How to match your study and career path

Choosing what to study for the career you want takes time and research. We’re here to help by explaining how to match your study choice with a career path. We’ve got tips, advice and information on how to approach the process.


Deciding on what career path you want to take influences your study choice. You need to know what qualifications or degrees are required, whether you’ll need a postgraduate degree and if your career choice suits your skills and abilities. For most people, it needs research, consultation, discussion and careful decision-making. We can help with some advice on how best to match your study path with a potential career. We’ve got some techniques, tips and methods to help you find your path. 


Evaluate your skills and interests


The best place to start evaluating a possible career path is by investigating what you are interested in. Don’t only think of this in terms of what subjects you may enjoy, but also what you enjoy outside of academic life. You can start by making a list of some of your favourite activities and hobbies. It’s always a good idea to start this process quite early and to consult with family, friends, a teacher, a lecturer or a careers/ education counsellor who can guide you.


The next step is to take the list you have made and start comparing that with your skills and academic strengths. Perhaps you show an affinity for science and maths, do very well at biology or excel at creative subjects and research. All of this is relevant in sketching out your potential direction. Don’t worry if you’re struggling to align your skills and interests with a definite career or job, your initial research should have a broad scope and explore different potential sectors.


As much as a career is about your interests and skills, it is also about your personality profile. It’s useful to reflect on your personal qualities and how they may influence the type of work that would suit you best. Some traits could be:


  • Entrepreneurial
  • Communicative
  • Empathetic
  • Creative or imaginative
  • Facilitative
  • Conscientiousness
  • Independent


With your interests, skills and personal traits laid out, you have a good foundation to build from and develop. You can then begin to investigate applicable career options and the qualifications that you may need to get there.


Explore subjects, degrees and careers


Getting to know what sort of jobs are out there in different sectors does take a bit of work. You’ll have a general idea based on your interests and skills where you want to head, so you can start having a look at trends and job postings in those areas using online portals or local websites.


Often job advertisements will include an expectation for the qualifications and skills an ideal candidate would have. From this, you’ll get a sense of what you may want to pursue academically in order to qualify to work in a particular area.


Some jobs require that you have studied very specific degrees and make that mandatory for entry into the field. This includes roles such as engineersdoctorslawyersarchitects and accountants. Sometimes you will be required to have studied an advanced degree for certain roles, for example, psychology, so it’s good to know this going in when evaluating career options.


Equally important to remember is that not all degrees or academic qualifications are applicable to only one specific sector or area of work. In fact, they can be transferable. For example, studying a degree in geography could lead to work in environmental management, town planning, climatology or NGO research.


What is useful however is to try and align your choice of degree with the general direction you want to head, especially if you have an interest in a number of fields. You may find a particular focus during the course of your studies, but if you’re a little unsure taking a more general degree is advisable.


Take time to find out what your potential job could be and what your values are. For example, are you looking for a career that pays very well and has good career development prospects?


Additionally, would a job that offers the possibility of training and learning new skills appeal to you? Don’t forget that there are new jobs being developed and created all of the time, some of which weren’t around ten years ago. 


Chatting with a university advisor or education counsellor about your degree options can help, as can researching popular degree choices.



Develop a career plan and set study goals


Armed with a good sense of your skills, interests and possible academic path, the next step is to create a clear plan of action. This plan should ideally involve:



This plan should be underpinned by a wider set of goals and ambitions. These should be in keeping with your skills, attributes and personality. That way they are achievable. Make a list of the key things that you hope to achieve within a given time frame, for example:


Make your decision


It’s up to you now. You are well on your way to finding the path for your desired career. It’s always a big step in deciding what you want to do and/or study. However, with the knowledge of what’s required in order to achieve your goals and an understanding of who you are, you can make informed choices. Some of the questions that you may consider when making your final decision are:


  • Will I be personally and professionally fulfilled?
  • Have I done detailed research and understand what’s involved?
  • Does the path I have chosen align with my degree, skills and values?
  • What obstacles will I need to overcome in order to achieve my academic and career goals?


All that’s left to do is make your application. Remember not to worry too much that the course of study you choose will dictate your whole career or life. If it’s something you’re really interested in you’ll find it very fulfilling. However, there will also be plenty of opportunity for learning and development as you go. In fact, you may end up working in a number of different fields over the course of your career, it all adds to the experience.


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