graduates go into a wide range of jobs. Employers are more interested in how your degree has helped you develop capabilities and personal attributes like confidence than your specific degree subject. In fact, a recent report found that 82% of graduate jobs are open to any degree subject (The AGR 2016 Annual Survey) so you have plenty of options available.

It’s likely that your degree has developed a wider range of skills than you might think. Look back over every module and piece of work to identify the skills you’ve developed i.e. collaborative activities with other students, presentations and data analysis. A dissertation is a major exercise in project management, one of the most listed skills on job descriptions. Read our blog post on ‘Your dissertation and how it can help your job hunt’ to see the range of skills you develop through this piece of work.

For more information about what you can do with your degree visit the Prospects webpage ‘What can I do with my degree?’ You can also find out what students from your course have gone on to do after graduating.

I have no idea what to do... How do I decide?

First, remember you’ve made important decisions before, like choosing a university and degree course. Are any of those motivations and reasons still important? Being clearer about your strengths, abilities, interests and motivations will help you decide the next stage. If you’re struggling to think what ‘job’ would suit you, think about contexts, situations or types of organisation you may want to work in.

You may have a ‘dream job’ and worry that it’s too ambitious or unachievable. Find people who do that job (perhaps using LinkedIn) and see how they got there. You may find ideas for what to do next, and be reassured that people’s careers evolve in various ways.

Self-awareness questionnaires can help you generate ideas, see connections between job types, and decide what to investigate further. Visit our Making Careers Choices website for links to these resources.

If you’d like to talk through your options and get advice on how to explore these, book a careers appointment with a Careers Advisor.

I’ve got a few ideas about what I want to do. How do I decide between them?

When overwhelmed with options, we tend to overthink our way into an answer, rather than getting into action to try something.

You can’t ever completely know what a job will actually be like until you speak to people doing the job and experience it for yourself. Beyond getting work experience in the industries or roles, you can also attend workshops and events here on campus to help you gain more insight into different areas.

Shift your focus away from ‘what is the right or perfect choice?’ Whatever decision you make will also be impacted by your attitude and the way you engage with the job. It can also help to eliminate options by considering: “What do I definitely not want to do?” Make sure you explore the obstacles and frustrations that come with any job, in exchange for the benefits. Find out more about your areas of interest on the Prospects job profiles website, which lists 400+ job profiles covering topics such as skills, entry requirements and career progression.

Consider each professional area or job – does this career play to your strengths? If not, are you willing to learn the skills required and spend time developing them? Understand yourself, your strengths, skills and what motivates you.

Our mentoring programmes are another fantastic way to learn and gain insight from an experienced professional in your areas of interest.

If you would like to talk through your options, book a careers appointment with a Careers Advisor today.

I want to work in… How can I find out more about this industry?

Our Insight Guides are a useful starting point to explore some of the most popular career areas for arts and humanities students. Each guide includes a list of vacancy websites which you can use to find internships and graduate roles. Other useful websites include Prospects job profiles and TARGETjobs career sectors.

During term-time, we hold employer and alumni speaker events come on to campus to share their insight and experience. Attending these will develop your knowledge and understanding of different jobs and industries.

FAQs: Finding an internship

What’s the difference between internships, work experience and placements?

For most careers it’s essential to gain some sort of work experience. The term work experience is very broad and can cover a range of activities, from work shadowing and volunteering to learning from a mentor. At the University of Birmingham we use the following definitions:

Work experience is a short-term experience and can be unpaid, during which you will assist with tasks and ‘get a feel’ for a specific professional field.

Internships are a more structured type of work experience, in which you will be given some level of responsibility, usually working on a set project. Internships can be paid or unpaid.

Placements are embedded into the curriculum and your academic degree. During a placement you will work with an organisation, gaining professional experience in a sector and organisation. You will often be required to write an assignment based on your experience, which is credit-bearing. Placements are currently available within the following subject areas:

  • History
  • Classics, Ancient History and Archaeology
  • Theology and Religion
  • Creative Writing
  • English and Film
  • English Literature
  • Art History and Curating (Postgraduate only)
  • Film and TV (Postgraduate only)
  • Philosophy (Postgraduate only)

When should I start looking for a summer internship?

