I still don’t know what I want to be when I’m older. If all goes according to plan I’ll finish my degree in medicine and qualify as a doctor, but that’s about as far as I’ve got. I haven’t a clue as to what area of medicine I might want to specialise in and although I like to think I’m keeping an open mind, it’s more that I haven’t fallen in love with a particular specialty yet. But that’s okay! I’m certainly not the only person worrying about the future and I have little to complain about, as at least medicine is a vocational course with a pre-determined career path. It’s probably a little too late to switch to being an astronaut, but there’s still time left for me to decide exactly what I will end up doing. There’s no rush!
This same anxiety affects students at various stages of their education. For most people, the first time they might have to think about their future career path is when picking GCSE options in Year 9. It can be difficult to make a shortlist of subjects, deciding to study some in more depth whilst completely abandoning others. At this early stage, some may have a future job in mind or a broad area that they may want to work in (e.g. healthcare, teaching, computing), but it’s very common to be uncertain about subject choices.
As a general rule, it’s probably best to pick subjects that you enjoy and are a good at, as when it comes to exams, this increases the chances of success. It also makes sense to pick subjects that go well together, for example for the creatively inclined, music and drama might be a good combination. If you’re really unsure then picking a mix of different subjects can prevent people from narrowing down their options too early and can buy a bit more time to discover particular interests and passions.
But it doesn’t stop there! At A-level, students are once again forced to say goodbye to some subjects, picking just three or four to study at this level. This is, at least in part, preparation for choosing just one subject to study at university, but it’s not an easy decision to make. At this stage, slightly more people may have an idea of what they enjoy the most and this is a good indication as to which degree to pick and can help to narrow down the list. Some courses at university will specify particular choices. Studying chemistry for example will necessitate an A-level in the subject and for medicine, two science-based subjects are frequently specified. This makes the decision a bit easier!
It’s important to remember that for a lot of university courses, graduating in a particular subject certainly doesn’t mean that you have to dedicate the rest of your life to it! Having a university degree helps to boost employability in any sector. A degree in history doesn’t force you to become a historian, but proves to employers that you have developed writing skills and are a dedicated worker. That’s not to mention the wider benefits of student life and the experience of studying at university! Even after graduating, there’s no real rush to decide on an immediate career path. Although many students begin a job straight away, many decide to stay at university to study a new subject as a postgraduate before entering the world of employment and others might travel before beginning the job search.
Although we all will eventually settle in a particular field or discipline, there’s no rush to decide immediately and it’s important to keep an open mind and consider a number of different career paths so future options aren’t narrowed down too quickly.