Imagine going to a travel agent, and when they ask where you’d like to take your holiday, you hand them a credit card and say “I don’t care. Surprise me.”
It’s absurd, of course. And yet, think of any three of your friends from school who are planning to attend college or university. Ask them what they actually want to achieve with their education, and you’ll probably get no answer from 2 or even all three. Now, your university education will ultimately cost you much more than that holiday. Your degree will also affect your life much longer than any trip would. Isn’t it much more absurd to go into university blind, without a plan for what that degree is actually going to do for you?
Defining your ideal career goals before you choose a university or even a course of study is a great way to make sure that you get the most from your education, and graduate with the tools to put yourself into a great career – even if it isn’t exactly what you had imagined when you got started.
Of course, that just kicks the question down the road a bit – it becomes “What Career is Right for Me”, doesn’t it?
What Career is Right for Me?
Choosing a career to strive towards is a big decision. As we’ve mentioned elsewhere, you can always change your mind. However, you’ll get the most out of your education if you decide what skills and qualifications you’ll need before you start.
Start by thinking about what you enjoy, and what you feel most fulfilled doing. Now that you have something general in mind, think about what kind of roles fit that pattern, and pay what you feel is a reasonable wage or salary. It is better to be happy than to be rich, but we can all hope to be both, can’t we?
Once you have chosen a career, consider whether that career requires a specific degree for you to progress in it. Obviously, if a specific degree is required, the decision is made. However, there are many lucrative, rewarding careers which don’t require a specific degree. Note that most will require some degree at the Bachelor’s level or higher.
We’ve outlined some of the main careers which do require specific degrees below, followed by an outline of the educational requirements for many popular careers which do not require specific degrees.
These are careers where you will almost certainly not even be considered for good roles without a specific degree. You might be able to get some kind of on-technical or customer-facing role in one of these industries without a specific degree, but your career advancement possibilities will be practically non-existent.
- Medicine (including Dentistry, Nursing, and several other similar fields)
Almost every type of medical career will require a specific degree in order to prove to the licensing authorities that you know enough to begin your final stages of medical training. Doctors, Nurses, Osteopaths, Dentists, Dental Surgeons and more all need to take years of very specific training from a recognised institution before they can even begin the final stages of their training.
In the same way (and for essentially the same reasons), veterinarians require extensive training and licensing in order to practice their trade in the UK, and in most of the world. You’ll need a degree in Veterinary Science, or possibly something more specialised.
Most engineering careers will require an engineering degree. You’ll often have to take a specialty such as Civil Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Oil & Gas Engineering, or even Computer Engineering. However, some engineering jobs are open to graduates with degrees in closely related subjects as well, such as Physics, Maths or Materials Science. The more specific your degree, though, the better your chances.
- The Sciences
Science careers are many and varied, but they will all require specific degrees, often at the graduate as well as undergraduate level. Most of the time the degree requirement is subject specific, such as Mathematics, Physics and, Biology.
Non Degree-Specific Careers
There are many rewarding and meaningful careers which do require a bachelor’s degree, post-graduate degree or professional qualification for the best roles, but do not usually mind what kind of a degree it is. The reasoning is that no matter what kind of degree you have, you’ll be well read, ambitious and have picked up a wide range of ‘transferable skills’ which will mark you as a good match for the work.
In theory, at least, you can win a graduate role in the following careers with any undergraduate degree from a recognised UK institution or the international equivalent.
- Marketing and PR
Marketing, PR and related careers value good communication ability. Almost all degree programs deliver excellent communications and presentation skills, as well as the core professional skills you’ll need to go far in this field.
Indeed, most PR and Marketing roles seem to value innovation, unconventionality and ‘thinking outside the box’. They want to attract a diverse array of people with very different educational backgrounds.
Now, very many schools do offer specialised accountancy degrees, often combined with business or management degrees. However, Accountancy employers accept graduates with a wide range of degrees. They will often require a proven facility with maths and may demand a minimum number of UCAS points, but your grades and the institution you attended will probably be more important than the type of your degree.
Similar to PR and marketing, an advertising career is more about professionalism and creativity than a specific set of highly defined skills. Creative or communication degrees would certainly qualify you, but any type of degree can lead to a role in advertising.
Most graduate roles in construction have no specific degree requirements. Even the most technical graduate roles only require a conversion course to be available to any graduate. This is often less true at higher levels, but even then, construction management and other leadership level posts are approachable using professional qualifications or simple working experience, as well as via specific degrees.
- Hotel, Hospitality and Travel (Management Level)
Though there are hospitality management specific degree programs available, most employers do not demand them for their new hires. Most employers in the field do require a bachelor’s level degree of some kind, and many also require specific working experience and the ability to speak at least two languages. Here skills will get you farther than a names degree.
- Human Resources and Personnel Management
Many employers will consider graduate applicants with any kind of degree at all, and that is the overall standard. However, some employers do prefer graduates with a ‘related’ degree. This will of course include HR and management degrees, but it will also include fields like psychology or more general business degrees.
- Retail Banking, Investment Banking, Investment Management, etc.
Technically, there are few degree-specific requirements here. Many universities do offer Finance, International Banking and even Investment Banking degrees, but these are not required. A 2:1 degree (or better) in any ‘numerate subject’ will give you an advantage over other candidates.
- Information Technology (IT)
To be fair, the most technical roles in this field do require specific degrees. However, most of the IT roles filled every year do not require anything as specific as a Computer Science degree. Any ‘numerate’ degree will usually do, though some employers do prefer applicants with a conversion course to those without.
It may surprise you to know that you do not need to get a law degree such as an LLB to work in the field of law. Many students take existing degrees and make themselves ‘law career ready’ with a one year postgraduate conversion course. However, most employers do demand good grades, so a 2:1 is really considered the minimum for most roles and training contracts.
- Management Consulting
Though you can qualify for many of these roles without a specific business degree, you should expect to meet a high bar. Most employers will require at least a 2:1 degree form a well-respected university. Others require a 1:1. A healthy CV full of related extracurricular activities will also be a big help.
- Property (Management and Sales)
Most graduate-level property roles are open to graduates with any kind of first degree, assuming they also take the appropriate conversion course.
- Media or Publishing
There are quite a few jobs going in the publishing and media industries which do not require a specific degree. Note, though that journalism is often the exception. You may need an undergraduate or graduate degree in Journalism to pursue that career.
- Insurance and Actuarial
Many insurance roles are attainable by anyone with a degree, whilst others do require specific accreditation. Actuarial roles rarely require a specific degree, but do require a degree which included a great deal of maths content.
A career in teaching does not require any specific degree, but rather a postgraduate teacher training qualification which can follow any degree. It is traditional to study the subject you’d like to teach, however, and many employers will expect this.
So you see you can do quite a bit with any type of undergraduate degree. The key is doing well in whatever degree you choose, and ensuring that it includes modules relevant to what you’d like to do with your career.