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What could he gain from going to uni?

(31 Posts)
paulkal Thu 16-Oct-14 07:46:10

My friend's son is doing well in his final year of his A Level course and is likely to get good results. He is, however, beginning to have his doubts as to whether he would get work afterwards, as he intends to do an Environmental Studies degree. His mother and other adults he respects have tried to explain that there is more to be gained than just a qualification. Has anyone got any ideas that may help my friend reinforce the advice she has given?

amyhamster Thu 16-Oct-14 07:47:27

Friends for life

Debt ;)

alardi Thu 16-Oct-14 08:14:19

I have a relevant degree. Env. Sciences is broad interdisciplinary area, what does he especially like? more physical or social-human side?

derektheladyhamster Thu 16-Oct-14 08:15:50

Having done a similar degree, I would recommend he goes and gets lots of experience in the field first. - probably voluntary

BackforGood Thu 16-Oct-14 08:23:36

Not sure why so many adults are trying to convince him to do something he isn't ready for at this stage. Why not help him look for alternatives - be they higher level apprenticeships, jobs, or even things he might do on a gap year - maybe travelling, maybe volunteering, or, if finances don't allow, then working - even if it's with an eye to 'saving' for university.
You can go to university at 19, or 20, or 21, or 22...... etc., if you decide later on that you'd like to.

Hakluyt Thu 16-Oct-14 08:25:59

Depends what he wants to do instead.

alardi Thu 16-Oct-14 09:28:29

Having had a quick google I'm surprised how little specific info there is about career opportunities. Maybe that's because the possibilities are effectively infinite. I don't want to write a long list but will do if asked. Hakluyt is right, too, of course.

midgeymum2 Thu 16-Oct-14 09:39:45

If he's having doubts perhaps a year of work experience would help? A year is really not very long and would give him a good idea of post graduation opportunities and perhaps point him towards areas he might like to specialise in. Relevant work experience will be essential to him getting a job in my experience and it may be easier to do this before his degree. Has he explored work based learning opportunities?

PastSellByDate Thu 16-Oct-14 14:32:06


It does somewhat depend on what subject this DC is going to pursue but....

Every university invests heavily in a Careers Guidance office with all sorts of information about summer jobs/ term-time work opportunities/ apprenticeships/ etc...

There usually also is information there about the Personal Skills - here at my uni there's a personal skills award which students can be slowly working on during their degree which is entirely designed to make your skills stand out on that CV at the end of Uni.

University can also be about meeting people which leads you to hear about opportunities or ideas for employment that you might never have thought about or conceived of in your home community.

You can also - if work opportunities are such - go part-time as an undergraduate - so doing both work and study. You can take a leave of absence for work reasons.

Now some stories and yes of course we have students who go on to do further research - but we also have all sorts:

We've had students who were amazing - could have gone on to do a PhD - but realised that becoming an actuary or going into the civil service was the smart move.

We've had one student work as a volunteer in a school during her degree and then apply for in service teacher training (so paid while you learn to be a teacher & study for your PGCE).

We've had one student take on a small job to make ends meet as a barista, work there all three years, stay on as a manager of one of the on campus coffee shops and she's now Head of Catering Services for the University.

Something similar happened to a student who worked at a restaurant chain - she was a waitress there during her Uni days to help make ends meet, but enjoyed the buzz of the place and liked the work - was asked to do more and more during her time and as she was nearing the end of her degree her manager said here, I want you to fill in this form, I think you should consider management training here - you're paid from the start and it's a good job. She's a manager at a restaurant we go to - and by all accounts is really happy there.

We've had students work for their parents or take one summer jobs, which then have translated into work experience on their CVs.

We've had students get heavily involved in Uni politics, become a representative on the Student Guild and then go into local politics (now a councillor in the city).

My children are currently coached in two sports by former students of this University who both went the sports science/ management route through sporting rather than academic interests.


my advice to your friend is that University is not any one thing and definitely isn't just about getting the degree.

When you meet your tutor (at induction and there usually is a how are you settling in 1 to 1 meeting) - just be proactive and raise your concerns about work opportunities/ gaining experience or employment over the summers.

I know that many degree programs include & indeed arrange opportunities for work placements - a friend studying law spent last summer working in a law office and helped prepare briefs for a legal case.

Nothing is delivered on a plate in life -

But Universities regular hold careers fares or have specific employers days

Have 'CV Clinics' which look over your CV and help you improve it

Have job adverts

Hold mock interviews

Have skills workshops

Being at University also gives you 2 years to study up and learn how previous students have managed to gain 'good jobs' - network - find out what they did between year 1 and year 2. And what options for employment are out there.

University of course doesn't guarantee you a well paying job - and as 'Barista lady' shall we call her said to me and one of her lecturers from a science department - I never expected to be doing this - but in fact I really enjoy it and it keeps leading to better and better paid jobs.

MillyMollyMama Thu 16-Oct-14 15:52:30

I do not want to be rude, but Environmental Studies is going to be rather vague and not an obvious qualification employers are looking for. A great deal of environmental work is done by qualified Civil Engineers. Several Universities now offer Civil and Environmental Engineering and I would suggest these degrees, which lead to being a Chartered Engineer are the best ones to look at. I know Environmental Studies is not going to pass muster in this sector. So, what other work is there? I think there is work for environment academics, but the fact that this is an Environmental Studies degree rather suggests it is not particularly academic. I tend to think this is a heart ruling the head subject. It is laudable that young people are interested in the environment, but translating this into a job is a lot more difficult. As an example, my DHs firm designs flood alleviation schemes and works with housing developers regarding management of surface water on new housing estates.

