Should I study what I love or what’s practical?

It's an age-old question for uni students: "Should I choose a degree based on what I like, or what's going to get me a job?”

Someone holding balloons against a sky

When it comes to choosing a degree, there are two camps of people: those who think you should follow your passion, and those who think you should follow the money and study towards a safe and practical career.  

So, who's right? Let’s look at the pros and cons for each.  

Why it’s worth studying what you love 

The pros

There’s a saying that goes something like this: “Choose a job you love, and you’ll never work a day in your life.” If you pick your degree based on what interests you, then you can go after a job that genuinely excites you once you graduate. That passion will push you to keep aiming higher in your career, and protect you from burning out.   

You’ll also be more motivated when it comes to study itself, because you’ll be inspired by the course content and the likeminded people you meet.  

The cons

There are two big reasons why following your passion might not be the best decision for you.  

Some creatives, like writers and photographers, for example, prefer not to turn their passion into labour, because this takes the enjoyment out of it for them. If you worry that studying your passion will make it feel like a chore, then go with your gut. Keep it as a hobby and focus on an unrelated degree instead.  

And then, of course, there are your job prospects to consider. Check out the Australian Government’s Labour Market Insights website to research which jobs are associated with your chosen degree. The site will also tell you what typical employment conditions are like in that industry, and whether the rise in automation could put your career at risk in the future.  

If you’re lucky, your passion will line up with an industry that’s experiencing strong jobs growth. But if your degree leads to an industry where jobs are scarce or overly competitive, then you might like to consider blending your passion with a study area that’s more practical. For example, some theatre lovers choose to study creative arts and dementia care so they can work in the always growing healthcare industry.  

There will always be a way to weave your passion into your life: it’s all about deciding what matters to you most when investing in your education.   

Why it’s worth choosing a degree with a lot of employment prospects 

The pros

Choose to study for an industry that’s experiencing growth, and you’re likely to have an easier time securing a job in the field once you graduate. You’ll also have more freedom to move between jobs when you’re established, which can help you earn more over your lifetime.  

According to the Job Outlook website, the top industries for job growth in the next five years are expected to be:  

  • Health care and social assistance (especially in aged and disability care, nursing, childcare and welfare support) 
  • Construction  
  • Education and training  
  • Professional, scientific and technical services (especially in software programming and accounting) 

The cons

The downside to putting practicality over passion is that you can end up in a degree that doesn’t inspire you. And you don’t want to spent years studying towards a career that you don’t see yourself staying in.  

A good way to avoid this is to pick a degree that qualifies you to work across multiple industries (an example would be a Bachelor of Information Technology). You’ll gain the practical skills you need to go after in-demand jobs, but you’ll also have the flexibility to work in an industry that you like. 

Ultimately, it seems that combining passion and practicality could be your best option when choosing a degree. What’s most important is that you feel confident in your decision. After all, it’s your future.  

 

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