“Choosing your university degree course is one of the two most important decisions that you are going to make for your life. The other decision is your choice of spouse for marriage.” Do you feel like you are at a crossroad of your life as you ponder over which university course(s) should you pick? In this section, you will hear insights from seasoned experts or fresh graduates in their first few years on job. These would be presented in the form of quotes “ ” but do exercise judicious judgement in assessing their opinions!
1. First question to ask: where does my passion lie?
Rather than following what your parents says, follow your heart because you are ultimately the owner of your life. Ask yourself what you truly like, because
“There is no point sticking with a job or a course that you don’t like, when you know you are going to leave it sooner or later at some point in your life!”
With the passion come the drive, and with the drive come success. Let’s hear what a manager at HDB has to say:
“As a Chinese saying goes, 行行出状元, or Every trade has its master. If you know your passion, go for it and be the best of the best. Be the cream of the crop.”
In fact, if you already have a clear sense of what you are passionate about, you are one of the lucky few whom can proceed ahead with little qualms.
But if you are just like any other college graduates out there, confused as to where you are headed to and where your heart lies, consider the next question:
2. What are MY job prospects?
Quoted from Professor cum Associate Chair(Academic) at NTU:
“Passion cannot be used to exchange for your rice bowl.”
“Ultimately, if you are going to do the same old job over and over again for the rest of your life, you are bound to get sick of it. You can’t say that I am going to love ______ for every living second of my life, because that is just not possible.”
If you do not have a compelling sense of passion and still feel undecided, consider what your strengths are and which are the potential industries you can excel in. For example, if you love math and excel in it, find out which industries cater to your strengths. Examples would include engineering, accountancy, economics, etc. You may want to make use of MOE’s e-careers portal. They even provide an aptitude survey for you to find out your possible career tracks. https://ecareers.sg/G_Login_SG/ecareersLogin.asp
Notice that I used “MY job prospect” rather than “THE job prospect” in the sub-title. Even if a certain industry is lucrative, it doesn’t mean that you will be valued in the market if you are not the cream of the crop. For example, law students would tell you that you need to be more than above average before you can proceed to work in a law firm.
3. What is expected of me?
Go for job shadowing programme, internships, industry visits and university open houses. Talk to your seniors, ask as many questions as you can and find out what you should expect to face should you devote yourself into this course. Are you willing to put up with sleepless nights before the submission of a major project? Architecture may not be for you. Are you prepared to work long hours during peak seasons, and even staying overnight in the office just to crunch in some numbers and perform meticulous analysis? You may not be suited for accountancy.
Make sure you fully understand ALL the options available, what each job entails so that you make an informed decision.
4. Why did others choose this job?
It is sometimes enlightening to hear from people in the industry how they decided on their job. It takes the pressure off you to know that many chose their degrees via “the method of elimination”. For example, an RSP Architect mentioned this:
“There were several options for me on my list. Medicine, Business and Architecture. I did not pass the test for medicine and was rejected. So that option was out. I hated desk bound jobs, so I struck business out of my list. Then I was left with architecture.”
While this may not sound inspiring, it is nice to consider different perspectives. It is up to you to decide how you want to combine these “methods” or whether you want to adopt these suggestions at all.
5. What is the difference between what is learnt on campus/in university, and how it is really like in the real world/ on the job?
This question plays a lesser role in helping you to choose your courses. Instead, it helps you to manage your expectations after conducting your research (from point 4).
“Whatever you learn in university, be prepared not to be able to apply it on the job. It’s all about communication, working with clients and government, managing people.” –Samwoh contractor
“Depending on what you study, the course may or may not be relevant to your job scope. For me, as a designer, I find that the technical skills I learnt in university are highly relevant to my current job. However, university doesn’t teach you a great deal about working with people and handling projects” –Arup engineer
“I would say, university prepares you for nothing. Granted, it gives you the foundation required to perform your job well, but much of the technical details are learnt on the job itself. University education gives you breadth rather than depth.
I feel that university is more about the training of the mind. For example, it trains me to think of business and social issues from the architect’s perspectives.” – CPGarchitect
To sum it up, depending on your job, working in the real world and studying in the university may or may not present a stark contrast. Ultimately, the soft skill of working in team and effective communication is common prerequisites across all jobs. Throughout your university, it is essential that you take on internships and gain real working experience so that you are able to draw the links between what you learn in school and how can it be applied in the real world.
You may want to use the Venn diagram below to help you map out yourchoices. So in short, choose a discipline which you
-are confident of doing well in
-are able to stick on with for the rest of your life
If you like to read more, check out our guide to choosing your major