For larger organisations, such as law firms, employers with graduate schemes, and the Civil Service, you will need to apply early in the academic year. Many require applications to be made during autumn term.

For smaller or medium sized organisations, you can often apply later, and some even advertise in summer term for a summer internship. However, the earlier in the year you apply, the more options you have available to you.

How can I find an internship?

First off, read our ‘What work experience do I need and how do I get it?’ blog post for tips to get you started. Keep an eye on your inbox for our weekly ‘Work on Wednesday’ email listing work experience, internship and job opportunities for undergraduate and postgraduate students. If you want to be the first to hear about opportunities follow us on CAL Twitter and CAL Facebook.

Visit Careers Connect which lists 1000s of vacancies for students. Click on the tab marked ‘Opportunities’ to find internships. You can search by sector and location amongst other things, and even sign up for job alerts.

Beyond the University, there are lots of websites which advertise internships. These include: TARGETjobs internships, Milkround and Rate My Placement.

You might find it helpful to focus on specific industries when trying to find an internship. Our Insight Guides include a list of industry websites which you can use to find an internship. You can also use these sites to identify companies to approach and show to write a speculative application.

If you would like more advice on finding an internship, book a careers  appointment today.

Do you offer any internships specifically for University of Birmingham students?

We run a number of bespoke internship schemes for University of Birmingham students. These opportunities can be found on Careers Connect and promoted in our weekly ‘Work on Wednesday’ email sent to all undergraduates and postgraduates.

Here’s a list of some of our bespoke internship schemes:

Global Challenge gives students the opportunity, funding and training to spend a summer as an intern in a top global organisation.

Birmingham Undergraduate Internship Programme offers paid internships within the University of Birmingham during the summer vacation.

Impact Internships allow students to develop enterprising skills and undertake a paid internship with a local social enterprise.

Santander Universities Internships Scheme gives students and recent graduates the chance to undertake a paid, full-time 10 week internship with small or medium-sized organisations.

Do you offer any financial support for unpaid/low paid work experience?

Yes, Careers Network offers support to students who have sourced low or unpaid work experience. We provide bursaries for undergraduate students in their first, second, or penultimate year, including international students, to undertake work experience that they might not otherwise be able to afford.

Gateway bursary scheme

This scheme offers financial support of up to £2000 for undergraduates (except final years) from the following priority groups to undertake work experience: A2B students, registered disabled, leaving care, first generation of the family into higher education, in receipt of a grant or scholarship, lone parent, ethnic minorities. Awards are available for work experience undertaken throughout the academic year.

Work Experience bursary scheme

This scheme offers financial support of up to £800 for undergraduate students (except final years) to undertake work experience in the UK in the summer vacation.

The work experience can be within the UK, overseas or for research related experiences (for example, a research project at a university or within an organisation that is undertaking research).

To find out more about our work experience bursaries and alternative sources of funding visit the internships funding website.

FAQs: Finding a graduate job

What’s the difference between a graduate scheme, internship and job?

Graduate schemes are run by large employers and tend to last between 18 months and 2 years. They often give graduates the opportunity to rotate around different departments and sometimes offer trainees the opportunity to work towards a professional qualification. Applications for graduate schemes usually open in late summer or early autumn. The majority of these schemes are open to graduates as well as final year students. They are more popular in some industries than others e.g. there are more in finance, business and consulting than in areas such as media, heritage and journalism.

Graduate internships are temporary roles offered by both large and small employers in a range of industries. Graduate internships can be paid, although sometimes they are unpaid. They are advertised all year long but most final year students apply in spring or summer term. Graduate internships can sometimes result in a permanent job offer, but their short-term nature makes them popular with graduates who want to get a feel for an industry before committing to anything long-term.

An ‘entry-level’ or graduate job is a role that requires a degree. The majority of entry-level jobs are open to anyone with a degree and so aren’t exclusively for final year students. Jobs can be temporary or permanent and are advertised all-year round. For the majority of graduates, their first job out of university is an entry-level role.

When should I start looking for a graduate job or internship?

This will depend on the type of position you are applying for.

The majority of graduate schemes open for applications between September and October, although a few are open as early as August. These schemes are very competitive so apply as early as possible in your final year.

Most graduate internships are advertised all-year round, but the majority of final year students apply in spring and summer term of their final year.

