If you are thinking to go back to study, choosing the right degree course, or any other high-level education, is undoubtedly a key aspect to get right. Preferably, you should have a somewhat clear idea before making the initial step. If you don’t have it, in this post you will find some tips on how to choose degree subjects more wisely.
As we discussed in previous posts, it’s never too late to return to education and it will never be. However, a “small” disadvantage you have compared to a younger student is that, ideally, you should not make the wrong course choice when starting. Why? Because you have less time to correct your mistake, as simple as that.
Please don’t start panicking on that! Most universities allow you to easily change route if you realize you made the wrong choice. As you would expect, this is likely to involve some timeframes and deadlines. However, most of the time the first year contains modules that can be transferred to other subjects.
Changing degree subjects might also require some adjustments (e.g. assessments or credits) in order to meet the necessary requirements. Obviously, for a radical change, (e.g. from IT to Medicine) I doubt you would be able to do it that easily.
What not to do when choosing Degree subjects
Let’s start with something you must not do when choosing a degree subject. I want to address a mistake that many people make: misleading research. Guess what? I made that mistake too actually, although this was before starting university as a mature student.
I wanted a career change to escape from my job in hospitality, but I was too eager to get things done quickly. Everybody was talking about IT and the big data revolution. I was never interested in such areas before, but they were all over the news: “Big data is the job of the future, high salaries from the start and career satisfaction.”
I fell for it, I enrolled into a high-level IT professional course. It was quite expensive and it would take less time than a degree. After completion I would get an industry recognised certificate that would “guarantee” me a job. Perfect you would say, right? I did not enjoy it at all (unsurprisingly), lots of numbers and codes.
It was so far away from the “hacker” image I had in my mind, coding was not for me and I knew it from the beginning. At the end I dropped out after a month, losing my money as the course was non-refundable. That experience made me realise many things about how to choose what to study, but it came at a high cost of time and money.
Don’t get me wrong, doing research on future jobs and market trends is a very wise thing to do. However, it is important to have an interest, even if minimal, in those subjects. I have discussed some of best subjects to study in another article, you can find it here if interested: “What to study for future jobs in the UK”.
Whether you are looking for the right degree course for you, or a professional qualification course, please do not research things like: “best degree to make money”, “best degree to find a job soon” or “easiest degree” etc. If you are doing this, you are already making a huge mistake.
This is a very important decision to potentially change your life. Thus, don’t be driven by those thoughts, pick more wisely instead. Doing your own research is extremely important, but it can ruin you if you base it on “making money” or “easy subjects”.
Firstly, identify an area that you might like, then you can move into some career insights, academic path to get there and salary expectations. Attending webinars and conferences is another great thing to do, many companies open that to everyone interested and they could point you in the right direction.
Starting University? No worries! Below you can find everything I used around the campus
Sometimes a degree might not be necessary, nor the best option for your interests. Professional qualifications and courses also have their advantages if you are thinking to go back to study and change career. Again, I have written an article on that, you can find it here: “University or professional qualification?”.
How to make the decision easier
Firstly, you should get rid of all “external” pressure. This mainly refers to influence and pressure coming from people around you. For example, from your relatives: “you should study this”; or friends: “I think this is what you should study”. If you have never thought about it before, then probably that subject is not for you.
Obviously if you are not sure about what to study, hearing opinions from people close to you is always good. However, only you know what’s best for you! Don’t choose your subjects based on pressure or suggestions, but do a thorough evaluation of them instead.
Influence and pressure can also come from the news or from the society trying to incentive something, like in my case “big data is the job of the future, get qualified now”. Again, if you are not genuinely interested in these areas, don’t let these external influences drive your decision.
What Degree to do? Let your experience guide you
Now that you stopped doing misleading research and you got rid of external influences, choosing the right subject should have less “margin of error”. Let’s take two precise points in time: Firstly, when you had the opportunity to continue to higher education and you did not. Secondly, you as you are now. What is important here, is what’s in between those two: experience! Use it to create your own framework on how to choose degree.
If you have been working, you have an extremely good starting point for your choice. Begin with your current job, if you like it obviously you might want to consider getting the qualifications to progress. If you don’t like it, there are many questions that you can ask yourself to help you decision making.
What about other high-skilled jobs in other departments? You might think about that. Is it just your job that you don’t like or it’s actually the entire industry? If that is the case, then you should move away from that when choosing your subjects. You don’t want to work for someone else and want to be a business owner or self-employed instead? That’s another strong starting point.
The “discard method”
Do you see where we are going here? If you are struggling to find a subject you are one hundred percent sure about, do the opposite process! Start by “discarding” what you don’t need to consider and clear some space in your mind. Trust me, starting big and then narrowing down is a very efficient method you can apply in every situation!
So far we have removed: misleading research on making money and easy ways; external pressure and influence from friends and relatives; news and society incentivising courses and careers; experience in your current industry. What’s left? Only you know, start your research from there!
If you think you have found the right Degree course for you, but you are now unsure whether to study full-time or part-time, this might help you decide: “Study full-time or part-time?”. Having said that, one thing I want you to remember: only you know what is best for you!
If you are still struggling to choose, or there are several areas you want to explore, you can consider a joint degree. These multiple-subjects options are increasingly becoming more and more popular. This would allow you to mix subjects such as a language and business, biology and chemistry, economics and history and so on.
Also, when doing your current job-industry assessment, keep in mind that certain subjects can give you access to jobs across different industries as well. For example, an engineer can find a job in management, a business expert can work as a consultant and so on.
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“May your choices reflect your hopes not your fears” – Nelson Mandela