Should you study something you love or a degree that will get you a job? | Education
Choosing what to study at university is one of the biggest decisions you’ll make as a young person. So how do you decide what’s right for you? Should you follow your heart and study something you’re really passionate about, regardless of where it might lead you, or should you instead opt for a degree with a more secure career route? Here two students argue both sides of the debate.
‘Study what you love,’ says Aimee Wragg
Ask a student what they’d study if guaranteed their dream job and it’s likely that the answer won’t correspond with what they actually choose. This is often because their aspirations have been diminished by those who “know best”.
Most advice on which degree to study is concentrated purely on obtaining a job in the future. We are discouraged by many from pursuing abstract interests because, apparently, the prospects are unrealistic.
But is it really worth taking an unappealing route on the basis that it could possibly increase your chance of securing a job? It’s difficult to enter employment from any angle, so why not try with a subject you enjoy?
The concept of standing by what you love despite the risks is dismissed by some – namely disapproving parents and teachers – but I believe it to be more sensible than focusing solely on a job.
Having a genuine interest in something can’t be faked and it’s the surest way to succeed. As Steve Jobs famously said, “the only way to do great work is to love what you do”.
In the long term, deciding to study the subject of your choice is generally more beneficial. Simple factors such as a person’s happiness and sense of fulfilment are overlooked in this argument, even though they are largely affected by career choices. These factors aren’t just based on income, either – studies have shown that there is little correlation between people’s salaries and their job satisfaction.
The fact is, there are few reasons not to study what you genuinely want to. Achieving in the subject area that appeals to you is always possible and if you don’t do it, other people will. I believe you have to make the right decisions for yourself, because no argument against this will counteract your regrets when you see people of the same age and ability as you excelling in your dream job.
‘Be realistic’ says Kerry Provenzano
University is all about doing something you love, right? Well, not quite. Choosing to study something you are passionate about might not be as beneficial as you think.
When you study at university essentially you are making an investment: one worth up to (and sometimes over) £30,000. That’s a lot of money.
You don’t have to know much about investments to know that the purpose of them is to make a profit. Your degree is a long term investment in which you are profited with knowledge. However, investing money that will some day need to be paid back means that your profit needs to be financial, not just academic.
So if you are naturally gifted with numbers but have a real passion for travel, opting to study geography at university might be a mistake. You may find you aren’t quite sure what to do with your degree once you graduate, and find yourself knowing you’re capable of the mathematical jobs you see advertised, but have no qualification to prove it.
There is a difference between your interests and your career strengths. If you think you could really crack the world of modern art then great, but if art is just something you enjoy on a weeknight, perhaps reconsider your choice to study fine art.
If you are currently choosing a course at university, or thinking of changing your course, my advice to you is simple: don’t confuse your hobby with your career prospects. Play to your strengths, not your passions. If you are lucky enough to have the two overlap then great. But bear in mind that with the right job there will always be time for the things you enjoy, regardless of whether you studied them at university or not.
• What do you think: should you do a degree you love or should you be more realistic about what will lead to a career? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.