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Which course is right for you?

Economies collapsing, job markets contracting, education fees rising… The days of attending University without a clear graduation (employment) goal are becoming less and less viable. Well for us mere mortals anyway.

Employers are faced with an enormous stable of University graduates and have the luxury of selecting the best person for the particular job available. Therefore, regardless of how you want to interpret the saying “horses for courses”, there are two main questions:

1)  Are you going to be the best candidate for the role?

2)  More importantly, is there even a relevant job available when you graduate?

Today I want to focus on course choice to answer these questions, as your course will usually dictate your appropriateness for certain roles and launch your trajectory to employment. To simplify things (heavily), the way I see it, there are two alternatives you can pursue:

Option 1: Degrees that lead to specific employment e.g. BSc Accounting Degrees = Accountant

Option 2: Degrees that lead to non-specific employment e.g. BA Philosophy

In my experience international students have heavily favoured option one as they generally intend to return home with a specific skill in hand, even Ghandi studied Law at UCL in 1889. In comparison, domestic students have historically been more likely to select option 2. However, that said, times are changing and return on education investment is now a consideration for all as people need a skill they can sell.

As a result of this shift, Universities are releasing an increasing number of skill-oriented courses. One of my favourites is the Ethical Hacking for computer Security BSc (Hons) from Northumbria University. This modern day programme couldn’t be more ‘option one’ if it tried, specific skills for specific roles in an industry that is developing faster than the course material can be taught!

So with the push towards practical degrees for specific jobs, what are the benefits of a degree like philosophy? Philosophy Graduates from the University of Kent report a 60% employment rate, and it is interesting to read the list of diverse occupations they go into. What does this mean? Here is where we shift ‘courses’ to one where the finish line is not entry into a particular industry. There’s a lot of merit in the goal of personal growth and learning about a part of life that interests you, and in many cases this approach will inform your views and make you a better fit for jobs that require, say, problem solving or personal interaction.

So this approach is admirable and can lead to rewarding careers, but it’s a tough road at the moment. If your study goals include landing a particular job it may be wise to consider a practical degree, or if you are already studying, add a postgraduate qualification that can provide you with specific skills.

There are horses for courses; it all depends on your goal. What do you think? I’d be interested to hear some experiences.