I think working as a restaurant manager may not be what this young person has in mind but I would do a gap year, work/volunteer in an area of the environment that interests him, (the National Trust, or any land protection charity for example) evaluate what jobs might be possible, assess what you need to do to get one and then apply for the best course he can get on to. Bear in mind Geographers will also study the environment so there is a lot of competition out there.

paulkal Fri 17-Oct-14 07:43:52

Thanks for your reply. He is more of a social person.

paulkal Fri 17-Oct-14 07:46:41

Thanks for your reply. You make some good points, notably about the options of work experience and apprenticeships, which I will mention these to his mother. Maybe a gap year travelling would also do him some good.

paulkal Fri 17-Oct-14 07:48:59

He is not sure about his alternative options but can maybe be encouraged to think about those so that he does at least have some alternatives in mind.

paulkal Fri 17-Oct-14 07:49:59

Yes, I think work experience may help.

paulkal Fri 17-Oct-14 07:55:17

Dear PastSellByDate,
Thanks for your reply. Yo make some very good points which I will pass on to my friend. I am particularly interested in the personal skills award and I'd like to check that out. At which uni is that?

paulkal Fri 17-Oct-14 07:57:20

Thanks for your reply. I particularly like what you say about voluntary work and taking a gap year. I will certainly pass this on.

alardi Fri 17-Oct-14 08:27:24

Sounds like he really needs more career advice from the Unis themselves, too. Social side of env science with a Uni degree under one's belt leads to

*) policy analysis and advice; government, lobbying groups like Greenpeace, IPPR and some charities employ these people.

*) cultural geography, sociology: can be a spring board to a million other career choices.

More quantitative but still social side of geography/env science:

*) Epidemiology, mapping (see the Ebola mapping project linked to on MN which is like crowd-source-digitisation), environmental equity studies (like who is most exposed to pollution or has best access to green landscapes), environmental economics (how much is clean air worth? Are wind turbines worth the investment?), obesogenic environments (urban planning, landscape planning), health interventions to increase activity levels in urban communities.

Friends with relevant backgrounds work as sustainability officer in local govt, social worker, policy advisors for national govt, public health researchers, data management in public sector, lots of jobs in universities.

I don't know much about internships, I imagine they won't as easily lead to those career options.

Damnautocorrect Fri 17-Oct-14 08:41:13

I never did Uni as I couldn't see where it would lead me (similar course intention), so would be a waste of money me and my family could not afford.
So I didn't go, now I want to go into that field and I can't go.
BUT I've plenty of friends who did go to Uni, did the course they weren't sure about and have ended up in debt, doing a job they didn't need a degree for, three years behind the a level leaver equivalent. Not in a degree relevant field.

So my advice take these holidays to do experience in any field relevant, weekend volunteer. Take a year out to do relevant stuff - don't go off at a tangent like I did to find a job any job, or he'll find 15 years down the line he ended up doing something that wasn't where he wanted to be!

PastSellByDate Fri 17-Oct-14 10:43:57


Not particularly clear what specific parts of Environmental Studies your friends DC will be doing but what I was trying to suggest is that the degree part of going to University may have nothing whatsoever to do with jobs with future possible employers:

Future employers specific to Environmental Studies in addition to brilliant suggestions from alardi can include:

National Rivers Authority (Environmental Agency):

Natural England (formerly Countryside Commission):

Wildfowl & Wetland Trust:

National Parks UK: - and of course you can consider working abroad (e.g. US or Canadian Park services)

Environment Agency:

and of course Heritage bodies (English Heritage/ National Trust/ Cadw/ Historic Scotland) just to name a few.


This degree can also be useful for teaching - Teach first (especially if the degree includes biological sciences/ geography/ geology):


Most Unis offer personal skills training - usually through careers services:







York (Derwent College):



and I could go on.


You can look for work in the subject area your degree is in and of course you can look for work outside it. You may know what you want to do and work toward that - you may be less sure.

However - the options out of University are more limited than within a support network which is also helping you to make that transition from student to employee.

I will also add two things:

Having sat on a number of interview panels. Between two similarly qualified candidates who've split a committee - it will come down to things like who has a degree or the class of degree.

Second - You can accept a place at a University but defer entry for a year and go away and work for a bit. That's not a problem - and to be honest sometimes a bit of real world 9 to 5 experience helps students appreciate what a privilege being at University actually is.

To close I personally know of a historian who's now happily working as a warden for the Wetland & Wildfowl Trust. Nothing in their degree particularly qualified them for that work - but their hobbies (keen bird watcher & photographer) and runs half-marathons & two summers volunteering (one for National Trust and one in Canada) made her CV stand out. She only knew she didn't want a job indoors.

paulkal Mon 20-Oct-14 07:56:40

Dear Alardi,
Thanks for your advice. I will certainly pass it on.

paulkal Mon 20-Oct-14 07:58:45

Very good advice I will certainly pass it on.

paulkal Mon 20-Oct-14 08:01:50

Thanks for your advice PastSellbyDate, particularly the links fro personal skills training. I will certainly pass these on.

MillyMollyMama Mon 20-Oct-14 10:00:11

I am afraid that suggesting Imperial College or Warwick for Environmental Studies is erroneous: they don't offer it. They may have great personal skills training, but not to Environmental Studies students! I suspect a few other universities on the list do not offer this degree either. Environmental Science is far more widely offered but that is not available at Warwick or Imperial either.

Needmoresleep Mon 20-Oct-14 12:41:12

I know someone who landed a very sought after job within conservation. However the degree was only part of it. Alongside were five years of volunteering every weekend (educator at Kew Gardens, conservation work on Hampstead Heath), then an entry level job in something like the shop. Dep[ending on what the DC wants to do, I would not rely entirely on the degree but also look for opportunities to gain practical experience and to get to know potentially useful contacts.

paulkal Tue 21-Oct-14 07:03:12

Very sound advice. I will pass it on.

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