Types of work based learning experiences

Discover the types of work based experiences you can take part in.

Job shadowing

Job shadowing allows you to observe someone in their role rather than engage in hands-on experience. Spending a half-day or day watching a professional go about their job will give you a new understanding of what their career involves day-to-day, and whether it’s an option you can see for yourself. 

Work based learning

Work based learning experiences typically last for 3-5 days and provide an overview of a workplace or industry. You might be required to do some simple tasks, but you'll primarily be learning about how the organisation operates, and engaging with people in different roles.

Organisation visit

Visits to organisations are a way for you to get a behind-the-scenes look at life in a variety of workplaces. Joining an organisation visit is an interactive way to learn about different careers without a hefty time commitment. On the visit, you will tour the organisation, and have the opportunity to network, meet with team members, ask questions and learn about career paths and opportunities within the field. You might be given a basic activity to complete.

The most introductory experience of the bunch, an organisation visit will usually last a half-day or full day. 


Arranged for students by CDES, an externship is a 1-3 day practical experience on-site at an organisation. Externships can include visiting different departments, job shadowing, attending meetings, information interviews with staff members, and group activities. Typically small groups of students complete an externship together. 


Getting involved in community activity outside of the more traditional workplace can help develop valuable work and life skills. Employers value people who are making a positive contribution to society and it helps to strengthen your CV. 

There are many types of volunteering:

  • Traditional volunteering includes a range of activities like mentoring a young person, spending time with hospital patients, planting trees or cleaning up a public space.
  • One-off/project volunteering allows students to use their skills to complete a certain project, like helping low earners complete their taxes or developing a communications plan for a nonprofit.
  • Long-term volunteering is a good option if you would like to commit to an organisation for a longer period of time.
  • Short-term volunteering can be a great way to engage in volunteering for a semester or summer holiday.
  • University advocates means being an ambassador for the university at events like orientation and open days, or throughout the year through activities like peer mentoring.
  • Online or phone volunteering enables you to help others from behind your computer by offering free online tutoring, administration support, updating online content or blogging for a nonprofit cause.You could volunteer for a phone call help line as well.
  • International volunteering can help you to see life through a new lens. Many nonprofits can accommodate groups or individual volunteers for short or long-term trips. Activism gives action to your values and can include campaigning for a cause you believe in.

If you can’t find a volunteering position that suits, think outside the square and get a group of friends together to volunteer on your own project. It could be as simple as offering visits to your local retirement village. Creating your own volunteer path will showcase your initiative, motivation and confidence to potential employers, as well as your desire to give back to your community.

If you want to stretch yourself further, consider looking for volunteering positions abroad during your university holidays. There are many types of international volunteering experiences, but you will usually need to cover your own travel and living expenses. 

How do I find volunteering positions?