Over a year ago now, I had discussed how to choose a degree course in one of my blogs and the key, I had said, lies in researching. This was particularly because I didn’t research as much when it came to picking a course. I enjoyed chemistry and wanted to study it but when came to Warwick I learnt about all sorts of courses that I had never heard of prior to joining university like Classics, PPE, GSD. It is only this year due to my flatmate that I found out that Engineering is actually not all about screwdrivers. There is in fact a lot of maths involved as well as coding, something I had never thought to be the case.
But once you’ve researched, how do you narrow down your list of potential choices? Or, if you want to brainstorm before you research, how can you do that? I am not an expert or have any experience but let’s say I was someone who had no idea what to do, then I would perhaps think about the questions below…
1. Sciences vs social sciences vs humanities vs languages vs arts. Which category?
For some there may be an obvious route. I did all my A levels in Science and Maths but some I know did a mix so it is always worth investing time into thinking which one of these do you like the feel of.
2. Or do you want to lie at the interface?
Some people like to be at the interface between different fields and there are ways you can do that too. One of my flatmates this year is an economist and he told me how there is so much maths in his degree. It is actually a requirement for the degree at Warwick.
In chemistry, you get a flavour of many other STEM subjects (and read about all its other benefits here) and there are people who study undergraduate chemistry and then go on to work in the Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG) and work on scaling up of the processes we do in labs (a switch from science to engineering there).
I think you can combine two subjects and do a degree in it. I have heard of maths and statistics, maths and physics, politics with French and chemistry with medicinal chemistry. Surely there are many more so, again, do your research!
3. Do you have a career in mind?
Some people choose a course because they have a career in mind. Take the example of law; if you study undergraduate law, chances are you want a career in it (but it’s equally cool if you later choose to do something else).
4. What is it that you want to change in this world?
I remember on LinkedIn someone said that if you want to find out what is special to you, pay attention to what you read online. I don’t mean the memes haha but the articles and news. It is almost worrying how much I read about politics and international affairs these days, more than perhaps chemistry but seriously, what is it that captures your attention? I have recently been thinking about exploring the field of environment and sustainability more because I find myself particularly interested in this area. But looking at jobs into environmental consulting, I found that it is desirable to have a degree related to the environment such as Global Sustainable Development (GSD) so if you want to plan ahead, maybe think about which degrees would prove advantageous.
5. Did you know that you can enjoy a subject enough to study it but not enough to pursue a career in it?
Most jobs require you to have a degree and don’t really care about what you study at university. I remember somebody at school a year above me was very passionate and good at chemistry but upon asking him I discovered that he actually wanted to go into banking. So, it really is a thing to study one field but then pursue a career in a different one.
6. Do you want to go for a broad topic or something specific?
Before chemistry, I wanted to study forensic science and I am pretty sure most sciency kids have at some point wanted to become a forensic scientist thanks to the (misleading) portrayal of the field in the media. But at the time, I found a lot of material online discussing how few jobs there were in the sector of forensics and this put me off. Research also showed that at the end of the day, forensics is a mix of different sciences and one of the key ones is chemistry. This year we learnt about Chromatography and our lecturer himself discussed how pivotal a role chromatography plays in forensics. The point I am making here is that studying chemistry means that I could still pursue a career in the field of forensics but I have a lot more options within the science sector. So, perhaps think about the subsequent impact on your career when you choose a specific degree. But of course as I discussed in my previous point, most jobs require a degree and don’t actually care about the subject itself.
This also applies for example where during A levels I had my moment where I was rather undecided between chemistry and biochemistry. But now I’m happy because while I don’t know as much biochemistry as the real biochemists, I still do it as part of my degree in addition to exploring other fields of chemistry.
This blog post has pretty much been a personal challenge because I came up with questions that I probably never asked myself when I was choosing my degree course. I really hope this would be useful to someone in their quest to find the right course for them. All the best, kids!