We Asked A Career Expert How To Choose A Degree For The Career You Want

There are so many questions before you even start it can get overwhelming – we get it.

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When it comes to choosing a career, Australians are spoilt for choice. But to get the profession you want, there are a number of hurdles you’ve gotta face first. What degree should you study? Where should you study? What subjects do you choose? There are so many questions before you even start it can get overwhelming – we get it.

We spoke to career expert and psychologist Suzie Plush about choosing a degree that will make you happy and help equip you for the future workforce in some of Australia’s biggest industries.

#1 Get Back To Basics

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Image: Hannah Olinger

Know you want to study but have zero idea about what you actually want to do for a living? We’ve been there. Suzie believes the first step is going all the way back to basics by sitting down for some good ol’ self-reflection.

“It’s about evaluating your own interests and passions,” she told Junkee. “What do you like reading about, what do you like talking about? What do people think you’re good at?” Once you’ve found the answers to these questions, Suzie suggests looking at degree content or subjects that align.

If you’re feeling excited and interested by the degree programs and information you’re seeing, chances are, you’re moving in the right direction. Combining aptitude with your interests and strengths is a killer combination.

#2 Well, Well, Well-Rounded

If you’ve decided on a degree that’s quite specific and has an unambiguous career outcome, yet you want a well-rounded education that will future-proof your career, why not do something to help yourself stand out from your peers? Suzie believes simply doing what everyone else is doing removes the competitive edge from your professional future.

“If you have the ability and there’s flexibility, try to take on some subjects outside of your degree that are complimentary,” she says. “This will give you a competitive advantage.”

Open Universites Australia, for example, allows students to mix and match subjects from multiple universities to create bespoke and customised degrees. Studying IT but want to take a psychology subject or two? No problem – the choice is yours.

#3 Step Outside The Zone

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Your comfort zone, that is. You might not have the world’s best communication skills, or maybe you can talk under water but your business skills suck. The point is, you need to work on gaining skills that can be transferred to most industries. This will give you a boost when looking for employment down the track.

“It shows a breadth of knowledge and capability because you’ve stretched yourself in different areas,” explains Suzie. “One of the key competencies moving forward is adaptability, so by showing you can operate in multiple environments, [you show] real strength.”

#4 Go Back To The Future

In choosing a career you want it’s also important to ensure the career you’re working towards will still be around in 10 years’ time. While some jobs may become obsolete in the future, there are industries that will always provide career opportunities. According to Suzie and the Department of Jobs and Small Business, the top five areas of growth in Australia include healthcare and social assistance, construction, education and training, as well as professional, scientific and technical services.

“It’s good to be aware of future trends because, when you’re thinking of studying, you want to move into an area where you’ll be able to secure employment. You don’t want to enter a dying area,” she explains.

#5 Remember, Skills Pay The Bills

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Image: Rawpixel

There are a number of skills for future-proofing your career and choosing a professional life you’ll be excited for every day. Think things like problem-solving ability, creative thinking, digital literacy, and critical analysis.

“If you can show you have those key competencies, it’s going to be easy to secure employment,” Suzie explains. “Also, the more managerial skills you have, the more secure you are.” A robot can’t manage people, after all.

It’s those leadership qualities, which can often be enhanced by online study options ranging from single subjects to full degree programs, that help develop your ability, people skills and relationship skills. Want to know how to get some of these skills yourself? Beyond further study, work experience in your current role or even internships can do the trick. As long as you’re developing yourself – you’ll be in a good position in the future to enjoy the career you want.

(Lead image: Rawpixel)

Get the career you want without putting your life on hold. For 25 years, Open Universities Australia has enabled students to study online with leading Australian unis, in a way that suits their lifestyle. Explore your options at or call a friendly student advisor on 13 OPEN.