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Which Degrees are pretty 'pointless'?

(335 Posts)
DreadLock Thu 05-Sep-13 14:51:00

Just starting to look at courses with DS. So many choices. BUT I am sure there are some which are not particularly going to lead to much. Employers - what do you look for on a CV and what would you avoid?
And any other 'views' are welcome.
DS not even sure if he wants to go to UNI so we are having a good look into stuff.

Dackyduddles Thu 05-Sep-13 16:56:42

It entirely depends. Do most adults? Some have no clue. Some want to work in fashion but know no more. Some know they want to be heart surgeons.

If he's not convinced encourage things like camp America or vocational training. Uni is fun but it ain't be all/end all.

nooka Thu 05-Sep-13 16:57:30

What I wanted to do as a career at 17 was very different to what I wanted at 21, and neither bore any resemblance to what I actually do!

callamia Thu 05-Sep-13 16:59:21

There's no such thing as a pointless degree, OR a pointless institution - it's about the individual doing it, and how well it suits them.

I have colleagues who have degrees from some fairly poorly thought of universities, who through hard work and ability have done incredibly well in their careers. Similarly, I have friends who went to Russell Group universities who have done relatively poorly in terms of career.

There is no point going to university just because you feel like you should - students should go because they're genuinely interested in the subject, and can see where it might lead them. It doesn't matter if they change their mind - but being motivated enough to go with the idea that they will also seek out relevant work experience etc. is worth more than what/where it is.

FWIW, I'm still paying off my degree (12 years later), but I wouldn't have the career or life I have without it, so I don't feel too grudging about it (except when the tax office screws up and charges me for a year at once...)

Dackyduddles Thu 05-Sep-13 16:59:53

FYI I'm a ba hons in art history. Only worked in it briefly. Worked in finance in city. A degree shows a level of aptitude. No more no less. Whether you stay in the field or not.

If he's really good at Maths and History how about law as an aspirational goal OP ? I wish I'd known that a variety of (solid) subjects can be suitable for applying for law - it was a mystery to me. (Careers ed not so good in the early 80s)

FairPhyllis Thu 05-Sep-13 17:01:54

History at a good university would be more than fine. Does he have any languages? He could do a History with French/German/whatever degree. Maths probably not the best choice for a degree unless you are also taking Further Maths - the best places probably require both.

I still think that unless you want to do something definitely vocational like medicine or nursing, then the best bet is to study either 1) a traditional academic subject that you enjoy at the best university you can get into, or 2) a course which is focused on getting its graduates into industry with a sandwich year placement in industry (eg engineering, industrial design type things etc).

I would step away from degrees in accountancy, media studies, cultural studies, business studies, History of Ideas, History of Art etc.

I think one thing which can work well for many people is to find a job which sponsors you to do a degree on day release - my cousin did not amazingly well in his A Levels, then somehow miraculously managed to get a post as a trainee toxicologist and is doing a part time degree while working. I think that probably works best for sciences though.

jazzcat28 Thu 05-Sep-13 17:02:13

I agree with someone up thread who said that most people choose their degrees based on a) intended career if known at the age of 17 or b) a subject they are passionate about.

I personally went with option b) and did a music degree, and am now working towards an MSc in something totally unrelated - engineering project management!

The degree will get you in the door for some jobs with the right intelligence, proactiveness and eagerness to learn on the job. Obviously I can't apply to be a vet or something but I basically started at a graduate level admin/project support role and worked my way up to project manager and am now quite respected. Most of my colleagues are shock when they realise what my undergrad was in.

I would ask your DS if he has a passion for a particular career. If not, then either some sort of gap year / year in industry to think about it or alternatively a degree in something he is passionate in.

Remember that once he has his degree, he doesn't necessarily have to limit himself to applying for jobs that are specifically related to his degree. I get very frustrated with my cousin who has a history degree who thinks he can only be a member of Time Team or a history teacher. It's all about transferrable skills, work experience, application of intelligence etc. It doesn't help his mother keeps saying "don't apply for that, what a waste of your history degree / your degree background doesn't fit".

DreadLock Thu 05-Sep-13 17:02:28

Aaw you are all so good with your advice and info. It is greatly appreciated.

I know he is excellent at Maths but abhors the subject. So that is out. History he really enjoys.

Saying all of this he is very money motivated and I think he sees employment, getting a car and spending money as his main priority, so quite possibly it will be a year out.

Will be keeping my eye on all the higher ed threads over the next year though to try to learn a bit more about it.

ChazzerChaser Thu 05-Sep-13 17:03:22

I also don't understand why football studies is pointless. Football is a global, squillion pound industry. It's hugely relevant culturally in the contemporary world. Why on earth wouldn't we study that?

Talkinpeace Thu 05-Sep-13 17:07:07

having just been faffing on clearing for a minute, nope
most of the established unis have very little left
but some of the course names at unis I had to look up were a shocking reason to run up £50,000 of debt (and had entry requirements of 80 UCAS points)

creamteas Thu 05-Sep-13 17:08:39

I would be wary of investing in a degree at a FE college (some offer it now), but other than that I would not dismiss any university completely as pointless.

