Q. My grandson is studying cybernetics at Reading University, which I understand is good in that subject. He has always been interested in science, and will enjoy the course. I worry, however, that it may be hard for him to find a job in so small a field. Are my worries needless?
A. I think they are. Cybernetics (described as communication, computation and control in machines, animals and organisations) can feel like a step into the unknown for students who have hitherto dealt in specific subjects such as physics or maths. But the field, far from being small, is vast, and cutting-edge. It deals with all types of systems and their control, and is not confined to one subject area (covering robotic systems, biomedical engineering, computer science, information technology and electronic engineering), so your grandson is unlikely to be restricted by the fortunes of one industry.
Professor Martin Smith, the president of the Cybernetics Society ( www.cybsoc.org), points out that graduates have a good grounding in problem-solving in up-and-coming fields such as systems integration, which can mean, for example, matching robotics from Japan with software from Germany. Reading students have gone on to get highly paid international jobs, though they also fit well into project teams in local companies that maintain links with the university. If they have an interesting project in their final year, they can be snapped up by a company before they graduate.
You can actually check out the statistics, because Reading publishes the final destinations of all its students. Go to www.careers.rdg.ac.uk - I think you will be reassured.
Q. I am an international student here and am confused about my career. I did a three-year diploma in mechanical engineering in India and worked for my family business until 2005. I then took a postgraduate diploma in management studies in London. Now I can't decide whether I should go on to do an MSc in logistics. I am also very interested in finance. In any case would I be eligible, and where are the best places to go?
A. Logistics courses offer an element of finance, but you would have to investigate individual programmes to see if they offer enough for you personally. Otherwise, you might want to research what business or finance degrees are available.
Think carefully about what route you want to follow. Start by familiarising yourself with the areas that logistics actually covers, and the sort of jobs that it prepares you for. You can find this information in the career pack available from the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (UK) ( www.ciltuk.org.uk).
A British masters degree would stand you in very good stead in India, and would also be useful here - the relevant skills council (see www.skillsforlogistics.org for labour market information) reports a lack of properly qualified managers. There are also masters courses accredited by the CILT (UK).
Ask universities that you are interested in for a prospectus. With your interests, you might want to think about those that offer logistics study within a business school. It might be wise to visit and talk to them, too. The universities will look at your qualifications gained in India, and in London, and assess whether they meet their particular requirements - they do vary. It is possible that you may need some sort of top-up course before you start, but you should certainly ask. You will also find useful information on the industry at www.insidecareers.co.uk.
Careers adviser: the learndirect advice service at www.learndirect-advice.co.uk
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