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Despite what you may have been told, not everyone finishes school with a crystal clear plan for their career. In fact, sometimes the absence of a plan creates opportunities you never could have dreamed of.
We spoke to three students who’ve found studying a broad degree opened up career opportunities they otherwise would not have discovered.
When Carine Chan Moi Fat chose to study a Bachelor of Science at Deakin University she was consciously keeping her options open. ‘Sometimes you’re not really sure what you want to do so it’s good to do a degree where you can test different interests and then decide,’ she explains. ‘I think a broad degree can be really beneficial because you don’t get stuck in one position that you don’t like.’
Carine approached her degree like an experiment. ‘In the first year I decided to stick with the core units so that I could test all of the subjects and decide what I liked,’ she says.
This method proved useful. ‘Sometimes just by chance you’ll do an elective or a core unit and you’ll find it interesting,’ she says. ‘I didn’t do biology in high school so I was really surprised when I tried it and wanted to continue studying it.’
This discovery of a passion for biology opened up a whole new area for Carine to specialise in. ‘After the first year I realised that my interest lay mainly in chemistry and biology so I decided to do a double major,’ she says.
Having just graduated with majors in chemistry and materials science and human biology, Carine now has a firm idea of her future career. ‘My main interest now is in being a chemist,’ she says. ‘I’m now looking for my first role in the industry.’
Claire Cheeseman enrolled in a Bachelor of Science because she didn’t want to exclude any of her passions. ‘I was pretty sure that I wanted to do environmental science but I choose the broad degree because I loved lots of different science subjects at school.’
Claire found that she had the same opportunities as those doing a more specific degree but more flexibility. ‘I went on a study tour to China at the end of my first year focusing on environmental science subjects,’ she says. ‘This was part of the environmental management course but as a science student you still have the opportunity to jump on board with things because you have so many electives.’
With core subjects in communication, history and philosophy under her belt, Claire feels that a broad degree leads to a broader perspective. ‘I’ll know how to communicate and I’ll have a broad understanding of what other people might be doing in different fields instead of just being super focussed on one topic,’ she explains.
'I think a broad degree can be really beneficial because you don’t get stuck in one position that you don’t like.'
Carine Chan Moi Fat,
Graduate, Deakin University
Having a solid base of background knowledge is an asset Claire hopes will set her apart in her career. ‘When people are talking about something like water quality – for example how different chemicals affect the water – I understand those things faster than some of the others in my cohort who may not have done chemistry,’ she says.
Claire is still passionate about environmental management but she’s focusing on a business-oriented career such as environmental consulting. ‘If I’d just done environmental management it might have limited my options,’ she says.
Eliza Pittaway started university with a plan but she adapted that plan as her interests shifted. ‘I started off wanting to be a vet so I initially chose the Bachelor of Science as a pathway course,’ she says.
The more subjects Eliza tried, the more her career plans opened up. ‘I tried physical geography and I really loved it,’ she says. ‘I’d never considered geography, my focus was more on living things, but it became one of my favourite subjects.’
Eliza started to see how different areas of study fed into each other. ‘I learned that I need to be a bit more holistic in my view of how I approach things,’ she says. ‘Animal sciences are quite linked to the environment around them and that’s always changing, just like them. That’s something that I’d never really considered before.’
The only challenge Eliza has experienced has been tackling subjects that are completely new to her. ‘I’ve had to concentrate a lot more and really discipline myself with some of the subjects because I’ve never done them before,’ she says. ‘I’ve really had to learn them from scratch.’
Despite this, Eliza is thrilled to be broadening her horizons in a way that will benefit her career. ‘I’ve done a lot of placements and practical components that I never would have dreamed of doing before,’ she says. ‘It’s really prepared me because I now know what to expect.’
Eliza has now stumbled on a career field that combines all of her interests. ‘I’m going to either do further study to get into zoo keeping, or eco-tourism, which is something now I’m really interested in because of this science course,’ she says.
If you’re asking yourself ‘what should I study?’, consider keeping your options broad. Like Eliza, it’s possible that your dream career is something you’ve not yet considered. ‘You always have the time to figure it out,’ Eliza says. ‘I think a broad degree provides a lot of options in the meantime: it allows you dip your toes in.’
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