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It’s the Age-Old Question: What Do You Want to be When You Grow Up?
Very few people are lucky enough to know what they want to study right after school. The ones who say they’ve always wanted to be marine biologists and then go onto become marine biologists are so rare as to be almost mythical. It’s far more likely that people start off wanting to be Barbie, move onto being a doctor, switch to being an archaeologist, and change their minds to world champion tennis stars before finally ending up in finance – where they may or may not be happy.
Deciding what you want to be when you grow up is difficult. But perhaps you can get some inspiration from some of the most popular degree programs in Australia. You don’t have to enrol for any of them, but if, as so often happens, one thing leads to another, lightning could strike your brain and your world will open up to you.
Popular Degree Programs in Australia
Often popular degree lists, such as this, are very general, like finance degrees. Well, this one is general too, but we will also look at some of the more interesting things that you can do with these general degrees, to hopefully illuminate your possibilities.
In no particular order:
- Business and Management
Perennially popular degrees in Australia include business and management. Let’s be honest, if you want to make money, you really should be in management and you really should know your way around the business world. That’s why MBAs and masters’ degrees in management – any management – are so valuable. But, to continue with this honest streak, they can also be a tad boring. Unless …
… unless you combine a small business management degree with something tourism related and you end up running your own mountain guide operation around Mount Bimberi. You could extend it to include a little hotel or guest house, a restaurant and maybe even a spa.
If that’s still a bit run of the mill, how about getting an MBA in finance and then joining the UN as a cost assessor so you can determine which programs in which countries need the most financial aid. That’s a pretty cool job in anyone’s book.
Would you have guessed dentistry? There is a vicious rumour doing the rounds that dentists have a higher suicide rate than any other profession in the world (except maybe air traffic controllers). It has to be a vicious rumour otherwise why would it be such a popular degree?
Now, we won’t lie, it’s tricky coming up with some exciting dentistry-related careers, but they are out there. For example, there is forensic dentistry. If you’ve seen any modern crime programs you’ll know that forensic dentistry is an actual career. All sorts of dental evidence is left on crime scenes, especially violent crime scenes, and experts need to be able to examine bits of teeth and bite marks to help nail criminals.
Film; didn’t see that one coming, did you? We’re not talking dentists to the stars, so you can cap all those teeth and bleach them on a regular basis. We’re talking creating fake teeth for characters whose oral hygiene is questionable, or who have been in a fight. Who better to make moulds and get creative with dental imprints than a qualified dentist?
Make your mother happy and register for a medical degree, any medical degree, after all, they’re popular far beyond Australia’s borders. We’ve kept medical degrees separate from dentistry because, as everyone knows, dentists are failed doctors and should always be kept separate.
It shouldn’t be too difficult to make medicine sound exciting, after all, the sheer number of specialist degrees available point towards the field’s incredible diversity. Nevertheless, how about paediatric oncology? Is there anything more rewarding than helping children battling this horrific collection of diseases? If don’t want to bear the heartache of losing battles – because you will lose some – you can go into research and work towards improving treatments and finding cures.
Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s are other fields that require a great deal of research. For all the amazing discoveries and advancements that have already been made, there are still plenty of medical problems about which little is known. This means that there are limitless possibilities for discovery. And the pay isn’t bad either.
Let’s stick to the broadly medical field, shall we and look at other medicine-related degree programs that seem to be popular in Australia, like pharmaceutical degrees. You know those cheesy lab scenes in bad movies with the bubbling green test tubes and tubes filled with orange fluid? You won’t be doing anything like that. Oh, you’ll be mixing compounds and working with Bunsen burners all right, but if you end up with something that oozes blue smoke you’ve probably done something terribly wrong.
If you don’t want to stand behind a counter dispensing medical advice to people who are reluctant to fork out to see a doctor or dispensing pills to people who’ve just been to see a doctor then fear not, because you could still have a successful pharmaceutical career.
There’s the research option, which is perhaps not as exciting to some as it is to others. But there are other options, like becoming a pharmaceutical rep who travels around punting new drugs (the legal and approved kind). But this is only fun if you like to travel and are good at presentations. Otherwise you could take another shot at forensics, but this time from a pharmaceutical perspective. Drugs are even more common at crime scenes than teeth and the various compounds need to be identified so that the cops know what they’re dealing with.
