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4th March 2014

Should you be doing a vocational degree?

A recent survey suggests that more and more graduates wish they’d taken a more vocational course at university. Sophie Lipton weighs up the pros and cons

In Britain’s current economic climate, jobs have never been harder to attain. As a third year Middle Eastern Studies student this news puts me on edge, because at the end of the day, some may say my degree is about as useful as a chocolate teapot. According to, “44% of graduates say they regret not studying something more vocational.” I am torn as to whether I might one day be part of this statistic, or whether I’ve studied for the sake of being educated.

The skills gained from a non-vocational degree will set me up for the outside world. Personally, I disagree with Mike Fetters, Graduate Director of, who claims that “although a degree is an essential qualification for some industries, school leavers need to think more carefully about which route to employment is best for them.” Fetters needs to remember the skills learnt in non-vocational degrees are very significant, and he must realise how important education is in our world.

Education is priceless, and having an all-rounded educational experience is an investment in itself. Yeah, OK, I may not have a pot of gold (a.k.a. a job) at the end of this academic rainbow, but at least I have been fulfilled with education for three years. This poses the question: what is more important? Education for education’s sake, or a job? Personally, education has taught me so much about the world, and has been an essential and integral part of my personality. So in this way, my degree is far from a melting metaphorical teapot.

Congratulations if, when every other ten-year-old wanted to be an astronaut, you knew that radiology was the career path for you. You’re one of a lucky minority, and in this circumstance a vocational degree is the way forward. However, for the majority like me, coming to grips with the idea of a full time, 9-to-5 adult job is frightening. There is no harm in exploring the academic realm, opening up more options for a career. In this case, why is education for education’s sake being oppressed in the 21st century? And why are we all running into the job industry so quickly? We’re young, independent 20-somethings who don’t need no guaranteed job! (OK, I may be looking at the world with rose-tinted glasses.)

Nevertheless, a job is a necessity for all of us. In reality, a vocational degree is a clever decision. It might reduce the hassle of graduate schemes and internships, particularly when a year of placement is involved. I don’t think there’s anything more useful than hands-on work experience, giving one the skills to advance in an industry. Gaining experience in the workplace can really put someone head and shoulders above a student with no relevant experience.

However, a job should be something one enjoys, not just something that pays well, and graduation should mean more than a handshake, a certificate and a key to a new office. If you’re passionate about your vocational subject, great. However, if it is just done with the intention of a job and money, I believe people will be gambling their happiness, which is worth more than wealth.

At the end of the day a degree has to be tailored to you and as long as you are stimulated and happy about it, this will lead to a job with the perfect fit. I’m certainly not in any position to tell people that one degree is “better” than another, because it depends on one’s enjoyment. Vocational or non-vocational, your own passion is the most important aspect of a great degree, and this is what will hopefully lead to a successful career.

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