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Choosing The Right Course


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Choosing the right courses at college or university could prove invaluable when you begin looking for a job after graduation. However, what about longer term? Sometimes the decisions you make when you are younger will have an impact on what you end up doing, ten or even twenty years down the line.


Some people come to university because they are very clear about their career goals. Many others find it very difficult to decide what they want to do for their future. There are always chances in life to return to education and to take further programmes.

Training is also offered through some jobs. Not everyone wants to spend more time and money on re-training if they could have planned their route better the first time around.

Initial Consideration

Training is also offered through some jobs. Not everyone wants to spend more time and money on re-training if they could have planned their route better the first time around.

It can save a lot of time and expense to give thought to your future earlier rather than later even if it seems hard to know where to begin.

Whether or not you are clear what job you want, you can move forward by thinking about the wider questions that should influence your choice.


• What kind of life do you want to live? Will that be possible in the kinds of jobs you are thinking of doing longer term?

• What kind of person do you want to be? What kinds of job would help you be that person?

• What kind of people do you want to be with when you are at work?

• What kind of income you want? How important is money to you?

• What sort of activities do you enjoy? Will you be able to do any of these in your job?

Taking the right courses

Bear in mind that there will be many graduates going for some jobs. Give some thought to how you will stand out.


• A combination of options may make you a better fit for some jobs. For example, if you are studying accountancy or law, which options would help you to become an accountant or a lawyer in the sports industry? For media companies? For medical or pharmaceutical companies? For construction industries? For manufacturing industries?

• An unusual option may encourage some employers to interview you out of interest.

• Check carefully the requirements of professional bodies – you may need to take certain accredited units to progress to further qualifications or into the occupation of your choice. The Careers Service can help you to check the programmes you need.

If you are on a course that offers subsidiary subjects or optional modules or units, you may wish to choose your options from a career perspective. Alternatively, you may want to choose options that broaden your personal interests as a welcome change from your main subject.

Remember: too much variety can be difficult to manage as you need to learn the conventions and background knowledge for the different subjects you take. A little variety can be really useful. It opens up new opportunities and gives you new perspectives on your main subject or on life in general.

Extra-curricular activities

Graduates generally have more employment opportunities and earn more than non-graduates. However, to get the job you want at an early stage in your career, a degree may not be enough. When you go for interview employers may be looking for a wide range of skills and experience. In particular, employers tend to prefer applicants who:

• Have taken on responsible roles.

• Have led projects.

• Have had work experience.

• Speak languages apart from English.

• Have taken on challenges and can describe how they learnt from them.

• Have the problem-solving skills to get on with a new job without too much direction.

• Get on well with other people.

• Are confident in communicating with a wide range of people.

• Are creative thinkers.

• Are good at finding solutions rather than focusing on the problem.

Some programmes now build opportunities for developing such skills into the main curriculum. If so, it is worth keeping good records of the skills you develop. It is also useful to consider the opportunities for developing these skills outside the curriculum.

Clear life goals

Although it is important to spend time thinking about your academic subjects and your career objectives, sometimes the bigger questions that will really affect you can get left out.
For example:

• What do you want to achieve over your lifetime? Is there any one thing you would like to fit into the next 10 or 20 or 30 years?

• Where in the country or in the world do you want to live?

• What values are important to you?

• Who are the important people in your life? How do they fit into your life plans?

• What does success mean for you?

• What are you prepared to sacrifice to get what you want?


• Do something outside of your normal routine - take a journey, go for a walk, join a different class for a day or do something creative that you wouldn’t usually do. Then jot down some ideas to the questions above. You may give very different responses when you step outside of your normal daily activities.

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