So, everyone seems to have different opinions on what happens after university. Some place the degree as the most important thing you can attain in your young life, and some say it’s entirely pointless. I got my degree two years ago (I’m now studying my MA at UEL), so let me discuss some of the short term changes that can occur after you’ve graduated.
The big one! Sort of.
So, your career prospects after graduation critically depend on the field. I had a degree in English, and found my job options barely changed. It took me months of applying to relevant graduate jobs in my field, with no response. Even after I had work experience in my field, finding further work has been challenging.
However, it really depends on the relevance of your degree. Friends of mine with degrees in IT and engineering have had relatively easy times finding work in their chosen field, so if you’re worried maybe do a little research into the availability of graduate jobs in your field.
Don’t despair though! Merely having a degree of any variety did help me, and I believe I was selected for my current job in part because of it. While you may not be able to find work in exactly the area you’d like straight away, stopgap jobs and jobs to hold you over until you can break into your field will be easier to attain with a degree. It may still take some work, but that’s the job market for you.
This will be very personal for everyone, dependent especially on their fields, but I have noticed a significant change in how I learn and study since I finished my degree. I have a new understanding of my own field, and deepening interests in connected ones.
Having a degree has been an odd one for me. I don’t like to brag, nor do I see simply having a degree as something worthy of bringing up, however since I got my degree it has made a real difference in certain social interactions. Without a degree, claiming authority or knowledge on something relies wholly on your experience, whereas with a qualification people assume you have some level of implicit knowledge about what you’re talking about. Whether or not this is a good thing is entirely up to you.
And this isn’t to say you actually need to know anything academically about what you’re talking about, either. I’m a fan of Marlowe, so when a debate between colleagues came up where some hated his work and some loved it, my positive opinion on him was seen as somehow authoritative, as I was the only one with an English degree. I have never studied Marlowe, and this made me somewhat uncomfortable, but it is a sign of the assumed knowledge people see you as having once you have some sort of higher education.
My degree was also useful to me when dealing with clients over email in a previous job – I’m quite young, and as I’m sure you’re all well aware it can be challenging to get respect in the business world when you’re young. I noticed an immediate difference in the responses I received via email once I had those lovely letters “BA hons” after my name. A degree puts a certain minimum on your age, and thus those who take that sort of thing into account use this as a gauge on how to treat you. Is that good? Absolutely not, in my opinion. But useful, when you’re forced to deal with such people? Very much so.
People have certain expectations of you once you finish your degree. I really enjoy an event called MCN London Comic Con, and try to go as often as possible. While I was doing my degree, people didn’t raise an eyebrow when I went to those events, but after? That’s a different story. My colleagues and older family members, who’d once found my nerdier interests amusing, were now bemused or frustrated by my hobbies. Graduation is seen as a sign of growing up, and thus people expect a certain level of “adultness” from you once you complete your degree.
Now I, of course, wholly disagree. I’m an unashamed nerd and think whatever your interests and passions are you should embrace and enjoy them, whatever your age. My elderly uncle plays video games, and my 13 year old cousin enjoys reading contract law. As long as they’re happy, why should I care? But sadly, a fact of life is that some people make these assumptions of what’s right or wrong for people of our age to enjoy, so be prepared for that. Don’t feel you have to change, but do be ready for the occasional comment.
So, you might notice that in this article about your degree, I’ve barely talked about the most commonly associated subject – careers. That’s because, while I think your degree will be very important to your career in the long run, on a day-to-day basis my experience suggests you’ll notice the other little changes more often.