How to choose your degree subject if you’re not sure what you want to study

How to choose your degree subject if you're not sure what career you want
Wondering what subject you should study at university? Here’s how to narrow down your options while increasing your chance of getting a decent job when you graduate.

Not all jobs require you to have studied a particular subject at university – there are plenty of careers you can do with any degree. However, it’s a good idea to spend a little time now checking if there are any jobs that really appeal to you that would require a specific degree. Take a look at our list of which careers do and don’t require particular subjects to get a feel for what your options would be if you leave career decisions till later on.

What would you enjoy?

If you’ve ruled out careers that require a specific subject and are feeling a bit stuck, try to work out what interests you enough to study it for three years. You’ll have much more motivation to study hard if you find your subject intrinsically interesting.

Start by considering what subjects you enjoy, what you like doing outside of school and where your strengths lie. If you’re a keen member of your school’s debating club – or just enjoy picking apart your parents’ illogical arguments – you might like studying law. If you spend most of your money on trips to the cinema and theatre and read widely for pleasure you might have the motivation for an English degree. Or if you’re currently experimenting to see if your Mum’s old lawn mower could be made to run on beer, you might be suited to studying engineering.

Sanity check your subject choice

Everyone has an opinion on what are the ‘best’ subjects to study at university, but the reality is often a bit more complicated. Take a look at our top five myths about university, degrees and employment prospects, especially if you feel you are being pushed into a subject because it is ‘sensible’, ‘vocational’ or ‘will guarantee you a good job’.

Still stuck? Work backwards

If you’re still not sure what subject to study, keep in mind what admissions tutors and graduate recruiters typically look for and work backwards.

As well as good grades, university admissions tutors like to see genuine enthusiasm for the subject. If you’ve been involved in activities outside the classroom that relate to the degree you are applying for, it will help you show evidence of this. So if you’re deciding between, say, maths and politics and like to spend your free time avoiding your geometry homework while watching Prime Minister’s Questions, reading three different newspapers and campaigning with Young Labour/Conservative Future, you may have more luck getting onto politics courses.

Many graduate recruiters ask for a 2.1 degree (the second-highest grade). So choose a subject that you think you can do well in and that will interest you enough to keep you working hard.

Some recruiters prefer more traditional, academic degrees. So consider choosing a more academic variation of a subject (eg English literature rather than film studies or media and communication) if you have no strong preference.

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