10 Interesting Careers and How You Can Work Towards Them

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You’re young, you’re not even at university yet and the world is most definitely your oyster.

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You have so many opportunities open to you and your dream job is out there, if only you could find it. Not all of us are lucky enough to know exactly what we want to achieve in life from an early age. In fact, lots of people go through university still not knowing what they want to do for a career, and end up falling into a job they don’t enjoy because they haven’t figured out what’s right for them. To avoid the expense and upheaval of a career change later in life, and to give yourself the best possible start by choosing the right educational options from the word go, it’s worth taking some time out from your school work and putting a lot of thought into what job you want to do. This will allow you to select the university course for what you want to achieve, giving you a sense of direction and something to work towards. To give you some food for thought, here are just ten interesting careers you might want to consider: some classic, some a little bit different…

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1. Spy

Image shows a passport made for a James Bond movie, showing Bond as played by Daniel Craig, but with a fake name.
The former head of M15, Dame Stella Rimington, published an autobiography in 2001, which is surely a must-read for aspiring spies.

Officially known as an “Intelligence Officer”, the work of a spy is by its very nature shrouded in secrecy, so there isn’t an awful lot we can tell you about what they get up to. We’d hazard a guess that James Bond doesn’t do a very good job of accurately portraying the day-to-day life of a spy, but what is very clear is that you’ll have to be able to keep a secret. Wannabe MI5 and MI6 agents can’t even tell their families that they’re applying for the job, and if they make the grade, they’re not allowed to disclose their job to anybody but a couple of very close family members (they help spies come up with a cover story to tell everyone else). MI5, the Security Service, is responsible for protecting the UK against national threats, while MI6 is the Secret Intelligence Service and concentrates its efforts on gathering intelligence from abroad to support the government’s defence, security, economic and foreign policies. To work for either service, you’ll need to have a British passport and a minimum 2.1 level university degree. There’s no required subject that your degree has to be in, but because such work can involve communicating with people from other nationalities, languages are helpful. Politics, Economics, Geography, Law and History are also common degree choices for those who join the intelligence services. The recruitment and vetting process is long and gruelling, taking six months; but it’s undoubtedly a rewarding career path.

2. Architect

Image shows a architect's drawing board.
Architecture is a long course, but highly rewarding.

As an architect, you’ll be part of a respected profession that allows you to put your intelligence and imagination to good use in working with different materials and designing buildings that can shape the way people live their lives. Not just anybody can call themselves an architect, though; you have to go through an official route that protects the profession so that people can be confident that they’re hiring a fully qualified architect who’s passed an approved course. It takes a long time to train as an architect – five years of training as well as two years’ practical experience and a final exam. You’ll start by studying architecture at undergraduate level, qualifying for free membership of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) as soon as you start your course. Then you’ll complete at least a year of practical experience, before embarking on a further two years of university study, completing another year of practical experience and then taking a final test that involves written and oral exams and scrutiny of your experience to date. Once you’ve passed this, you can become a Chartered Member of the RIBA and start practising. You’ll find more information on how to become an architect here, if you want to get experience of the profession, you can join an Oxford Royale Architecture Summer Course. Courses are also available at the Oxford Summer SchoolCambridge Summer SchoolLondon Summer SchoolSan Francisco Summer School and Yale Summer School.

3. Journalist

Image shows a reporter being filmed.
Those considering a career in journalism are likely to enjoy All the President’s Men by Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, telling the story of how they helped uncover the Watergate scandal.

The beauty of being a journalist is that you can specialise in an area you find interesting and make a living from keeping people informed about it. Unlike architecture, there’s no set route to getting into journalism. Many journalists start off by doing undergraduate degrees in other things, such as English, History or Politics; they then do a Masters degree or Postgraduate Diploma in journalism to learn journalistic skills and knowledge such as media law and shorthand. It’s recommended that you embark on a course that’s accredited by the National Council for the Training of Journalists. While you’re still studying, you can prepare yourself for a career in journalism by building up a Twitter following, writing blogs, getting involved in your student newspaper and so on. This page from Journalism.co.uk provides some valuable tips on getting into this profession.

4. Meteorologist or Climatologist

Image shows a supercell storm cloud.
Meteorology is a rapidly changing and updating field, so now is an exciting time to get involved in the profession.

A meteorologist studies and predicts short-term weather patterns, while a climatologist looks at longer-term trends in the Earth’s climate, over hundreds or even thousands of years. You don’t have to be a TV weather presenter if you want to be a meteorologist; there are plenty of behind-the-scenes jobs too. This page from the Royal Meteorological Society will prove useful if either of these are careers you’re interested in pursuing; the Society runs official qualifications such as the Chartered Meteorologist Accreditation Scheme, through which you can enter this career. Before that, you’ll need a good university degree in a related subject; common subjects include meteorology, physics, maths, environmental studies, geography or geology. This list of courses will give you a good starting point for choosing your undergraduate degree.

5. Airline pilot

Image shows two pilots in a plane's cockpit.
Though starting salaries can seem low, more experienced pilots can be very well paid; airline pilots often feature on lists of the top ten professions with the highest average pay.