If you’re looking for a graduate/entry-level job start applying one to two months before you are ready to start work.

Where can I find graduate vacancies?

There are plenty of graduate vacancy websites which advertise graduate schemes, jobs and internships. These include Prospects, TARGETjobs, Milkround and Graddiary.

Don’t overlook industry-specific vacancy websites to search for opportunities. Many of these are listed on our Insight Guides.

To find a graduate internship visit Careers Connect, Graduate Advantage (for opportunities in the West Midlands) and

Don’t forget increasing numbers of employers are now advertising roles on LinkedIn, as well as social media.

Can I get a graduate job with a 2:2?

Yes, absolutely! There are lots of options available to you. You might think a 2:2 will restrict you from getting a graduate job but there are many employers out there who will be interested in hiring you.

If you’d like to apply for a graduate scheme you will have less choice with a 2:2, but find out about the employers who are open to applications from graduates with 2.2 degrees.

There are plenty of graduate jobs and internships with smaller or medium-sized organisations too. In fact, these organisations are often more flexible with their entry requirements.

In the long term, having a 2:2 does not impact on your career success. A report by the Department for Business Innovation and Skills Graduate Labour Market Statistics published in April 2017 highlights a 0.3% difference in employment between 2:1s and 2:2s.

For more tips listen to the 'How to Get a Graduate Job with a 2.2 or 3rd Class Degree' podcast episode and remember, you can always talk through your options with a Careers Advisor by booking a careers appointment.

FAQs: CVs, applications and interviews

How can I get feedback on my CV/cover letter or application answers?

Before submitting a document for review, attend one of our application workshops. You can also review our quick guides for tips:

Upload your CV to CV Checker to get instant feedback. Make some amendments based on the comments and re-upload it to get more tips.

You can also ask one of our Careers Advisers to review your CV by sending it electronically to us via email: 

What do I need to include in my CV and cover letter?

You should include your education (from secondary school onwards), along with any voluntary experience, part-time jobs or internships you’ve had. You can also mention any key achievements, awards or extra qualifications. For more information on what to include in your CV sign up to a CV workshop.

A standard CV should be no longer than one to two pages in length. The only exception is if you are applying for a job in academia. If you go over on to two pages we recommend you fill both sides, otherwise your CV can look unfinished or that you’ve run out of things to say.

Your cover letter needs to tell the employer a little about you, why you want to work for them and why you’ve decided to apply for that specific role. You also need to demonstrate how your experience and skills match those required for the job you’re applying for. This information can usually be found in the job description, under a ‘Person specification’ or ‘Essential criteria’ heading. If you’re applying speculatively (i.e. when no position is advertised) use Prospects job profiles to decide what skills and attributes to highlight.

There are no strict rules on how long your cover letter needs to be. Different recruiting managers have different preferences, but most prefer a page of A4.

If you’d like us to review your CV or cover letter, you can send it electronically by emailing:

I have an interview/assessment centre coming up. Can you help?

Prepare in advance by attending one of our workshops during term-time. If you don’t have time to attend one of these, take a look at our CVs, applications, interviews, assessment centres website for lots of advice on interviews and assessment centres.

If you’ve been invited to attend an interview, you can request a practice interview with one of our advisers. We will tailor the practice interview to the opportunity and industry you’re applying for, and provide feedback to help you improve and feel more confident. If you’re unable to get to campus we can offer these mock interviews via Skype too.

You can also practise your interview technique online with our interactive online video interviewing tool.

If you’d like to talk to someone about what to expect and how to prepare, book a careers appointment.

I have a disability/health condition. Should I tell an employer and if so, how?

Deciding to disclose your disability to an employer is a matter of personal choice. You are under no legal obligation to do so, and it's for you to choose if and when you disclose.

TARGETjobs have published an article on Disability and mental health which covers disclosing your disability to employers. It provides advice on the Equality Act, along with tips on when and how you can disclose a health condition or disability, should you choose to do so.

If you have more questions or would like to speak in-person to an adviser book a careers appointment today. You can also email us a question by emailing  by emailing

How do I know if I have the skills required for a job?

When an employer advertises a job or internship they usually provide a list of competencies they are looking for in the job description. This information can normally found under a ‘Person specification’ or ‘Essential criteria’ heading.

