19 December 2012 10:25 AM

A quick tour of popular conversion courses...

Are you studying a degree you enjoy but not sure you want to work in that field? Or perhaps you've studied something non-vocational and want a change of direction? A conversion course can help! Postgraduate conversion courses 'top up' your undergraduate degree and allow to you enter certain professions that would otherwise be closed off to you. Some of the most popular conversion courses include:

> Law - It's fairly common for solicitors or barristers to start their professional lives from a non-legal academic background. In fact, many firms say that they take up to half their trainees from non-law backgrounds, and top-class graduates can often get their fees provided for them by their firm. To become a solicitor or barrister, you'll need to take the GDL (Graduate Diploma in Law, also known as the Common Professional Examination), and then depending on the path you choose, you'll take the BPTC (Bar professional Training Course) or the LPC (Legal Practice Course). The BPTC is for aspiring barristers and the LPC is for graduates who want to be solicitors. To learn more about where a graduate law career could take you, click here.

> Property - If you want to work in property or surveying you'll need to take a conversion course that's accredited by RICS (the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors). You can study for an accredited masters degree and then apply for jobs, but some firms will take 'non-cognate' graduates (i.e. those without an accredited relevant degree) and train them on the job. This latter route usually means you'll get your qualification paid for by your company, so it's a good option if you can get it! To find out about the different graduate jobs in property that are available, click here.

> Psychology - If you haven't studied an accredited psychology undergraduate degree and you want to become a practicing psychologist, you'll need to take a postgraduate course accredited by the BPS (British Psychological Society). This will allow you to apply for membership of the BPS and apply to higher-level degree programmes such as a PhD in Clinical Psychology. Psychology is a highly competitive field, so give yourself the best chance of success by watching our top interview tips here.

> Teaching - The PGCE (postgraduate certificate of education) is a vocational course that prepares you for life as a teacher. Graduates with a relevant degree can train to teach a specific subject at secondary level, while graduates from all disciplines can apply for primary teacher training. There are some pretty generous bursaries available for graduates who want to teach shortage subjects such as physics and languages, and there are sometimes financial incentives for people the teaching agency are particularly keen to recruit, such as male primary teachers or graduates with a 2.1 or above. To find out more about graduate teaching jobs, click here.

> Medicine - Graduates can apply to study medicine on a fast-track programme lasting four years. Some courses will accept graduates from any discipline, while others will ask that you studied something relevant at degree level, like one of the sciences. Because medicine is such a strongly vocational course, you'll need to complete relevant work experience, preferably in an NHS setting, before you apply. For more information on graduate jobs in healthcare, click here.

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08 August 2012 10:30 AM

Four things you need to know about a graduate career in law

Every year many hopeful graduates apply for coveted and scarce graduate schemes at top law firms. Known in the industry as training contracts, these demanding but well-rewarded positions often come with a hefty sponsorship deal to help graduates through the final stages of their legal training before they join the firm. If you’re one of these hopefuls, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons! Read on for our top things you must think about before you even start to fill out application forms:

1. Make sure you want to work in law for the right reasons
Do you have a real and genuine interest in the law? Do you believe you will find the role as a solicitor or barrister enjoyable and challenging, or are you only interested in the money and perceived prestige it can bring? Do you enjoy logic, details and intellectual challenge? Are you happy working through piles of paperwork? Can you explain complex terms clearly, to people who have no idea what you’re talking about, without sounding patronising? Be honest about your personality and skills, and you’ll be happier in the long run. But equally, don’t rule out law just because you have visions of brash City boys spending 18 hours a day in the office – there are many different types of law and many different law firm cultures. Don’t assume you won’t fit in because of your gender, background or personality. Which leads on to…

…

2. Research!
If the idea of this makes you glaze over, law is probably not the profession for you – it’s research-intensive! If you’re the kind of person who can pick out vital bits of study texts and speedily interpret them without plodding though the whole book, this will stand you in good stead. Find out all you can about the career paths and firms that interest you. Do you know the day-to-day differences between being a solicitor and a barrister (beyond ‘one of them wears a wig’)? Do you have a specific idea of the geographical area or specialism you want to work in, or are you looking for a company that will give you a broad range of experience? 



3. Work experience
This doesn’t have to be legal, particularly if you can demonstrate decent business experience – for example, if you had a placement year at university. If you can get on a vacation scheme at a large firm, this will help you decide if commercial law is for you – but if you can’t it’s not the end of the world! Voluntary work with legal aid organisations, shadowing a family friend who’s a barrister, or working part-time as an office assistant at high street law firms all count. Good employers will accept that people come from different backgrounds and can bring different things to the table. Having said that, if you turn up for an interview and tell a senior partner that you’ve got no business or legal experience but you want to be a lawyer because you like watching Boston Legal and you want to make loads of money, expect to get short shrift.



4. Be realistic about your prospects
If you don’t have, at MINIMUM, a mid-to-high 2.1 and at least one or two As at A-Level, you stand little chance of making it into a top law firm. There is huge competition for places, and although firms will take your circumstances into account, they do have to have a cut-off point somewhere! Last year there were 4,874 training places available, whilst for the same year 7,064 people registered on the LPC (the last stage of academic legal training) – so you need to be one of the best. Becoming a barrister is even more competitive and is really not for the faint-hearted – there are far more applicants every year than there are training places, and as the Bar is very academic in slant you really do need a First (or a lot of luck and a 2.1) to be in with a chance. The moral of the story is that it is probably not worth forking out the many thousands it will cost you to train in either profession if you’re unlikely to get a job at the end of it and make that money back. The exception to this rule is if you have high grades but just haven’t managed to secure a training contract that pays for your training before you start your legal studies, or if you have good grades but want to work for a smaller firm that doesn’t offer sponsorship. But if you have less than a solid, 65%+ 2.1, you are probably better off pursuing other career paths. Honesty with yourself is the best policy!

To find out more about different careers in law, click here.


The Law Society and the Bar Council websites are packed with useful information and are great place to start researching your legal career.


02 August 2012 03:18 PM

What to expect from summer internships

Summer internships are a great way to work out if a particular career path is right for you – and when you get to the stage of filling in application forms and going for graduate job interviews, they will help you demonstrate your motivation and understanding of the industry you want to work in. Placements in large organisations such as banks, law firms and consultancies tend to be highly structured and place great emphasis on giving you a real taster of life at a particular company.

On a typical summer placement with a large company, you’ll likely get to have a go at some of the following: 
    •    Going along to seminars or presentations
    •    Office-based work such as helping with research on projects
    •    Going to client meetings
    •    Taking part in a business task with other placement students and giving a presentation on this at the end of the placement
    •    Socials – many firms will wine and dine you at least once during your internship!

By the end of your placement, you’ll have a definite idea of whether the company – and the career itself – is a good fit for you. For more info on how to make the most of graduate internships, click here.

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