How to plan for a career unique to you
Life is full of difficult decisions and choices. At this time of year, many of you are making some of the biggest choices about the future as you choose the right career, and what higher education option will help get you there.
And there’s certainly no shortage of information to help you make these choices - whether for you it is an apprenticeship, progressing to college or university, or straight into a job-perhaps with training. Before you make your decision, remember that your learning and career journey is unique to you, so you need to make the choice that suits you best,
As a start, here is a list of things to consider:
1. Know your end goal
Before you choose the subject you are going to study, first research the industry(ies) you are interested in – find out where the entry points are, typical salaries and where there are skills gaps. Whether you have a final career in mind already, or are still deciding, make sure you know what your options will be at the end of your course.
2. Do your research
Doing your research is vital. There are so many new and exciting opportunities available, so make sure you’re aware of all of them before you choose the path that is right for you.
Your options include a full degree at a university, which is the most traditional route to higher education, but this is not the only option. There are degree apprenticeships, local colleges, foundation degrees and of course BTEC Higher National qualifications (HNCs or HNDs).
Higher Nationals are similar to foundation degrees in that they are equivalent to the first two years of a degree. However they are regulated, designed and managed by the awarding body like Pearson, with involvement from universities, employers, professional bodies and even students in their design.
Ultimately the choice is yours, and you need to make the right decision for you. If you’re still undecided, speak to your careers advisor.
3. Think part-time, full-time or even online
How you study can also be a deciding factor, allowing you the flexibility to either study part-time while you work, or choose to complete parts of your course online. You will need to check this with your local college or university, as not all institutions offer the same flexibility.
4. Check the entry requirements
Entry requirements will differ by institution and course (like having an understanding of maths if you’re going to study engineering), but usually always involve the results, points or scores from previous study. Sometimes the entry requirements may be as detailed as being able to prove a certain level of English if it isn’t your first language, so make sure that you have read all of the programme requirements before you apply.
5. Find out how you’ll be assessed
Not all students and employers value exams, and that’s ok. If you would prefer to complete assignments throughout your course that contribute towards your grades, then this is something that can be achieved. When you’re researching your different options mentioned above, make sure you have a look at the course content, especially the assessment criteria and assessment types used.
6. Budget for the costs of study
Higher education and the associated costs should not be taken lightly, however there are some options that are more affordable than others. For example, a qualification or degree acquired through a higher or degree apprenticeship is sponsored by your employer while you work, so you don’t pay tuition fees. Equally, the annual costs of studying could be lower if you take a BTEC Higher National qualification, especially if you are studying locally.
7. Go to open days
Whether you’re going to university, or studying at a local college, you need to familiarise yourself with the culture of the institution and the faculty. Do you feel that you’ll get the support you need? Do they have the facilities you need?
8. Speak to alumni
Who better to ask for feedback on the course than those who have already done it? Depending on the questions you have, this could be somebody who has studied at the institution, done the course you are interested in, or even already got a similar job to the one you want.
9. Where do you want to live?
University and college campuses will differ from one institution to another, and you need to decide how this will influence your living arrangements. Whether you attend a university or college miles away from home, or study locally and commute, you’ll need to research the pros and cons of commuting or living on campus, and the relevant costs for each.
10. Think about getting ready for work
Does the course you’re considering offer careers advice or work placements? Does the university or college have links with employers? Will you have the opportunity to develop a portfolio or work on projects that show future employers the skills you have to offer? Even if you’re still thinking about your final career, it’s important to choose a course that will help you build the wider skills future employers will be looking for.
Most importantly, this is your choice. Follow your passions - as this is how you will excel!