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Deciding What and How Much to Study

Study can be important. You learn, become more capable, and that can help you expand your work choices and ultimately develop your career or business opportunities.

It's important to recognise though that studying is never the only thing that needed for career success. Also, the world is changing. Career which were significant in the past might simply not exist in the future; and careers of the future may not exist yet.
If your education is broad enough, you will adapt, but if it is too narrow, you may need to be continually retraining.

For most types of jobs, there are different ways to reach the client’s goal. While many may enter a profession by one avenue of study, others might enter the same profession by studying something different, but still relevant to that profession

Study relevant courses to an appropriate depth and breadth and employers (or clients) will appreciate your capabilities.  Employers above all look for someone who can do a good job. The qualification might help, but in today's world, the learning is more important than the qualification.

It is a common misconception that the more one studies, the better one’s chances of finding employment in their field. However, this is not always the case. For one thing, attitude and work habits can be more valuable to employers in many fields than extensive knowledge. Also, employers may avoid people who are over qualified, perhaps viewing them with suspicion.

“Why would someone so highly qualified apply for this job?”

Or they may feel uncomfortable at having someone better qualified than they are on the job.
This is not to say that employers will never employ someone who is overqualified. But it is something to consider.

Another misconception held by many young people is that by doing a particular course, they will get a particular job. It is misleading to let young people believe this! There are some jobs which do require a particular qualification in order to work legally in that trade or profession, BUT getting the qualification does not guarantee employment. Also, it is quite possible that the requirements for the targeted job might change in the future, or even before the course has been completed.

The best approach when advising any person what to study is to focus on gaining the knowledge and skills that will:

  •  raise the persons awareness of the type of work and industry they are interested in
  •  help them to build connections with the industry (ie. networking)
  •  allow him or her to successfully perform in that job
  •  develop his/her ability to respond flexibly to existing or new opportunities.

This can mean planning for further study as the person’s expertise and prospects for advancement grow as he/she gains experience.  

Clearly, the counsellor must be willing to either obtain this information for the client, to help the client obtain it.


Choosing a Course

When choosing a course, consider:

  • Level of study - This might be thought of as the depth of study. In the past, levels of study were perhaps better well differentiated (eg. hobby, trade, certificate, advanced certificate, diploma, degree, post graduate. This is not always the case today. Academic standards can vary considerably from one institution to another, even from one university to another. Sometimes short courses can be deeper and more intensive than longer ones.
  • Subjects to study- Some courses only teach directly relevant subjects while others incorporate indirectly relevant modules in an effort to provide a foundation. Courses that provide both a solid knowledge base and extension subjects develop the graduate’s ability to adapt to the many changes that might arise in the future. Some courses may give you knowledge that is relevant today, but out of date tomorrow. A good foundation course however, prepares you to adapt as the world around you changes.
  • Nature of study - Different courses emphasise different things. Some concentrate on developing skills, but do not develop an understanding of those skills (e.g. Assessment focused training). Other courses concentrate on imparting factual knowledge.
    Yet other courses are designed to develop a balance of skills and knowledge, as well as an understanding of how this learning might be applied. The latter type of course aims to produce a more innovative and adaptable graduate.
  • Form of study – Options include part time or full time study, correspondence courses, online courses or lecture room classes. Some courses are short and can be combined like pieces of a puzzle to build up into a complete education (or used to fill in gaps in the education you already have). The individual should select study that best suits his or her schedule, budget, personality, and circumstances.
  • Where to study - Some schools or colleges offer considerably better or more tutor support, content and/or resources than others. The opportunity to interact with real people (tutors or mentors) should not be underrated. Colleges can cut their expenses by limiting your interaction with tutors, but when that support is needed it becomes critically important.