Degrees for introverts and extroverts: subjects that suit your personality

An introvert and a group of extroverts at university
If you’re wondering ‘Which degree is best for me?’ let your personality have a say. Introverts may value plenty of quiet study time at university, while extroverts are likely to need their degree to be a bit more sociable.

Typically introverts like to balance time with others with time spent alone, while extroverts enjoy plenty of interaction with other people. Make sure that the degree course you choose will tie in with your preference. Different university students have very different lifestyles, depending on what subject they are studying and – to some extent – where they are studying it. There’s a huge variation in how the balance of your time will be split between being taught and studying by yourself, and quite a bit of variation in teaching and assessment methods.

Of course, there are other factors to consider too when choosing a degree. For example, it’s worth considering whether you need a particular subject for the career you have in mind and what types of topics and activities motivate you. But your personality can also give you some important clues as to what sorts of subjects and courses would suit you.

Ideal degree subjects for introverts?

Some subjects typically have only a small number of contact hours per week – that is, official teaching time when you’ll have a lecture or other activity timetabled in. Humanities and social science subjects such as often have quite a low number of contact hours, typically around eight to ten per week and sometimes as low as four or six, depending on your university and year of study. Subjects in this category include:

Quite a bit of your contact time will be spent in lectures, where you sit and listen to a talk by an academic, though there will also be the chance to discuss your ideas with others in sessions called ‘seminars’ or ‘tutorials’. You’ll be expected to spend the rest of your time – around 25 hours or more a week – studying independently. There will probably be one or two group projects to carry out in this independent study time, but expect mostly to be writing essays or other coursework by yourself.

If you’re an extrovert, consider whether you’d be OK with this. You might be able to find some sociable study options to keep you going – for example forming a study-group with a few of your coursemates to discuss ideas over coffee once a week – but you’d still need to spend quite a lot of time reading and typing by yourself. Could you motivate yourself to do this with no one checking up on you? Or would you realistically get bored and spend your time socialising with friends or housemates instead?

Ideal degree subjects for extroverts?

Subjects such as medicine and engineering generally have relatively high contact time. Medicine students typically have 20 to 25 hours a week when in university, and do full-time hours when they are in hospitals on placement. Engineering students often have around 20 hours of contact time a week. What’s more, with both subjects your week should include plenty of practical sessions, at which you can interact with other students, as well as lectures. So there’s enough time with others to keep extroverts happy, but not so much that it will drive introverts mad.

Degree subjects that typically have quite a high number of contact hours include:

Take a look at university websites to find out more. You can find out about different subjects that interest you: course details usually include the number of contact hours and how these will be spent.

Will the teaching methods on your degree course suit your personality type?

The amount of group work your degree will involve is likely to vary by university as well as by subject. For example, some English departments like to set students numerous group tasks to complete in their own time and actively encourage them to form study groups. Others are more traditional and don’t worry so much about encouraging collaboration.

The number of presentations you’re expected to give can also vary widely for the same subject at different universities. Again, using English as an example, on some courses you will have at least one presentation to deliver per module; on others there will be just one in your entire time at university. If you’re an extrovert you may well enjoy giving presentations and find them a welcome break from essay writing. But if you’re an introvert, don’t let this put you off a course – giving a presentation is part of the recruitment process for quite a few graduate jobs, so getting a bit of practice while you’re at university is a good thing.

It’s also worth looking into what format tutorials and seminars take, and how many of these there are compared to lectures. How much discussion is typically involved, and how many students are there in the group?

Course information pages on university websites should provide you with some of these details. However, you might need to do a bit more research. For example, you can speak to current students at university open days, or you could contact the admissions tutors for courses that interest you.

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