As an international student at Imperial, you probably have many questions about working in the UK during and after your studies, or about returning home or planning to go elsewhere when you finish. We’re here to help you develop your knowledge about your future options (both in employment or further study) and develop the skills needed to succeed.
You do not need to have a clear career plan to use our service, but it’s important to recognise that we may work differently from careers services you’ve experienced in other countries. For example:
- We do not place students or graduates into jobs, instead we educate and support you by providing information, advice and guidance so you can take control of your career.
- We do not write your CV or applications for you, or check them for spelling or grammatical accuracy, but we will give you feedback on how to improve and tailor these.
- We will not tell you what career to pursue, but we will give you tools and resources to discover areas that might be of interest to you.
- See the Institute of Student Employers (ISE) guidance on Recruiting International Graduates - A Guide for Employers.
International Student Careers Support
Working in the UK
Most international students will have permission to work in the UK for a short amount of time after the end of your studies. If you want to stay and work in the UK after this then you will need immigration permission and visa sponsorship.
The UK job market is highly competitive and it’s common for students and graduates to apply for job opportunities up to a year ahead of the employment start date. As well as strong academic results, recruiters in the UK are interested in your career motivations and look for a range of skills and competencies developed through studies, extra-curricular activities and work experience. It’s important to also have a good level of English language skills if English is not your first language.
Your suitability for a role can be assessed through several criteria and it’s very important to be familiar with the UK style of writing CVs and application documents and how we interview job candidates. The UK style or recruitment might be very different from what you’ve previously encountered but we provide lots of information resources via our Application and interviews webpages and our Careers Events to help you.
There are two main types of graduate job routes in the UK
Graduate Training Programmes (or Grad Schemes): are usually offered by large organisations that aim to recruit many graduates each year into a range of areas such as engineering, IT, finance, consultancy or management roles. These normally involve a structured training programme over one to three years. Many tend to open applications in August or September and deadlines can be as early as October while others remain open until March. If successful, you’ll usually start your job in the summer you graduate.
Direct Entry Positions: can be found in any type of organisation when a position becomes available. Typically, these are often found in small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) that generally do not need to hire many graduates, although larger employers do advertise too. Your training is often less structured than on a Grad Scheme but you may be offered the opportunity to work toward a qualification if relevant. Vacancies can be advertised at any time of the year but they can have an immediate start date so you may need to apply late in your degree or wait until you finish your studies.
There is no definitive list of companies that hire international students but the UK Home Office provides a Register of licensed sponsors which lists organisations who are licensed to sponsor work permits for workers coming from outside of the UK. This list is useful as a starting point for candidates seeking a visa but needs to be cross-referenced with current information on company careers pages or through speaking to the recruitment team. Recent WONKHE analysis explores which organisations sponsor international students and can be a useful tool to explore a variety of data.
It’s important to know of any restrictions placed on your ability to work while studying in the UK and to be aware of the visa options that allow you to work in the UK after graduation. The rules on your permission to work in the UK are determined by which country you come from, whether you're an undergraduate or postgraduate student and whether you’ve completed your studies. The College’s International Student Support Team provide specialist immigration information and advice.
- Working in the UK during your studies – The rules of working in the UK while studying are stated in your visa. It’s important to note any restrictions and that these differ between undergraduate and postgraduate students and are connected to Imperial College term dates.
Most international students can work part-time (up to 20 hours per week Monday to Sunday) during term-time, and full-time during vacations. It’s important to note that there are different rules about working during summer for postgraduate students. There are also some restrictions on the type of work you can do.
Working whilst you study through a part-time job, vacation job or internship will help develop skills to add to your CV and improve your knowledge of the labour market. However, you should also consider if you have the time capacity to work alongside your studies as most programmes at Imperial are intensive.
- Working in the UK after your studies – At the moment many international students require permission to work in the UK after their studies. There’s lots of information and support to explore your options to remain in the UK after you’ve completed your studies, including information about the Graduate Worker route that launched in summer 2021.
Working during your studies
Working whilst you study through a part-time job, vacation job or internship will help develop skills to add to your CV and improve your knowledge of the labour market.
Most international students can work part-time (up to 20 hours per week Monday to Sunday) during term-time, and full-time during vacations. It’s important to note that there are different rules about working during summer for postgraduate students. There are also some restrictions on the type of work you can do. It’s important to check your visa conditions to confirm if you can work during your studies (details from the International Student Support Team website). You should also consider if you have the time capacity to work alongside your studies as most programmes at Imperial are intensive.
Returning home or moving elsewhere
You may be considering working outside of the UK during vacations or once you graduate. It’s possible to return home or explore another country and we can offer support by discussing your plans, helping you to evaluate what you have gained from your time at Imperial and help you to organise your job search.
We work with employers around the world and advertise many international vacancies via JobsLive but it’s important to note that we cannot be experts on every country. We do however provide information on our Working abroad webpages which includes access to GoinGlobal, a careers and employment resource with country specific advice, information and job postings.
If returning home or moving elsewhere you should consider the skills you’ve developed by studying in a foreign land away from friends and family. Recruiters are interested in your academic abilities and skills but they also want to see that you’ve developed an understanding of international cultures, improved your language skills, been resourceful, creative and developed resilience during your time at Imperial.
National Insurance Number
Everyone who has paid employment in the UK needs a National Insurance (NI) number. This is used to calculate and track your tax record and looks something like this, AB 12 34 56 C. You may have a NI number printed on the back of your Biometric Residence Permit (BRP). If you don’t have one you can apply once you’re in the UK from 0800 141 2075 (Monday to Friday 08:00 – 18:00).
Your NI number is unique to you and you must not let anyone else use it. Find out more about National Insurance (NI) numbers on this Gov.UK website.