The basics
Study abroad : Career Prospects

How to map your career and study path

Choosing a career and study path is a process. There are a number of factors to take into account including your abilities, interests and goals. We have some tips and advice on how to approach planning your route.

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Working out what kind of work you may want to do and the career path that most appeals to you, often informs your decision-making process when selecting what you’ll study. Perhaps you’ll need to study to an advanced postgraduate degree to qualify? In some cases, people know instinctively what career they see themselves undertaking, while for others it’s all about research, evaluation and deliberation. What’s important is combining your ambitions and interests, with your abilities and skills. We take a look at some of the techniques, methods and advice that could help you find your direction.

 

Investigate and discover your interests

 

The best place to start evaluating a possible career path is by investigating what you are interested in. Don’t only think of this in terms of what subjects you may enjoy, but also what you enjoy outside of academic life. You can start by making a list of some of your favourite activities and hobbies. It’s always a good idea to start this process quite early and to consult with family, friends, a teacher, a lecturer or careers/ education counsellor who can guide you.

 

The next step is to take the list you have made and start comparing that with your skills and academic strengths. Perhaps you show an affinity for science and maths, do very well at biology or excel at creative subjects and research. All of this is relevant in sketching out your potential direction. Don’t worry if you’re struggling to align your skills and interests with a definite career or job, your initial research should have a broad scope and explore different potential sectors.

 

As much as a career is about your interests and skills, it is also about your personality profile. It’s useful to reflect on your personal qualities and how they may influence the type of work that would suit you best. Some traits could be:

 

  • Entrepreneurial
  • Communicative
  • Empathetic
  • Creative or imaginative
  • Facilitative
  • Conscientiousness
  • Independent

 

With your interests, skills and personal traits laid out you have a good foundation to build from and develop. You can then begin to investigate applicable career options and the qualifications that you may need to get there.

 

Explore career paths and subjects

 

Getting to know what sort of jobs are out there in different sectors does take a bit of work. You’ll have a general idea based on your interests and skills where you want to head, so you can start having a look at trends and job postings in those areas using online portals or local websites. Often job advertisements will include an expectation for the qualifications and skills an ideal candidate would have. From this you’ll get a sense of what you may want to pursue academically in order to qualify to work in particular area.

Some jobs require that you have studied very specific degrees and make that mandatory for entry into the field. This includes roles such as engineers, doctors, lawyers, architects and accountants. Sometimes you will be required to have studied an advanced degree for certain roles, for example psychology, so it’s good to know this going in when evaluating career options.

 

Equally important to remember is that not all degrees or academic qualifications are applicable to only one specific sector or area of work. In fact, they can be transferable. For example, studying a degree in geography could lead to work in environmental management, town planning, climatology or NGO research.

 

What is useful however is to try and align your choice of degree with the general direction you want to head, especially if you have interest in a number of fields. You may find a particular focus during the course of your studies, but if you’re a little unsure taking a more general degree is advisable.

 

Take time to ascertain what your potential job could be and what your values are. For example, are you looking for a career that pays very well and has good career development prospects? Additionally, would a job that offers the possibility of training and learning new skills appeal to you? Don't forget that there are new jobs being developed and created all of the time, some which weren't around ten years ago. 

Chatting to a university advisor about your degree options can help, as can research on popular degree choices.

 

Develop a plan and set goals

 

Armed with a good sense of your skills, interests and possible academic path, the next step is to create a clear plan of action. This plan should ideally involve:

 

 

This plan should be underpinned by a wider set of goals and ambitions. These should be in keeping with your skills, attributes and personality. That way they are achievable. Make a list of the key things that you hope to achieve within a given time frame, for example:

 

 

Make that decision

 

The ball is now in your court and you are well on your way to setting up the architecture for your desired career. It’s always a big step deciding what you want to do and/or study. However, with the knowledge of what’s required in order to achieve your goals and an understanding of who you are, you can make informed choices. Some of the questions that you may consider when making your final decision are:

 

  • Will I be personally and professionally fulfilled?
  • Have I done thorough research and understand what’s involved?
  • Does the path I have chosen align with my degree, skills and values?
  • What obstacles will I need to overcome in order to achieve my academic and career goals?

 

All that’s left to do is make your application. Remember not to worry too much that the course of study you choose will dictate your whole career or life. If it’s something you’re really interested in you’ll find it very fulfilling. However, there will also be plenty of opportunity for learning and development as you go. In fact, you may end up working in a number of different fields over the course of your career, it all adds to the experience.

 

 

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