Advice for parents about the career options for their children

Career or interest led

Initially there are two routes to go down; the career route, or the study for the pure interest factor route. Both routes should be checked with the aid of a professional (see section on careers advice), to ensure that their expectations, aims, aspirations and ability levels match their ideas and chosen course of either career path or study option. Once they and you are agreed on that particular path and have an idea of the type of programme that would be most suited then they are able to begin the search process. Websites such as hotcourses (www.hotcourses.com) and UCAS (www.ucas.ac.uk) contain great search facilities linked to course and institution information and links.

Route

There are still some issues to bear in mind however, even when using search facilities. Firstly try to ensure that your son or daughter is not simply misled by the title of the course. Just because it contains words similar to those in their agreed choice does not mean it will be suitable and relevant. Always ensure they (and you) check the content of any course they are considering. The most detailed information about a particular programme will be freely available on university websites. Also check how the course is taught and assessed. Your son or daughter may be good when it comes to examinations, but there are many students who prefer a more regular assessment of their work and some programmes offer various methods of actually marking work which may or may not be everyone's cup of tea.

Once they are at the stage of having a number of possible options for an actual course, it helps to begin to narrow things down a little, bearing in mind they need to be at the stage of 5 definite choices by the time they complete the UCAS application form. There are some issues that they will be able to consider with your assistance, such as:

  • Do they/ will they meet the university's entry criteria?
  • Where are the courses on offer in relation to where they would like to study?
  • Should their choice of course be related to their ultimate career goal?

For some career such as engineering they would need to study a related degree course. For some career paths students are able to switch their chosen or specific path at a later stage, particularly for disciplines such as law or medicine. In addition, some specific career areas require certain minimum GCSE qualification levels of attainment (teaching for example) or for students to have obtained grades in certain disciplines so it is well worth encouraging your son or daughter to research the potential preferences of employers or the industry of their chosen profession.

If your son or daughter is keen on the higher education experience and wants to study initially for the enjoyment of it, then it is sometimes preferable to advise them to choose programmes that expand on a subject that they are already doing well in and would enjoy taking to a higher level. Many young people at 18 or 19 are not sure of where they would like to end up, and many careers advisers would advocate a more flexible approach to choosing a career path, so undertaking a set or specific programme that channels students into a narrow set of options may not suit everyone. Again, research into the career options associated with various degree programmes is essential to ensure that those students with no set career goal will still enjoy potentially positive employment outcomes or the opportunity to add more vocational studies to a purely academic degree at a later stage if necessary.

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