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Vocational Degrees

In the UK, vocational courses can refer either to degrees providing academic knowledge and industry training in a specific area, such as Medicine, which then permit graduates to begin their working lives immediately upon completion of the course, or to degrees which provide career skills tailored to a specific industry but which do not explicitly train graduates for one specific job, such as Engineering, Business, or Law.

Some also include other STEM courses (Science, Technology, Engineering, Mathematics) in the ‘vocational’ label, as these arguably provide skills more immediately tailored to specific careers than some Arts/Humanities subjects, but this seems to stretch the definition of vocational degrees too far to be of use for many.

Students are ever-more interested in career prospects after university in the UK; with the dramatic rise in tuition fees alongside the increased prevalence of university-level education amongst young people, some can worry about the expense of a university education which does not guarantee high-paying employment promptly upon graduation. When referring to ‘vocational degrees’, be sure to ascertain whether you have one specific career path in mind and therefore a (relatively) limited number of courses to choose from, or a more general interest in a future career path which you would like to explore at university level. If you will not require a specific degree to embark on your desired career path, then it is likely your interest in vocational courses aligns with the latter definition, and if this is indeed the case, perhaps consider the subject(s) you enjoy most currently as well as your future career prospects.

While non-vocational courses might not provide you with industry training, they will provide transferable skills- and you might even do better in a subject you really enjoy! If, however, not completing a specific degree would seriously reduce your entry-level career options, it is strongly recommended that, once you are as sure as you be of your interest in this area (try to speak to adults 5, 10, and 15 years into their careers to see what it is really like!), you follow this course of study. A university education will provide most students with innumerable skills, both for the world of work and as the beginning of their independent adult life, and so do be sure to consider all aspects of your ambitions and interests before deciding on a particular course of study- although working hard and networking throughout your degree should provide many opportunities should you later wish you had opted for a different course, nothing beats a carefully considered decision from the beginning!