The Careers Adviser

'Pharmacy is a bitter pill; can I switch to fashion? And how do I become a veterinary nurse?'
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The Independent Online

The wrong prescription

I have been working as a pharmacist for three years, but I don't feel satisfied any more in the career choice I made. I feel that I need to make a change. I have good A-levels in fashion and jewellery design, but I'm not sure how to pursue a career in these areas.

These are competitive fields, so entry to either would be helped by contacting people already in them to talk about the work and research possibilities. This will help to give you a feel for things while allowing you to start building a network of contacts. This can be critical to getting a foot in the door.

Careers in fashion buying may begin through graduate training schemes with the larger retail organisations, but places on these are in huge demand. To get on to such a scheme, you will need to demonstrate knowledge of, and an interest in, the field. Often this will begin through work experience, and it is possible to start careers at shop-floor level and work up to your target career.

Jewellery design is a field where proven craft skills can be more important than qualifications. These are built up through an appropriate degree, or an apprenticeship or on-the-job training. To explore the market for potential contacts, visit the websites of the Arts and Crafts councils – and To develop skills, you could explore courses offered by local colleges. Often there are courses in jewellery-making and design run on a part-time basis – these can help to develop skills and contacts.

Learndirect has a database that will help you find what is available in your region: You could also explore the website of the University of the Arts, which carries information about careers in the creative fields and has a relevant vacancy listing:

Animal crackers

I am choosing my A-level subjects and want to be a veterinary nurse. Do I need to take science subjects? And how do I become qualified?

Budding veterinary nurses don't have to go down the higher education route. They can undertake vocational training while working as employed students in a practice approved by the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons ( RCVS ) and attend college on a day basis or a block-release basis. Training through this route is quite intensive and takes a minimum of two years; students are expected to undertake several hours of private study a week.

If you decide you would like to go to university, several offer relevant courses. You could check on the Ucas site. The Royal Veterinary College offers a two-year, full-time foundation degree in partnership with the College of Animal Welfare, for which you need a minimum of five GCSEs, including English language, two subjects from the maths or science group at grade C or above, and an A-level or equivalent qualification. Two weeks' work experience at a veterinary practice is also required – many fail the application as they don't have this. From next year, you'll also have an option to go on from the foundation course to do a top-up BSc programme, which not only allows you to practise as a nurse but opens doors to research work. Entry for the BSc route is the same as for the foundation course, but applicants are expected to hold two A-levels. It's useful to have A-level biology, but it is not a necessity. Any practical experience with farm animals, horses or animal welfare will help greatly at interview stage.

Careers adviser: Mike Cox, careers consultant, Graduate Prospects

Send your queries to Caroline Haydon at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or email