11 Brilliant Careers You Can Pursue With Almost Any Degree
Choosing the right career path isn’t always a straightforward decision; we’re not all born knowing that we want to be doctors or astronauts or the Prime Minister.
Nor do many students know what they want to do for a career at the point at which they apply for a particular degree. The good news for the indecisive, though, is that there are plenty of careers out there for which it doesn’t matter what subject your degree is in, provided you have at least a 2.1 classification (in some cases even a 2.2). If you’re still not sure what you want to do, have a read of this article for a few ideas for careers that require a degree, but that aren’t dependent on your studying a particular subject.
1. The Civil Service
The Civil Service Fast Stream is the graduate recruitment programme for the Civil Service, the body responsible for developing and implementing Government policies. It encompasses numerous professions (25, to be exact), from HR to legal services to IT to Communication, and there are different Fast Stream schemes for each of these, allowing you to choose an area you like the look of. All you need to get onto most Fast Stream schemes is a 2.2 degree in any subject, and then there are application assessments that test your verbal and numerical reasoning skills, along with a competency questionnaire. As the Civil Service says, “There is no age limit and it doesn’t matter how long ago you graduated, although we expect several years’ service before retirement. It’s your skills, attitude and outlook we’re really interested in and these are what we look for in our selection process.” It’s a solid career choice that will allow you to be part of a team that helps run the country, and the starting salary is between £25,000 and £27,000, which could rise to £45,000 after four or five years.
Ever fancied being a real-life James Bond? A career in the Intelligence Services is a possibility if you have a degree. To become an Intelligence Officer for MI6, you need a minimum of a 2.1 degree in any subject; for the same role in MI5, you need at least a 2.2 degree and relevant work experience to get onto the Intelligence Officer Development Programme. The selection progress is rigorous, and, crucially, you can’t tell anyone (except one close family member or your partner) that you’re applying. Among other things, MI6 says that it’s looking for people who can demonstrate “Real evidence of achievement, both in an academic setting and supplemented with work/life experience”, and “Exceptional interpersonal skills and emotional intelligence”. Fluency in a language is also desirable for this role, so that’s something to think about early on if this is a career you think you might be interested in.
3. Management Consultancy
Management consultancy – a job that involves helping businesses to run more efficiently – is a popular career path among graduates of any subject. Though its focus is on business, you don’t necessarily need to have a business degree to pursue this career. Any degree, providing you have at least a 2.1, is fine. The best thing to do is to choose a subject you enjoy studying, as you’ll end up with a better degree classification, which will look more impressive (and it’s a competitive field that demands high grades, so you need to do all you can to demonstrate a strong academic record). An analytical mind is needed, but you’ll develop this via any degree; other personal qualities, such as integrity, empathy and the ability to communicate articulately, will also be required.
4. Retail Management: The Aldi Graduate Scheme
Another option for graduates of any subject is retail management, and to illustrate the potential for high earnings in this sector, let’s look at a specific example. The budget supermarket Aldi has a famous graduate scheme that offers an unusually high graduate starting salary (an impressive £41,000) and other benefits, such as a fully expensed Audi A4 company car. They’re looking for charismatic individuals who’ve achieved a 2.1 in their degree, but they don’t mind what subject it’s in; as they say, the degree shows that “you’re not only bright and committed but you have a strong work ethic. You’re excited by every new challenge that comes your way. Plus you’ve got the commitment to work a 50-hour week, which will include weekends.” You’ll also need a driving licence; to quote Aldi, “if you don’t have a driving licence you’ll be positively beaming in your new car, yet rather stationary. Could be embarrassing.”
It doesn’t matter what degree you have if you want to become a journalist, and some journalists don’t even have a degree at all. However, it’s useful to have one because any degree will teach you the qualities needed to become a journalist: perceptiveness, for example, and clear written communication. But you don’t have to have a degree in Journalism, nor even in other related subjects, such as English or Politics; you could choose to specialise in journalism relating to what you studied. If you have a science degree, for example, you might choose to pursue a career as a journalist who reports on science news; but you could equally well report on anything else. Going on an accredited journalism course after you graduate will set you on the right path, though it’s not a requirement; work experience and internships are arguably the best way to get a foot in the door in this competitive career.
