What if my degree isn’t in the field I want to work in?

What if my degree isn’t in the field I want to work in

By Alice Chandler,

At some point during your time at university, it is only natural that you may feel a little doubt and confusion over what to do when you graduate. You may suddenly realise that you no longer want to fulfil your utmost desires of becoming a doctor or an accountant, for example. This obviously doesn’t render your medicine or accounting degree useless; studying at university provides you with all sorts of transferable skills crucial for the world of employment.

You don’t necessarily need to have a degree in a subject-specific area, as most employers will be looking for someone with passion, drive, and a great knowledge of their chosen career. Some employers may require you to have a minimum of a 2:1 in order to apply, but this is not a necessity with everyone. So make sure that throughout your degree, as well as working hard to get those top grades, you focus on gaining invaluable work experience which will help you to stand out.

It’s not all about your degree

Employers look for all sorts of things besides a great degree so make sure you stand out from the crowd. It is important that your CV demonstrates that you are well rounded and have experience within the field that you are interested in working in. It is essential that you are able to articulate your motivations for your given career choice, so do some in depth research of the company or organisation before any interviews or applications to stand you in good stead.

There are many industries where some form of work experience is particularly beneficial - local government, construction and civil engineering, health, social work, and the arts. Most importantly, make your work experience count. Don’t just list where you have worked on your CV; be sure to detail exactly how it has benefited you and what skills you have gained. If you have held down a part time job whilst completing your studies, even if it was just behind a checkout or waiting tables, don’t discount it. It shows you can manage your time with your studies, and what better way to learn customer service or client handling skills?

Throughout the duration of your degree, whatever degree you choose to study, you will undoubtedly be learning crucial transferable skills which will never let you down. For example, at uni, no one is telling you to go to lectures; you learn how to manage your time successfully and (hopefully) get everything handed in by deadlines. You develop friendships and relationships which will stand the test of time, and often, these friendships provide a fantastic support system once you have finished uni and your friends become your network.

Further education - should you do a masters?

A masters course is generally a year of intensive study in your chosen subject and work wise, is a step up from your undergraduate degree. A postgraduate qualification might give you the edge when it comes to clinching a career, but it completely depends what you want to do. For some careers, such as social work, town planning, translation, museums, and conservation to name but a few, it may be essential, but for othera, an undergraduate degree will do just fine. In 2012, more than 120,000 first degree graduates managed to get a professional-level job without a masters. Graduates aged 21-24, currently have a first degree unemployment rate after sixth months of 8.5% - and masters graduates of the same age have exactly the same unemployment rate. However, a postgraduate degree may improve your chances of getting on to the PHD of your choice, and if you love your subject, then why not study it intensively for another year?!

The following list shows the top degree subjects for getting a job, and the usual suspects are up there, with medicine subjects ranking highly, but also included are subjects like languages and historical and philosophical studies, which might not necessarily be considered the most obvious degrees for providing a simple job route upon graduating.

Top degree subjects for getting a job

(Taken from the Telegraph’s University Course Finder)

  1. Medicine and dentistry
  2. Education
  3. Veterinary science
  4. Subjects allied to medicine
  5. Law
  6. Biological sciences
  7. Mathematical sciences
  8. Languages - you might not have a language degree, but learning a language in your spare time could really set you apart from the rest - the ability to speak another language is a hugely sought after skill in the current job market.
  9. Engineering
  10. Historical and philosophical studies - this surprisingly nice revelation proves that humanities degrees aren’t completely useless, with historians beating both physicians and computer scientists to make the top list!
  11. Architecture, building and planning
  12. Business and administrative studies


What’s great about this list is that many of these subjects are not necessarily career specific. It is a complete myth that there are no jobs for graduates. Last year, 178,450 graduates were working six months after graduation and 116,750 of those were in 'professional-level' roles. The unemployment rate for graduates from 2011/12 was 8.5%. (according to the Higher Education Careers Service Unit HECSU). It is also important to remember that ‘unemployed’ doesn’t necessarily mean sitting on the sofa all day watching Jeremy Kyle. You might choose to volunteer, travel, or continue in further education.