There is lots of information about each degree at each university, including graduate destinations on the Unistats website. You need to look at the dept as well as the university's track record.

In my discipline, there are some really good depts that get their students into excellent careers at ex-poly universities, and there are some depts that have a really poor record of student satisfaction and poor graduate outcomes despite being a 'well-respected' university.

Weegiemum Thu 05-Sep-13 17:09:06

We always joked at Uni that anything with "...Studies" was crap.

This might have been because of the guaranteed easy option for a second year additional course ... yes ... I give you ... Canadian Studies!

I wrote a rather good essay on the Polar DEW and nuclear defence, though.

I really think that out with the vocational options, the "pure" subjects are good - my first degree is in Geography (and yes I did become a geog teacher!) and I have another in Theology.

Most important though is to do something you enjoy. No point doing Theoretical Physics and hating every moment!

stemstitch Thu 05-Sep-13 17:11:22

History is a fine subject to study at uni (History grad here - now a lawyer).

Re what is or is not a 'good' uni - the Russell group is generally a good guide. List of unis here -

It is not absolutely exhaustive (e.g. I know quite a few bright lawyers in good firms with degrees from Keele and St. Andrew's is good and Reading), but a History degree (2.1. or above) from any of those will stand you in perfectly good stead for a professional career.

MissHC Thu 05-Sep-13 17:12:16

Please wait for him to go to uni until he KNOWS what he wants to do. My DP has an undergraduate masters (MSc- 4 years course) in Chemistry from Manchester Uni. Not really a "useless" degree as such however it was for him as in his 2nd year he realised that yes he was very good at it but it' was not what he wanted as a career. Finished degree anyway as he had started it and got 2:1 (and was offered PhD from same uni which he declined) and did law conversion + BVC (barrister course). Works in financial law now and very happy with his decision, however it got him into a LOT of debt that we're still paying off (at £600 a month for another 3 years!) so please do consider carefully before just choosing a degree...

creamteas Thu 05-Sep-13 17:14:39

If he wants something with a foot in both the academic and vocational, for example History and Archaeology? Sometimes joint degrees can give you extra options!

LookingForwardToVino Thu 05-Sep-13 17:17:02

Ummm stemstitch that is a link to the sexual offences act wink

SouthernComforts Thu 05-Sep-13 17:33:35

Sorry to hijack OP but what do people think of degrees from OU?

I'm currently juggling a Business degree around 2 jobs and being a single mother.

Is that going to be sneered at in a few years time?

noddyholder Thu 05-Sep-13 17:35:32

I did English Lit and am an interior designer. It doesn't really matter unless you are going to be a doctor/lawyer etc

DreadLock Thu 05-Sep-13 17:37:27

dont worry about hijacks, I am finding it all very interesting. Ask away and discuss freely all aspects of degrees and uni's.

ColdfeetGreysocks Thu 05-Sep-13 17:41:59

In general, you want to be picking from closer to the top of lists like these:

(Other papers devise their own lists based on other criteria...)

BUT, some universities from towards the back end of this list will excel at whatever area is their specialty. For example, Abertay Dundee is at 114 (out of 119), but is probably the best place/one of the best places in the UK to study computer game design. Likewise, UC Suffolk at #98 I think is really strong in Education (formerly a teacher training college, probably)*.

And then for degrees, something like computer game design would be great if he wanted to be a computer game designer for absolutely sure, but probably wouldn't impress anyone much if he later decided he wanted to work in banking. A maths degree would help with either.

History (and similar) will prove he can think.

And then also think about where he'd like to live. For example, if he's from a tiny village, the thought of moving to a huge city might be terrifying and a middling sized town a better option. Or he might be desperate for the bright lights. If you're in London now, he might find some smaller towns just too damn small. (My own criteria were direct train line home but far enough away that no-one was going to pop in unannounced.)

*I'm remembering this fairly randomly to illustrate my point. Don't apply to UC Suffolk to study education without checking!

weebarra Thu 05-Sep-13 17:44:00

weegiemum - you didn't go to Edinburgh did you?
I have a joint hons degree in philosophy & psychology which was very interesting but by no means vocational. I then did a vocational focused PGDip and a year's on the job training.
There's a publication by prospects (should be online) called "what do graduates do?" which is useful in looking at graduate destinations.

weebarra Thu 05-Sep-13 17:44:01

weegiemum - you didn't go to Edinburgh did you?
I have a joint hons degree in philosophy & psychology which was very interesting but by no means vocational. I then did a vocational focused PGDip and a year's on the job training.
There's a publication by prospects (should be online) called "what do graduates do?" which is useful in looking at graduate destinations.

ColdfeetGreysocks Thu 05-Sep-13 17:44:03

@southern, if you applied for a job with me and told me you'd gotten your degree whilst juggling 2 jobs with childcare, I'd hire you instantly. For anything. smile

GrimmaTheNome Thu 05-Sep-13 17:44:55

Yes - for some subjects you probably also want to check things like the RAE rankings.

Weegiemum Thu 05-Sep-13 17:45:54

I did go to Edinburgh!


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