What If My Dream Career Requires a Degree?

I really want a new career but wants happens if it’s in an area that requires a degree? I need to work. Do I have to give up?

This is often a problem for a career that requires a degree (and a student loan*) for entry. If you’re long passed the usual 18-year-old graduate route do you really have to forget about your dream career?

Well, thankfully, the answer is a definite no. Below are a variety of options open to you to secure a degree and still realise your ideal career.


part-time student numbersData HESA


But why do some would-be students sometimes struggle to study for a degree? Do any of them apply to you?

Need to earn a living
If you’re already working, it’s not always possible to give up your weekly/monthly paycheque and go off to study. How do you pay the bills for a start?

Have already studied at Higher Education (HE) level
Already have a degree (but in the wrong subject) or have studied something else at HE level already? This can be a real problem as student loans in England are usually not available twice. The only exception is for some Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths related courses (STEM).

The preferred degree isn’t available locally, or you don’t have the right entry qualifications
This can be a big problem if you’re unable to move easily or your experience at school wasn’t great hence a lack of A levels/BTEC National or the right grades etc.

Don’t want to be with a bunch of 18 year olds!
Dont want to be in a  lecture hall full of 18 year olds making the most of their newfound freedom away from home. Understandable how this could put you off!

Other reasons can’t access a student loan
Even if you have a British passport you still need to have lived in the UK for at least three years before you qualify for a student loan.

That’s the negative over and done with. So, what can you about it? How can you access degree level education and get the role you’ve always wanted?

The Options

The good news is there are often a lot more options than many people are aware of.  Let’s take a look at some of the main ones.

Options if you cant stauy full-time at uni


Part-time study
One of the best options available is to study part-time. Most universities offer this option alongside their fulltime version, either evenings or maybe one or two days per week. This allows you to work and continue to earn a living around your study.

Distance Learning
Don’t have a university close by, or perhaps  you can’t make one or two days per week away from your current responsibilities? Then distance learning is a definitive answer. The granddaddy of all distance learning institutions is The Open University. But other options are also available such as Arden University or even conventional universities that offer distance learning options.

Higher and Degree Apprenticeships
Although relatively new, these types of apprenticeships are beginning to take off as a viable option for some. You’ll need to apply directly to a company offering them. But if successful, it means you’ll be working in a relevant role and studying towards your degree maybe one day a week and getting paid all, at the same time. Once you’ve qualified, you’ll go to a graduation ceremony just like any other graduate and hopefully be taken on by your employer with a pay rise!

Other non-degree options
It may come as a surprise to many, but for certain professions, an upfront degree isn’t always necessary. For example, Accountancy and Law are just two examples of where it’s possible to start at ‘associate’ level (technician and legal executive respectively). From there, it is possible to work your way up through various qualifications until fully qualified.

Note: Contact UCAS for a full breakdown on university and degree apprenticeship vacancies available in the UK

So, there you have it. Don’t have a degree? All is not lost. Of course there are drawbacks to some of them. For example, studying at a distance can be a lonely experience and working your way up via starting at a trainee/associate level can take an awfully long time. But the biggest issue is often not all professions offer this option, for example, medicine.

But you’re aspiring to improve your lot, not being able to study the usual three-year degree doesn’t need to be the end of the matter. Still wondering about what career would suit you and what qualifications you’ll need? Go to Career Fancy now and see how we can help you create great career ideas designed exclusively around you.

*The above information is relevant mainly to England. The other nations in the UK have different funding arrangements, including for mature students. Please contact your relevant nation funding body for more details.
Main storyPhoto by Adetayo Adepoju on Unsplash

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