With .edu we tend to focus on careers in the information technology industry. Paths of study that universities and TAFEs slot into their computing faculties. Computer science degrees. Network engineering diplomas. Multimedia courses. The magazine is, after all, about maximum power computing. Obviously, not all .edu readers are interested in working in IT. At least not in straight IT. After all, our gainfully employed (in the full-time, long-since-left-study-behind sense of the term) readers work in fields as varied as cookery, marketing, mining and teaching.
Itís time for us to look at related (read generally geeky) paths of study. All of these paths of study will lead you into careers that are reliant, to varying degrees, on IT. The ability to demonstrate a high level of competence with computers, even if you didnít major or minor in IT at university, is a Very Good Thing in the eyes of damn near all employers in damn near all industries.
We know, we know, we know. That old clichè about going to university for three or four years to learn how to serve Big Macs. The bit of graffiti in the toilets of so many campuses, written in texta above the toilet paper dispenser: receive your arts degree here. Ha.
In all seriousness, an arts degree can be useful. If you choose the right major you can get a decent job out of it. Linguistics and languages, for example, can get you into well-paying translating and interpreting gigs, either in the private sector or in the public sector working for organisations as different as ASIO and Centrelink (where you’ll doubtlessly meet some of your old classmates, right?).
There’s also journalism, which those interested in technical writing and science communication may want to look at. Though there always seem to be ads for technical writers on seek.com.au and other job hunting websites, the supply of potential full-time writers far exceeds the demand for full-time writers. The pay, with exceptions, is pretty bad, too. But hey, if you love it... we guess there’s always marketing, right?
The entrance requirements for arts degrees vary somewhat from university to university, covering the entire spectrum from ‘passed everything, kind of’ to ‘did rather well, actually’.
Economics can be very interesting to a mind of the geeky persuasion, as can some of the other areas that typically fall under the umbrella of ‘business and commerce’. Depending on the university the entrance requirements for a commerce degree may extend to competence in some form of maths – probably no more than your state’s entry-level or mid-level year twelve subject – but in all likelihood will demand little more than passing grades in English and a reasonable level of all round competence, as reflected by a decent ATAR score. Employment opportunities extend beyond the finance industry and related branches of the government. Law enforcement and defence agencies, among others, hire commerce graduates.
Engineering degrees, which demand and assume a fair grasp of maths and science, are a natural fit for many a young geek fresh out of secondary school. Employment opportunities vary dramatically, ranging from constructing roadways as a civil engineer to designing CPUs. Entry requirements for engineering degrees vary from university to university but are similar to the entry requirements for science degrees – you need to pass English and have studied, and of course passed, a science or two and, at the very least, a mid-level maths subject.
Despite the popularity of engineering degrees, there are always employment opportunities for graduates.
Most universities seem to lump mathematics in with their science degrees but we feel it’s worthy of a separate mention.
Mathematics degrees can get you into a variety of industries, including but not limited to education, finance and the public service. Career prospects may vary depending on what you choose to focus on in your degree. Graduates who come out of a mathematics degree with a major in applied mathematics or statistical analysis may find more demand for their knowledge and skills.
The entrance requirements for mathematics degrees are none-too-dissimilar to the entrance requirements of Bachelor-level science courses. You’ll need to have studied your state’s mid- and possibly high-level maths subjects in year twelve and passed. The entrance requirements in terms of ATAR scores vary considerably from university to university.
Science degrees can lead to a wide variety of careers depending, of course, on what you specialise in. Employment opportunities and the level of financial reimbursement vary dramatically between the sciences. Mining firms and food manufacturers, among others, are currently snapping up scientists of various specialisations.
Entry requirements for science degrees vary significantly from university to university. Some universities are quite picky and will only take school leavers who got great results. Others merely want to see marks high enough to suggest you have at least a basic grasp of the English language, secondary school level maths and the rudiments of one or two broad scientific disciplines. The requirements for some branches of science may be higher than others. Again, it depends on the university, although it is safe to say pretty much all of them expect you to have studied a medium- or high-level maths subject at year twelve, as well as at least one science subject.
Different universities offer different specialisations. Large universities with strong reputations in the sciences, such as the University of Melbourne and the University of Western Australia, tend to offer a wider variety of areas of study to major and/or minor in.
Secondary school teaching
There is an oversupply of teachers of English and the humanities at a secondary-level, but on the other hand there is a serious shortage of science and mathematics teachers. Teaching isn’t for everyone, of course, but if you’re cut out for it teaching can be rewarding.
If you’re yet to enter university, you could do worse than to look into a Bachelor-level teaching degree. As part of the degree you’ll have room to take a few electives – if you want to teach mathematics and science (or mathematics and information technology, say), the faculty will require you to undertake a certain number of mathematics and science units. A Bachelor of Education, assuming you study full-time and don’t fail anything, should take three or four years to complete.
Universities are increasingly promoting their graduate-entry education degrees. A Graduate Diploma- or Masters-level teaching degree is something you could look at if you have already or almost completed a Bachelor-level degree in, say, science or mathematics. To become a teacher of a particular subject, you’ll be expected to have completed a certain number of relevant second year units. Graduate-entry teaching programs tend to take a year or two to be complete – again, assuming you’re planning on studying it on a full-time basis.
Undergraduate and graduate-entry teaching degrees are not too dissimilar. Both will give you experience in classrooms before throwing you out into the real world. Exactly how much experience you get, and how much of it is hands-on, depends on the university.
There is a third option – the recently introduced Teach for Australia program, which basically gets you into a classroom after six weeks of intensive study. After two years with the program you walk away with a Masters-level qualification.
The entry requirements for teaching degrees vary significantly depending on where and at what level you study but are generally none-too-strenuous. If you walked out of a Bachelor of Science with reasonable (i.e. something along the lines of a credit average) marks and are a fluent speaker and writer of English, you should be fine. If you’re applying for an undergraduate teaching course, the entry requirements will probably be similarly stress free. Ultimately, the real test comes when you set foot in a classroom. Academic prowess or lack thereof isn’t the best indicator someone’s ability to thrive in a room full of kids. Of the people I started my two year long Master of Teaching with, maybe half were left come graduation day.
We never cover the trades in the traditional sense of the term – they don’t fall within the scope of what we normally do in the .edu column. The trades have taken a bit of a beating in recent years, with schools pushing students who may not be really interested or capable in the direction of university, university, university or, at the very least, diploma-level TAFE courses. The earnings of apprentices aren’t attractive either. There’s no way of dodging the point: apprentice tradespeople get paid crap. Even when compared to journalists.
Fully qualified tradespeople can do very well for themselves, though, particularly if they’ve the capacity and skills to run their own business. We know that the stereotypical tradesman is pretty much the opposite of the stereotypical geek but some trades, such as electronics, stand out as being attractive options to nerds who like to get their hands dirty.