The Careers Service sees many students in this particular situation every term, and an appointment with one of our careers advisers can help you to think about your career options with a change of subject, as well as the potential consequences of leaving your degree programme altogether. Here is some advice for three of the most common dilemmas we help with related to this area.
I like this university but I want to change my degree subject
This is potentially trickier than you might think. Being admitted onto one programme of study doesn’t mean that you can simply swap to another. Each school or department carries out its own recruitment and has different numbers of places available on each course. There may not be a place available for you to switch from Chemistry to Biology, for example, just because you are already a student in a particular university.
To clarify your options, find out who the admissions tutor is for the course to which you want to transfer; this information is usually found on the website for each school or department. Ask if they have any available places and if they are willing to consider your case based on your existing academic performance and career plans. Do bear in mind that if you are performing poorly in your academic work in your current subject, it may be a challenge to convince another department that you should be admitted to their programme.
If you want to make a radical subject change, such as moving from Mathematics to History of Art, a careers adviser will be able to help you consider your career options and any long-term implications. Do be aware that about two thirds of graduate recruiters don’t mind which subject your degree is in (unless you want to be something like an engineer or doctor!) as long as you have the right transferable skills and some work experience to offer.
I want to do the same subject but I don’t like it here!
As above, you need to contact the admissions tutor for the course in which you are interested at the university you want to move to and see which options are available to you. Will you be able to transfer credits or will you have to repeat a year and maybe take some additional units? Remember that degree courses in the same subject can be structured and taught very differently between institutions, so take the time to check and make sure that you are making the right choice this time.
If you need to repeat a year and this involves taking time out from study, then obtaining work experience could be a valuable addition to your CV and potentially make you more employable than if you hadn’t spent some time in the workplace.
I don’t know if I want to be at university at all
It could also be the case that being at university right now just isn’t working for you. It’s perfectly okay to change your mind if you feel that you have made the wrong decision to start a degree. You could go out and work for a while and then return to education later, if you like, although your funding opportunities may be affected by how long you suspend your studies. We have copies of the AGCAS publication Changing or Leaving Your Course at the Careers Service, for advice on these practicalities. A careers adviser can help you to decide which route is best for you at the present time. You will also need to speak to your Faculty Office and Student Funding about how to withdraw from your programme and what implications there are for your fees and loans.
Bear in mind too, that many people have successful careers without being graduates. A lot of entrepreneurs and small business owners are self-starters who are good at marketing their skills and services. Some of the larger corporations involved in graduate recruitment also now offer training schemes post A-Level for those who don’t want to go on to university for whatever reason, so it’s really worth looking for alternative routes into a career you would love. The path may not be straightforward and progress may be slower, but your career will ultimately be based on how well you do a particular job and not on a degree classification, so you will eventually be on a level playing field with graduates in the same industry.
Whatever your dilemma, it won’t be anything we haven’t heard before, so do come into the Careers Service and ask if you can talk to someone about your options or start by looking at the advice on our web site on changing or leaving your course.
Dr Tracy Johnson, Careers Adviser