A career as an airline pilot remains prestigious and desirable, with unrivalled travel opportunities and the best office view anybody could wish for. Contrary to popular belief, you don’t actually need a maths degree to become an airline pilot; in fact, many people go straight from school into an airline training school such as Oxford Aviation Academy. However, you’ll find some knowledge of maths and physics useful when embarking on the tough ground school elements of airline pilot training, as you’ll need to learn about the forces that keep an aeroplane in the air, calculate flight times and fuel consumption, and so on. To become an airline pilot, you’ll have to complete fourteen rigorous exams, hundreds of hours of flight training and courses that will teach you how to work with an airline crew. You’ll learn how to fly different types of aircraft, at night and in cloud, and you’ll spend lots of time in a simulator learning how to fly the big jets that take you on holiday. Competition for jobs after you graduate is fierce, but you stand a better chance if you start your training at a young age. Once you’ve got your Airline Transport Pilot’s Licence (ATPL), you’ll have to undergo further training courses known as Type Ratings to be able to fly each specific aircraft you might get a job on, such as the Boeing 737 or Airbus A320. These are sometimes sponsored by the airline, but not always; if the airline pays for it, you’ll be bonded to them for a minimum time, and if not, you’ll have to cover the cost yourself. This should pay off long-term though, as pilot salaries are high once you’ve accumulated more hours.

6. Forensic pathologist

Image shows a forensic pathologist looking down a microscope, against a deep blue background.
Be aware that there are not many jobs available in forensic pathology; the Home Office Register of Forensic Pathologists shows how few forensic pathologists are currently working in the UK. But even if you don’t become a forensic pathologist, the extensive training you will get along the way will make you highly employable in other areas.

Figuring out how someone unexpectedly, and potentially violently, met their end may be grizzly work, but it’s also morbidly fascinating. It’s been glamorised by television shows such as Quincy and Silent Witness, but despite this the number of people practising forensic pathology is surprisingly small. If this is a career that interests you, you’ll have to go to medical school and complete foundation training. After graduating from medical school, you’ll need to start by studying histopathology (of which forensic pathology is a specialist branch), before taking an exam from the Royal College of Pathologists and then moving on to forensic pathology in year two or three of post-graduate study; this post-graduate training will take five years in total. You can find out more about this and similar specialities from the Royal College of Pathologists.

7. Barrister

Image shows a bewigged barrister talking on a mobile phone.
If you’re a current law student trying to decide between becoming a barrister and becoming a solicitor, try our helpful guide. Or if you’re not at that point yet, our tips on professional development for aspiring lawyers may prove useful.

If you think you’d be good at articulate speeches, rigorous cross-examinations and lightning-fast thinking, a career as a barrister could be for you. The route to this profession starts with a university degree. This doesn’t have to be in law; you could study something else and then complete a conversion course. This is followed by the official Bar Professional Training Course, which can be completed in a year full-time or two years part-time. After that you’ll enter the Pupillage phase, during which you’ll spend a year as a pupil in a barristers’ chambers or other approved organisation. You’ll then be able to start practising, either self-employed or in an existing practice. You can learn more about the legal professional at our Law Summer School, held at many of our Summer Course Locations.

8. City trader

Image shows Canary Wharf lit up at night.
A typical starting salary for a city trader can be £30,000 – £45,000 – but even minor mistakes can cause huge losses for the company, and so lose you your job.

They may have had a tough time of it over the last few years thanks to the credit crunch, but with the economy starting to pick up again, a career as a city trader is still very much worth considering for those who feel they would thrive in this high-pressure environment. If you feel it’s the career for you, you’ll need a degree with a minimum of 2:1. It doesn’t necessarily matter what your degree is in, but certain subjects lend themselves more to this profession, notably Economics, Mathematics, Politics, Business and Finance. Securing an internship prior to applying for proper jobs will be advantageous to you; training is normally given on the job, alongside gaining professional qualifications from the Chartered Institute for Securities and Investment. Before you can begin trading, you’ll need to gain formal approval from the Financial Conduct Authority.

9. Art restorer

Image shows part of the Sistine Chapel, before and after restoration.
Being an art restorer requires immense patience and diligence, but if you’re happy with slow progress, it can be very rewarding.

Art restorers are responsible for returning historic art to its original, peak condition. It can be painstaking work, and it involves employing a variety of techniques to counter the effects of damage and neglect of a number of materials. Art restorers, who must have a great deal of artistic skill and passion themselves, typically start out by gaining a degree in Fine Art. Whilst at university, potential art restorers will often choose to specialise in a particular area, such as restoration or textiles, and will also learn about the cultural significance of the art they’re interested in. Upon graduation, further training is gained by undertaking an apprenticeship. Art restorers often work with museums and art galleries, as well as private art collectors.

10. Volcanologist

Image shows an erupting volcano.
Aside from choosing the right degree, aspiring volcanologists may wish to pursue hiking as a serious hobby – lengthy treks to remote locations are often a central part of the job.

If you don’t mind getting into a dangerous profession, and you like the sound of getting up close and personal with active, dormant or extinct volcanoes, you could become a volcanologist. As a volcanologist, you’ll travel to some remote corners of the globe to study these destructive forces of nature, predicting eruptions and quite possibly saving lives. Volcanologists’ work covers a number of scientific fields, including Geography, Geology and Earth Sciences, and Chemistry. Any of these subjects at undergraduate level will give you a good foundation for becoming a volcanologist, and after this you’ll become more specialised with the addition of further study at Masters and PhD level. Volcanologists are employed by universities for research and teaching, as well as governments for monitoring and hazard reduction. You also have the option of working at a volcano observatory, monitoring a specific volcano to ensure that an emergency response can be coordinated in plenty of time in the event of a possible eruption.
It goes without saying that this small selection of careers is but the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the vast choice of potential jobs available to you. Don’t worry if you’re not immediately inspired by any of the careers we’ve talked about here; it may take time before you really know what you want from life, and that’s normal. Hopefully we’ve got you thinking about it though, and at an early enough stage that you can start laying the foundations of a successful working life from the outset.

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