Nine common degrees you might not have heard of

photo of fossil
There are hundreds of degrees on offer across the UK, so take a moment to read about some common degree choices that you might not have considered.

When it comes to choosing a degree, most students will be aware of the obvious choices: maths, English, history and the core sciences, for example. These are of course excellent degrees, but if none of them are really catching your fancy, don’t panic! There are lots of degrees out there that you might be unaware of, either because your school or college doesn’t offer them as options or simply because they’re not talked about much. Here’s our list of degrees that are well established and offered across a lot of universities, but that remain fairly obscure. These include a number of vocational degrees, but keep in mind that you can still get into journalism, publishing, marketing or accountancy without a specific degree.

Geology

Geology is the study of the Earth’s structure and atmosphere, which means that on this degree you could find yourself investigating the disappearance of the dinosaurs, the formation of volcanoes, the thickness of glaciers and the dangers of nuclear waste. A lot of your degree will be spent looking backwards in time and learning about the evolution of the Earth, as well as the creatures that inhabit it – so if you’re interested in fossils and the rocks they’re contained in, this could be the choice for you. This is a degree with a lot of opportunities for fieldwork and many universities emphasise the amount of time students will spend learning off campus.

The majority of universities ask that applicants have either one or two science A levels, Scottish Highers or equivalent (geography included); however some also request A level maths or equivalent.

Anthropology

What does it mean to be human? This is the question that anthropologists attempt to answer by studying the behaviour, culture and evolution of human societies across the world. Your degree will normally include the study of ethnicity, gender and religion, tracing the development of humanity from when our ancestors lived in trees all the way to the 21st century. Combining social studies with biology, this could be a good option for students who are interested in both science and the humanities – you get to study a combination of biology, history, psychology and sociology. Most universities offer fieldwork opportunities throughout the degree.

It’s not normally necessary to study any specific A levels, Scottish Highers or equivalent for entry onto an anthropology degree.

Theology

Theology is the study of ideology, philosophy and ethics across religions including Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, Judaism and Hinduism. In today’s multicultural society, religious belief has a big impact on our everyday lives – whether this is on an individual basis or international scale. On a theology degree, you’ll typically learn about the origins, literature and historical context of these religions, giving you a deeper understanding of the beliefs and practices that we see every day. Theology degrees typically start by focusing on Christianity, after which you’re normally able to tailor your degree around the religion that interests you most; it’s important to check course details thoroughly though, because some theology degrees focus on Christianity only. If you’d prefer to do a degree that is less focused on Christianity, a number of universities offer religious studies. Religious studies is much the same as theology, but often comes without the compulsory Christianity modules.

Students from any faith are welcome to study either theology or religious studies.

To study theology, universities don’t normally request any specific A levels, Scottish Highers or equivalent.

Classics

As a student of Classics you would spend your time learning about the languages, history, civilisation and literature of ancient Greece and Rome. From the travels of Odysseus to the adventures of Jason and the Argonauts, your degree would include studying the ancient tales that have survived to the modern day and the myths that continue to captivate society even now. Be prepared though – you won’t necessarily be reading these texts in English. Classics degrees typically focus on learning Latin and Ancient Greek, so if you fancy reading Homeric epics in their original language, look no further.

Check course details carefully, because degrees vary in regard to how much time you’ll be spending learning ancient languages. Some universities also offer a more varied course, with opportunities to study ancient Egypt or South East Asia included.

Entry requirements vary between universities: some ask for an A level, Scottish Higher or equivalent in Latin, some don’t ask for any specific subjects, and one or two will accept Ancient Greek as an alternative to Latin.

Journalism

Journalism is a more vocational alternative to an English or history degree. If you’ve got good writing skills, a keen investigative spirit and a strong interest in politics, music, entertainment or travel, it could mean that you’ve got all the elements of a budding journalist. Journalism degrees are designed to prepare students for a successful journalistic career, teaching them key skills such as researching, interviewing, reporting, news writing and investigating. These skills are normally practised across a number of different platforms including print, screen, audio and the internet.

Entry requirements are generally flexible, but some universities ask for at least one essay-based A level, Scottish Higher or equivalent.

Publishing

Publishing is another industry-focused degree and is designed to train the next generation of publishing professionals in skills such as editing, proofreading, designing and selling. Publishing degrees come in all shapes and sizes, with some very practical courses that take you through the entire process of publishing a book from commissioning to printing, and some courses choosing to deal with more theory-based work. Your studies will most likely take you across different media including books, magazines, ebooks and digital journals.

Some universities ask that you have an A level, Scottish Higher or equivalent in English literature/language or in an arts-based subject.

Marketing

Marketing is a huge part of our lives, although we may not always realise it. Behind every brand and every advert lies a dedicated campaign team, working to make a product as popular as possible. It’s a competitive industry that demands creative and imaginative people with original ideas – so if you think you fit the bill, a degree in marketing could be your first step to a successful career. A degree in marketing will typically be centred on studying consumer behaviour and learning how to create effective marketing strategies through things such as adverts, brands and digital/social media.

The majority of universities don’t request that applicants have any specific A levels, Scottish Highers or equivalent.

Accountancy/finance

Accountancy and finance degrees are more vocational alternatives to maths and economics degrees. As well as providing students with the essential skills they need to pursue a career in accountancy, many degrees are also accredited by financial institutions such as the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales (ICAEW); if you’re set on career in accountancy, this could be very important. To become a chartered accountant, you normally have to pass a series of professional exams after graduating. However, these accredited degrees often make you exempt from a number of exams – sometimes even up to seven or eight! So if you have a definite career path in mind and want to save yourself from further exams, take a look at the accountancy courses on offer and see which ones will grant exemptions.

The majority of universities don’t request any specific A levels, Scottish Highers or equivalent, although some request that applicants have taken maths.

Alternatives to a medical degree, for example midwifery, optometry or radiotherapy

For students who want to go into healthcare, a general medicine degree often appears to be the obvious solution. However, medicine degrees are incredibly competitive, with a high number of students applying for limited places and only the highest of entry grades being good enough (most universities require minimum AAA at A level, and often higher). This means that many students are left disappointed when applying for university. However, there are lots of specialised healthcare degrees that people often don’t consider applying for, for example midwifery, radiotherapy, optometry, physiotherapy and many more. These degrees typically experience a lower number of applicants and many universities ask for lower entry grades.

To find out more about these options, check out our article on alternatives to a medicine degree.

Teacher or parent?

Join our mailing list to receive monthly newsletters from our TARGETcareers and Inspiring Futures teams to help you support your school leavers in their career and university decision making.

Join

Take the careers quiz

Want career ideas in a hurry? Got stuck thinking about what to study at university?
The Spartan careers quiz is a quick way to come up with ideas that might suit you.

Take the careers quiz


Teachers and parents

Planning to discuss careers or university with teenagers? Get up to speed on their options and employability prospects with our help.

Explore options

Sign up for careers alerts and access to our careers publications

Sign up Sign in