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How to choose a course if you're not sure what you want to do

If you’re getting ready to leave school, it’s likely that everywhere you go you’ll be asked what you want to be ‘when you grow up’. If you’re still looking into possible courses, tossing up between two fields or have no idea what kind of career you want, consider these three options.

Choose a generalist degree
Generalist degrees are a good choice if you have a broad area of interest but aren't sure which exact career is for you. They allow you to explore your options without committing to a single specialisation — or at least not in your first year out of school. If your interests are in the humanities, for example, you may choose a broad arts degree that will allow you to study subjects as varied as anthropology, creative writing, languages and women’s studies. Once you decide on a specialisation, you can choose a major (perhaps in your second year) or hone in on a specific area through a postgraduate degree. This is becoming more and more common, with two Australian universities (The University of Melbourne and The University of Western Australia) already having moved to a two-part degree structure, where students complete a generalist bachelor degree before progressing into a higher degree with a more specialised focus (usually at masters level). You might consider looking out for work experience options (such as internships or part-time cadetships) during your undergraduate degree to get a first-hand experience of a particular job and refine your potential career options.

‘Try out’ a field of study
If you’re still weighing up the pros and cons of a certain field, but aren’t sure if you want to commit to three or four years of study, why not try a lower-level qualification in the field? A certificate course, for example, usually takes around six months of full-time study and will give you a good idea of what further study will be like and whether it’s the right field for you. Depending on the qualification level you choose, you may even be granted credit if you then enter a bachelor degree in a related field. You may also choose to enrol into a single unit to gain some insight into a field of study you are considering. Single units may also be credited if you choose to complete a course in the field.

Take a gap year
Taking a gap year is another option, as it gives you time to think about your options. You can use a gap year to travel, gain some work experience or perhaps just to take a much needed break. You might even decide to take a shorter break and apply for courses at mid-year intake. This means that you will have a few months to weigh up your options away from the stress of Year 12 and gain some insight from friends who have already begun their studies. Not all courses are offered at mid-year, so it is best to check with individual institutions if you are considering this option.

Further information

  • Choosing a course and campus — information about choosing a course and campus
  • Study options — information for school leavers about tertiary education providers; qualification levels; differences between university, TAFE and VET and more
  • Fields of study — information about the 30 different fields of study, including course specialisations, career options and graduate ratings