Marketing involves persuading people to buy a product or service, and these days it encompasses numerous kinds of media, including traditional print media and advertising, social media, email and so on. Because any degree will teach you relevant skills such as effective communication, numeracy, analytical ability and so on, it doesn’t matter what degree you have if you want a career in marketing (some employers specifically look for candidates with business degrees, but by no means all of them). Many of the skills needed to succeed in this job are picked up ‘on the job’, anyway; as an undergraduate, you’re unlikely to have much commercial awareness, for example (though you may have work experience, which would certainly be advantageous in this competitive industry). You’ll quickly pick up the ability to understand your audience, and the communication skills you developed during your degree will rapidly become more adaptable so that you can instinctively appeal to the different audiences to whom you’re marketing your products or services.
7. Public Relations
Public Relations professionals are responsible for strategic communication between businesses or other organisations and the general public, with the aim of creating goodwill towards the organisation. It generally involves creating positive media coverage and preventing – or countering – the spread of damaging stories about the business or organisation. Naturally, communication (both written and verbal) needs to be one of your major strong points to succeed in this career, and creativity and excellent interpersonal skills are essential as well. A humanities degree – such as English, History or a language – may be better suited to PR in that it gives you more experience of writing, but any degree will provide a good foundation for this career.
Encompassing several possible roles, a career in advertising is one you can pursue with a degree of any kind. You could be an account executive, responsible for communicating with clients and planning campaigns based on their requirements; you could be an advertising copywriter, tasked with writing punchy slogans and scripts that sell; if your degree was in IT, you could put your skills to good use in advertising in the digital space, such as on social media or in Pay-Per-Click advertising (those adverts you see at the top and sides of Google search results and on other websites). It’s a career that demands creativity, but it’s not one for which you need a Media Studies or PR degree. Analytical skills are necessary as well, as advertising involves making judgements such as deciding when and how to achieve maximum impact with an advertising campaign.
From early years teaching to higher education lecturers, there’s always a need for teachers at every level of education, so no matter what degree you have, this option is always a possibility. It typically involves doing a one-year PGCE (Post-Graduate Certificate in Education). Aside from the obvious fact that you can choose to teach a particular subject, there’s a lot of scope for specialising in a particular area of education; for instance, you could choose to focus on teaching children with special educational needs, or on English as a Foreign Language (if you fancied travelling, you could even teach English abroad).
One way of getting into teaching, or learning valuable leadership skills through teaching that can be applied to other careers, is the Teach First scheme. This recruits the brightest graduates and involves leadership training and two years’ paid teaching in a London school. What you teach depends on a combination of where teachers are needed and on your own knowledge. There’s a list of current subject requirements that indicates what you need to be able to teach at various levels; for primary teaching, it’s a 2.1 (or above) degree in one of an approved list of subjects, or an A*, A or B in two of the same subjects. There’s a similar guideline for secondary school teaching, with the added stipulation that for science teachers, the A-levels must be subject-relevant. Though half remain in education, many graduates who’ve taken part in the Teach First scheme go on to have successful careers in other sectors, such as business, government and charities.
Contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually have to have a degree in law in order to become a lawyer. Because it’s such a popular career choice, there’s a conversion course – the Graduate Diploma in Law, or GDL – that you can take after completing any undergraduate degree (you don’t have to do this if you have a law degree, of course). This will put you at the same level as someone who has taken a law degree, and from there you complete a further one-year qualification to become specifically a solicitor, barrister or legal executive. After that, you work in a legal firm under a one-year pupillage (if you want to be a barrister), two-year training contract (to be a solicitor) or you complete three years of qualifying employment (to become a legal executive). The path to becoming a lawyer is a fairly challenging one, with low pay when you’re training, but the long-term rewards, as is commonly known, are high.
11. Starting your own business
Finally, if none of these careers particularly appeals to you, you have the option to ‘go it alone’ by starting your own business. Self-employment entails a greater level of risk when compared with a steady full-time job, as you never know how much money you’re going to have coming in from one month to the next. You also don’t get sick pay or paid holiday, or Christmas parties. However, being your own boss gives you a level of flexibility you wouldn’t have from being employed in someone else’s business, putting you in control of your own life and future. Becoming self-employed gives you the freedom to pursue your own interests, as you can start a company doing something that you enjoy – and that’s a powerful motivator that will make it much easier to get up in the mornings and devote the long hours necessary to make your business a success. Some graduates choose to start a business in their spare time while working for someone else (which also teaches valuable business skills), taking the leap to becoming fully self-employed once the business starts to grow. The Government offers more information on starting a business here.