Official government numbers from the Office of National Statistics say that 20% of people who graduated in 2010 were still unemployed in 2011. With those odds, is it better to stick at the job you have at home, or branch out into the unknown?
The Boyfriend recently said that after graduating most of our friends have gone straight back to the same jobs they had before university. (This from the guy that is now an architectural assistant about to go and do a masters, neither of which is possible without a Bachelors degree!) It got me thinking about what people are actually doing with their degrees though!
The Pros of NOT Going to University
A lot of my friends say they felt pressured into going straight to University. If you don't know what you want to do, then NOT going to Uni gives you time to decide what you want out of life. Stay motivated though, use your time wisely and learn about various careers you might be interested in.
If you know what you want to do and it doesn't require a degree, you can start at the bottom and work your way up. You will be more respected within the company than a new graduate that went straight in at manager level. You will also have a few more years experience! My friend went to University, but worked the holidays at a fun park he is now the manager of back at home. He said he will never need the specialist knowledge he gained at University, which was for him a waste of time and money.
If you know you want a very practical career, consider an apprenticeship. These can be VERY poorly paid (£2.60 an hour is the minimum wage, which is absolutely unacceptable if you ask me!), but if you find a good one you will be paid a fair salary AND be guaranteed a good job at the end. A friend trained as an engineer for the London Underground and is now contractually guaranteed a high paying job with Transport For London.
The Pros of Getting a Degree
A degree is often a requirement for a more complex, specialised job. In my chosen career of research, not only do you need a Bachelors degree, but a PhD is vital too! Research the job requirements for what you want to do, then target your learning towards it.
In a bad economy, no job is 100% secure. A degree is something that you can fall back on if your chosen sector falls under completely. It shows you have transferable skills and motivation.
One of the major pro points of going to Uni aside from education is personal development. You mature so much working and studying away from home. For most students, it is the first time you've been away from home and you learn how to function as an adult whilst still being partially protected from mistakes. I think it is a hugely important part of university and employers will know that you are a more rounded individual.
If you decide University is for you...
Find a course that offers a Sandwich Year, which is a year in industry as part of your degree. This will give you the best possible edge when applying for jobs, because you will already have experience. There's no reason not to do this; even if you decide you don't enjoy your chosen career, you will avoid making this wrong decision in the future.
The Bottom Line
I think the absolute most important thing is to decide what you want to do. If you have a vague idea (like I knew I wanted to do something in Biology), what jobs would be open to you? Will you need a degree for that? If yes, then go to University, study a broad field and specialise later when you decide.
If you are not SURE that you want to go to University, will you be motivated enough to continue? If you drop out, you will still have a huge mound of debt to pay off and nothing to show for it. Student loan repayments will cost you 9% of whatever you earn over £21,000 if you start this year, so make sure you gain something from the experience!
If you don't have a clue what you want to do, take a year or two to decide. Take a few courses in things you might be interested in, volunteer in a field you think you might enjoy (for example, if you're interested in becoming a teacher, volunteer with a youth group), ask people about their experiences. There's no harm in waiting until you know what you want, and the extra couple of years of maturity and experience will give you an advantage over others if you do decide to go to Uni!