How to choose a university course
How do I choose a course?
You've decided you want to do a course. Whether you would like a career change, a better job or simply to learn something new, it's a good idea to think carefully first. Here's a guide to help you.
Qualifications - why do I need them?
Qualifications prove you've acquired knowledge or developed skills. For some careers like medicine and law, it's essential you have specific qualifications. For others, such as journalism, it helps to have a particular qualification.
Most universities set entry requirements for degree courses. Mature entrants don't always need formal qualifications, but need evidence of recent study, relevant work experience or professional qualifications. Professional bodies may grant you membership if you have certain qualifications. It's not always essential to have a qualification. Working knowledge, such as being able to use computer software, can be just as important.
What type of course should I do?
Your motives will help you choose the best course for your aims and goals. If you are career-driven, you'll need a course relevant to your profession. If you are interested in self-development and meeting people, you should find out who else will be on the course.
There are work-related (vocational) and academic courses. Further education colleges offer academic courses and work-related courses. Universities offer higher education qualifications, such as academic first degrees and higher degrees and the more vocational diplomas.
For a career in plumbing, a vocational course is essential. For teaching, you need a degree. However, for many jobs, you have a choice between academic and vocational courses. A vocational course is better if you like doing things with your hands and working manually. You might prefer an academic course if you like researching, analyzing and presenting arguments.
Which type of study would suit me best?
Do you prefer on-the-job training, or do you prefer to research and gather facts? Do you like working in a group covering the same topics and working towards the same goal? If you prefer to work on your own, at your own pace, an open or distance learning course might suit you. You study from home, with the help of tuition packs, computers and tutor support via telephone or email. You can speed through the course or take your time. But you do need self-discipline and motivation.
What about my personal circumstances?
You might prefer an open or distance learning course if:
- you're working and you don't know how much time a week you can commit to
- you work irregular hours
- you're at home looking after pre-school children.
Many colleges and training centres now offer flexible open-learning courses, where you can study at your own pace.
How do I know if it's a good course?
You've decided which subject and type of course you want, and how to study it. You now need to choose between different course titles and providers. There are many courses and they aren't of equal value. The only way to assess the quality and value of a course is by research. Read prospectuses ( course guides) carefully and note if a course is accredited or validated by a recognized body (this might be an awarding body or a professional body). This can add extra weight to your qualification.
Don't take everything you read at face value; check out the facts about each course yourself. Ask course tutors as many questions as you want.
How can I be sure I'm making the right choice?
Be clear of your goal. If you've decided on a particular job, get an idea of what the job's about and if you1l like it. Read careers information, buy trade magazines, and speak to people currently working in the job. This research is well worth it. It's better to take your time rather than do a course that leads to a job you might not really want. You1l ensure that you don't waste any time or money.
What am I going to do after the course?
Plan for when you finish. If you're aiming for a particular job, do voluntary work while studying. If you're doing an English course and want to be a journalist, you could write for the student newspaper or work on the radio. Having a plan will help you make the most of the opportunities that come your way when you're on the course.