Careers Advice Blog

Degree choice isn’t the be-all and end-all of careers

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From an early age, we are told that education will shape the course of the rest of our lives. This is certainly true, as education opens the door to a wide variety of skills and opportunities that are much harder to achieve, without the knowledge or qualifications to back you up.

Despite this, many students in education are scared of the prospect of making the wrong decision, studying the wrong subjects and ending up in the wrong career. Other times students feel that they must make a practical choice, for fear of ending up struggling to find meaningful employment.

These are not inherently bad sentiments – a game plan and a sense of practicality are powerful allies when it comes to pursuing a career.

One thing that is often overlooked, however, is that people change.

Much of education happens at a time in your life when you are still finding out what you like and what you’re not so fond of. Your ideas and interests may change even over the span of one year but, if that year happens to fall over the period that you choose your A Levels, you may not feel as enthused about your choices as you had hoped.

This is never going to be the end of the road for you. Having clear-cut ideas of the rest of your life during your formative years is a luxury, not a prerequisite. I like to think I am a pretty good example of making a change for the better after not enjoying the direction I was going in. When I was at university, I studied Microbiology at the University of Sheffield, and I really enjoyed most of it. One thing I found that I didn’t enjoy, however, was the relatively solitary working life I saw that I might have, should I choose to move into the field professionally. I had been doing an eight-week lab based project, and found that days would go by and I had only spoken to a handful of people in a very quiet environment. While this might be the dream workplace for some people, I decided it didn’t suit me – I wanted something a bit more dynamic.

It might have been that I ended up becoming disheartened, feeling that I had made the wrong choice at an advanced stage of education. Instead I finished the degree and started to look for alternatives.  I have always had an urge to pursue business, so that’s where I focused my attention. I enquired at the business department one day at university and found I could do a Masters. I got offered a chance to do an MBA straight after my degree and that provided the stepping stone.

After completing my Masters, I took a risk and moved to London – that was by far the best decision I have ever made. I managed to land a trainee position for PricewaterhouseCoopers and when I started, it was with over 100 other trainee accountants. It was work but with a university feel, and the best part was that it had the social side that I had craved back when I was studying microbiology. It enabled me to do something I enjoyed, it was great fun and it looked good on my CV too. And now I’m the managing director of Heavenly Online Accountants.

Education isn’t about having solid ideas, or finding a track and sticking in it until you land a career based job. Instead, I think it is about progressing yourself intellectually and giving yourself the skills to pursue your passions and interests. If you focus as much on improving yourself as you do on your career prospects, you’ll end up with the skills and confidence to do what it takes to find your true vocation.

Do you think degree choice isn’t the be-all and end-all of careers? Let us know your argument in the comments below!

Photo: Kyle Pearce / Flickr

Clare is the Managing Director and owner of Heavenly Online Accountants. She is a graduate of University of Sheffield having studied Microbiology initially, before switching career paths and obtaining a Master’s in Business Administration (MBA) in 1992. Her career has seen her work for major firm PricewaterhouseCoopers and a Chartered Accountancy firm in the North East, as well as an in-house Company Accountant, before setting up her own business.
Clare McCullaghDegree choice isn’t the be-all and end-all of careers

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