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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10 September 2012 09:48 AM

Top Tips For Developing The Skills You Need For A Graduate Job

  • Network, network, network! Family, friends, contacts you meet by chance – it all counts!

  • Go to university careers fairs and employer presentations – not only can you pick up lots of helpful info on the industries you’re keen on, you will also have the chance to make a lasting impression with recruiters.


A final tip - believe in your own abilities and focus on presenting yourself as confident...but not arrogant. No one wants to spend all day working with someone who's full of themselves!

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22 August 2012 10:58 AM

Postgraduate Study: The No-Nonsense Facts

Thinking about postgraduate study? Read this first! There are pros and cons to the postgrad route, and lots of potential traps for the unwary, so make sure you're informed.

The good...

  1. A postgraduate qualification can help you get into your chosen profession - for example, if you want to be a lawyer or accountant, you'll have to suck it up and do the necessary exams. Fortunately, you'll often be funded through these by your employer if you can secure a job with them first, so make sure you explore this option.

  2. If you get to the end of your course and decide you actually want to do something else, a postgraduate degree or conversion course can give you the qualifications needed to make the switch - think law, teaching, psychology or medicine.

  3. If you've got 1st class grades across the board and your whole world revolves around 14th century stained glass, cellular biology or solar physics, you might be one of those people who is cut out for a career in academic research. If you're one of those people for whom the world of academia fits like a glove and you can't imagine being happy working as anything other than a mildy eccentric professor, go for it! 

The bad...

  1. Not knowing what you want to do is NOT a good reason to do a postgraduate course. You'll end up in a pile of extra debt, and it'll be hard to explain to a potential employer why you chose to do the course if you didn't have a good rationale behind it at the time. You'd be much better off finding a job and saving up some money, or doing some voluntary work and building up skills and confidence.

  2. Postgraduate life is not like undergraduate life, so if you're thinking of doing another course just to prolong the student experience, think again. Being a postgraduate student is much more like having a job - more lone working and less socialising! It can be really rewarding, but it's definitely not the same experience.

  3. Postgraduate study costs a lot of money upfront as there are no undergraduate-style student loans available. In fact, there is very little funding to go around. To be in with a chance of getting funded, you'll need to be an exceptional student. It often makes better sense to either try and get a job in the field that will fund your studies, or save up some money and study for a postgraduate qualification part-time while you work.

  4. Sadly, many universities and education providers will try to convince you that their postgraduate courses are the best thing since sliced bread without giving you realistic facts about the tangible benefits of the course or the effect on your employment chances. Remember that they are primarily after your money! There are often far more postgraduate students taking a course at any one time than there are jobs available, but it's not in the course provider's interests to tell you that so they are likely to minimise it. If a postgraduate course promises the earth yet demands suspiciously low entry grades, it pays to do your research and go in with your eyes open.


In summary, there are three good reasons to do a postgrad course:

  1. If you absolutely adore your subject AND you have loads of research ideas, fantastic grades, glowing references from lecturers and the patience to write endless funding applications, by all means don't be put off. If you want to be a university lecturer, this is the necessary route, so go for it!

  2. You've known for ages that you want to be a clinical psychologist/solicitor/maths teacher and while you have good work experience and knowledge of the field, you have to do the course to get into the job you want to do. Generally speaking, if you are this organised at 21, you're unlikely to rush into anything blindly anyway. We trust you :)

  3. You have secured a job in a field you want to work in, and the employer is prepared to fund your course OR you have secured a job that means you can afford to fund a part-time postgraduate course alongside it.

No ifs, no buts. There are really no other good reasons to do a postgraduate course, let alone put yourself in debt in order to do so. We know it sounds harsh, but it's for your own good...

If you can't decide, why not take some time out? Remember that you can always go back to a postgraduate course in a few years' time, with more money saved up, some work experience and a better idea of what you REALLY want to get out of the experience.

To find out more about careers in academia, click here. To find out about choosing a career and assessing your options, click here.
 

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