Physiotherapy is the last medical-related degree in Australia that we’ll look at. Physiotherapy is a great job. The ability to simultaneously inflict and ease pain is, you have to admit, pretty cool. But not everyone wants to help ordinary folk get over their injuries; nope, only the super fit and super injured will do. We’re talking about sports physiotherapists – national sports physiotherapists. How great would it be to rehabilitate the NSW Waratahs’ wing or the ACT Brumbies’ prop? How exciting would it be to help the Aussie national cricket team come up with exercises to improve their flexibility and agility? If you don’t fancy rugged sweaty men then how about ensuring that Australian Ballet Company’s prima donna is fit enough to carry Swan Lake?
Or, you could bypass people completely and become an animal physiotherapist. It’s a legitimate career choice and one which is gaining popularity (and credibility) around the world. Just remember that animals in pain are cranky and cranky animals bite.
Speaking of animals, how about registering for a veterinary science degree so you can help the strange, wonderful and scary animals for which Australia is so well known? You don’t have to work with cats, dogs, parrots and hamsters if you don’t want to. You don’t even have to work with sheep and cows. You can specialise in the duck-billed platypus or Tasmanian devil. To get started in this field you could start with a Certificate IV in Veterinary Nursing.
You don’t have to become a fully fledged vet to work with the unique creatures of Australia, a degree in veterinary nursing will enable you to get up close and personal with all manner of creeping, crawling, slithering, furry, feathered and slimy beasties.
Law and Criminal Justice
Perhaps you have a yearning to loudly proclaim, “I AM the law!” Or maybe you want to represent the little guy, or maybe you think divorced dads get a raw deal, or maybe you think giant corporations should be made to pay for their reckless and negligent behaviour. Law degrees aren’t going to go out of style in Australia or anywhere else in the world any time soon; they’re bankable, more or less respectable and can be hugely rewarding – personally and financially.
It’s difficult to make law sound exciting. There are a lot of text books, a lot of laws and a lot of cases you need to study. It’s a slog and you need a memory like an elephant. But you don’t have to spend all your time in court defending people you know are guilty or finalising divorce papers, you can use your law degree to make a difference.
You can take up environmental law, for example, and wage epic battle against climate change denialists. You can be as proactive about it as you like. Very gung-ho environmental lawyers don’t balk at the prospect of traipsing through rain forests, hiking up volcanoes and plumbing the depths of the oceans to research their cause. Which rather makes all those dusty old text books and tomes of precedents seem worthwhile, doesn’t it?
If you ever wanted to save the world then a degree in environmental science will help you reach your dream. Australia has an incredibly diverse, unique and, above all, magnificent landscape. It’s our duty to protect it. But we’re remiss and so it falls to a precious few to ensure that we don’t make the ozone layer disintegrate, the lakes boil and the rain melt our faces. Those few are the environmental scientists; the ones who try to prove and disprove climate change (depending on who’s doing the funding), who come up with solutions for pollution and who try to save critically endangered species with sound science and passion.
If that doesn’t sound exciting enough as it is then there is no hope for you.
Engineering has grown to encompass so much more than it did 50 short years ago. Now days, a specialist engineering degree will enable you to do anything from designing shuttles for Australia’s space program to developing the software the shuttle will need to get safely to space and back. There are few things more exciting than space, unless of course it’s engineering the means to get people into space.
If space is too far, how about getting into aviation and building planes that fly safer, faster and further than anything we have today?
Want to avoid the sky? Then go below the waves and try your hand at developing viable submarine habitats.
Still not your thing? Let your hair down and create the biggest, baddest series of roller coasters the world has ever seen.
Education is also one of those degrees that seem to have been around forever; probably because it has been around forever, although not quite in its current form. As we learn more about how we learn, and as teaching methods become more sophisticated, the need for better skilled teachers has grown. Whereas before you might have got away with a diploma to become a teacher, these days most schools in Australia won’t seriously consider your application unless you have some sort of postgraduate certification in education, like a master’s degree.
Unless you’re excited about teaching anyway, it’s unlikely anything we say will make it seem even more so. But allow us to point out that teaching qualifications can take you all around the world, provided you have fantastic credentials, of course.
Also, there are some teaching methods, which may be considered controversial, such as the Montessori Method or Waldorf teaching that allow you to be more creative and flexible in your teaching. Because the qualifications for these methods are pretty standardised, they will also let you indulge in a spot of globe trotting.
So there you have it
Here you have 10 of the most popular degree programs in Australia, but it’s worth remembering that if you really want to get the most out of your career – and open up doors to new and exciting places – then you need to consider graduate programs that will give you the specialisation that you are looking for.
Remember also that it’s never too late to learn. You might feel as though you’re stuck in a dead end job but rare is the university in Australia that doesn’t offer online degree programs or some form of distance education so that you can complete your studies part-time. If you need flexibility and affordability then online degrees might just be the way to go.