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Is it enough to be making career choices based solely on subject enjoyment?

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We continue our 'Pathways takeaways' series looking at the UCAS Next Generation reports, highlighting the potential pitfalls of using enjoyment of subject as the sole reason for making course and career choices .

According to the UCAS Next Generation report 59% of young people are making course choices based on the subjects they enjoy and 46% are considering careers that fit with the subjects they enjoy and with their personal interests.

Faced with decisions about their future, the natural starting point is to find a career they’ll be happy in by thinking about the subjects they enjoy, but how good a decision is this?

Perhaps the biggest driver for this decision is lack of knowledge and a general gut feeling that by focusing on what they’re good at or enjoying today, means good things will follow tomorrow. However making decisions solely on this basis can sometimes lead to unforeseen issues.

One such issue might arise where a student enjoys a subject which may not align well with current job market demands. Certain fields may have limited employment opportunities, leading to difficulties in securing a job after study.

Another potential issue is that some enjoyable subjects may not offer competitive salaries or job security, which can be crucial considerations for long-term financial stability and career satisfaction.

It’s also important to understand that the day-to-day realities of a job can be very different from the academic study of a subject. Students might enjoy learning about a topic but find the associated job roles unappealing or stressful.

Young people need to balance their passion with practical considerations, such as job availability, salary expectations, and long-term career prospects. Focusing solely on enjoyment might lead to overlooking these practical aspects.

Research is key

Ultimately, although there are some pitfalls to making decisions based on interests and passions, there are also plenty of benefits, not least the fact that they are more likely to experience academic success and long-term career satisfaction doing something they enjoy. They key thing is the importance of research into the careers and career areas where their favoured subjects can lead.

Young people need to research the job market and understand the demand for professionals in the field they are passionate about. Look at trends and future projections to ensure long-term viability.

They should investigate the day-to-day responsibilities of careers related to the subject of interest and look for opportunities to combine their passions with practical skills. For example, if they enjoy art and technology, fields like graphic design or game development might be suitable.

Using Pathways One on a school or college website, allows students to research occupations by seeing how the courses they enjoy relate to different careers. For each career they can see salary information and future workforce numbers, both on a national and regional basis.

Pathways One showing careers information for A level computer science course in South and City College website
Pathways One showing careers information for A level computer science course in South and City College website

Pathways Explore allows students to research over 850 different careers, learning about the day-to-day tasks involved and the skills required to do the job as well as discovering other occupations that require similar skills. Each occupation is mapped to related courses so students can see that relationship between course and career.

Pathways Explore in New College Swindon's website
Pathways Explore in New College Swindon's website

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