In Summary

Some people decide at the age of five or six that they want to be a doctor – and that’s exactly what they become. But those people are not the majority! Most of us spend many hours weighing up the pros and cons of possible career pathways, starting with course preferences. It’s easy to fall into the trap of selecting courses based on the feedback of friends, your anticipated ATAR or the subjects you’ve enjoyed at school. But the really important considerations are about your longer term life goals. 

Here are 5 key questions to ask yourself when choosing a course.

1. How much will I earn in this profession?

The most fulfilling career will always be one that challenges and inspires you, so choosing a degree based solely on earning capacity is not a direct route to happiness. But we all have to pay the bills!

Take some time to research current salary levels in your chosen profession to ensure they meet your expectations. Take a look at past and present recruitment ads to see whether salaries have increased over time and talk to people already in the industry.

Importantly, consider the pay packets at various levels in your preferred profession; how long might you need to live on an entry-level salary before you move into higher positions?

2. Is this a growth profession?

The professional landscape changes every day to meet the needs of economic markets and the challenges of new technologies. It’s worth observing the trends in your chosen industry before you make a final decision on course preferences. Again, examine recruitment sites to look for hiring patterns and job availability. Are businesses similar to the one you’re aiming for succeeding in your local area?

3. What ongoing training and expenses can I expect in this industry?

In many professions, a course at university or TAFE is only the first step on the path to career success.  Higher degrees, internships, ongoing training and accreditation are all mandatory in some roles.

Take note of the ‘tools of the trade’ in the career you’re aiming for; will there be expenses associated with equipment or office space? Does your institution of choice offer options for financial support or mentoring to help you get where you want to be? Swinburne prides itself on offering a range of services and programs that extend beyond what you learn in the classroom to enhance your qualification and prepare you for your career.

4. Where will this job take me?

Are you happy to relocate to another city to work? Are you prepared to participate in rural placements or regional projects? If you have family commitments or a strong preference to remain in your home city, make sure that your course choice provides ample opportunities to grow your career without relocating. On the other hand, if you can’t wait to travel, many degrees at Swinburne include opportunities to study abroad, providing you with language skills and life experiences that will open doors once your degree is complete.

5. What are the non-financial benefits of this career path?

Always keep in mind that your job is only one part of your life. Do you anticipate needing a career break to raise a family? Or flexible working hours? Are you happy to work nights and weekends, or would you prefer a more stable office hours routine? Once again, ask people who already work in the area or hit the web for realistic feedback on the big picture of how this job will support your non-professional life goals.

Now’s the time to draw up an old fashioned pros and cons chart, listing the advantages and possible challenges of each career path you have in mind. Do the research and you can feel confident you’ve made the right degree choice for you – or make changes while you still can! VTAC applicants have until 12 noon on 22 December to change their 2015 course preferences.