Read this carefully, as the essential criteria will be used by the employer as a checklist when sifting applications. Demonstrate you’re the right fit for both the job and the organisation by focusing on evidencing the skills, competencies and experience the employer is looking for.

What do employers mean by ‘commercial awareness’?

‘Commercial Awareness’ (sometimes referred to as ‘Sector Awareness’) is something the majority of graduate employers look for in applicants. Commercial awareness can be understood as having:

  • An understanding of their business which includes their products/services, activities and how the role you’re applying for fits in to this
  • An understanding of the marketplace including their competitors and how they differ from each other

It’s also important to have a broad understanding of the political, economic, social and technological factors which impact the organisation you are applying for and the industry they operate in. Research is key, especially as graduate employers will test this awareness in the application and interview process.

There’s no quick fix to develop your commercial awareness. Work experience in the industry you’re applying for will help, but you will need to keep up to date with industry news and trends as well. To do this, set up email alerts for industry websites listed on our Insight Guides

For more tips and advice on how to develop your commercial awareness read our blog post 'What is commercial awareness and how do I get it?'.

FAQs: Postgraduate study

How do I choose between courses?

Just as with first degrees, postgraduate courses with a similar title may have considerable differences in subject content, teaching and assessment methods, and academic approaches. It’s important to look at the details and try to go deeper than course marketing materials and web pages.

Use opportunities like postgraduate open days to visit other universities and meet staff (and maybe students) from the course you’re interested in. If you’re considering a course at the University of Birmingham it’s easy to make contact with students and lecturers to find out more. The key contact is the course convenor or programme leader; their names and contact details should be given with the course information online.

The Complete University Guide, Find A Masters, TARGETpostgrad and other university and graduate careers websites provide comprehensive information about all aspects of postgraduate study.

How and when do I apply for postgraduate study?

This depends whether you’re applying for ‘academic’ postgraduate courses (Masters degrees etc. in academic disciplines) or ‘professional’ postgraduate courses (teacher training, legal professional courses and others where entry is by postgraduate study, including social work).

Some universities have early application deadlines, others accept applications into the summer before the course starts, so always check with course providers. You can apply from early in the previous academic year, and it’s worth doing this for popular courses which may fill up quite early. Earlier application (before April) may be needed if you want to apply for funding, but again check with the course provider and see postgraduate studentships for information.

You apply to each university individually using their online application portals. This means you decide how many courses and institutions to apply for, unlike the UCAS first degree application system.

Application to teacher training is through UCAS Teacher Training: Apply and Track and for law professional courses by Lawcabs. You need to apply by a deadline, generally mid-January, to guarantee your application is considered by all course providers.

Application to other ‘professional’ masters degrees provided by universities, such as Archives Management, Museum Studies, Journalism, and Library/Information Studies, is as for other courses at the same university. Details are always provided on the course web pages.

You will often need to submit a personal statement when applying for further study. See below for more information.

How do I get funding to do a postgraduate course?

Some postgraduate courses such as PhDs receive funding, whilst the majority of Masters courses are self-funded, with students taking out a loan or finding sponsorship. The government offer postgraduate loans to help with course fees and living costs which many students apply for in final year.

If you are self-funding your postgraduate course, make sure you can cover both tuition and living expenses. It is advisable that you check with the institutions’ department/school about any funding opportunities available and when to apply.

Our webpage on funding postgraduate study has a useful summary of the main funding directories and funding bodies.

Access to scholarships, bursaries and reduced tuition fees can mean that studying abroad can often be cheaper than in the UK, but you'll still have your living and accommodation costs to consider. Find out more about international postgraduate study options and funding. 

What is a personal statement and how do I write one?

A personal statement is used to show your interest and suitability for a job or postgraduate course. For further study, a personal statement needs to be tailored to the institution and course you are applying for.

The following are the key topics to cover:

  • Your motivation for choosing that subject, course and institution
  • Your own academic experience to date and how it relates to the area you want to study or research
  • Your skills and qualities which will help you with your further studies
  • How the course might fit into your longer-term goals

For further advice on how to write a personal statement visit our further study webpage or attend one of our workshops.

Get feedback on your personal statement by sending it electronically via email to  by emailing:

Got a question not answered above? Email Careers Network.


Professional Services