Dramatic irony

Q. As I approach my sixties, I still dream of trying for a higher qualification. I once studied at Goldsmiths' College, London and gained a qualification – Associate of the Drama Board (Education). Now, nobody seems to have heard of it.

The Drama Board was set up after the Second World War to provide a qualification for teaching drama in evening institutes. Then, in the 1960s, drama advisers and inspectors asked for an equivalent examination for teaching drama in schools.

Geoffrey Hodson, now advisory board chair at the Drama Centre, Central Saint Martins, and a founder member and former examiner, says the course is a "beacon" of good practice and developed into a three-year part-time diploma, which gave teachers without a degree entry to an MA.

The exam board was eventually taken over by the Royal Society of the Arts, which ran it into the 1980s. It was a highly regarded and pioneering course, probably akin to PGCE drama courses today. You can say that you undertook two unsupervised and one supervised pieces of written work; a personal project in any media; practical work (a one-hour session including the ability to interpret text and use improvisation); a test of practical knowledge; and a 30-minute viva voce examination covering all aspects of the course. Congratulations on passing – it appears not everyone did !

Open sesame?

Q. I'm considering doing a degree through the Open University, possibly engineering. If I do this, can I become registered as an incorporated engineer? Or if I choose natural sciences, will my chances of employment be as good?

These two fields are very different, and you may need to consider whether you would be happier studying pure (natural) sciences or working in a more applied field such as electrical engineering. It is very difficult to compare the likelihood of getting a job in either field, simply because the natural science field is so vast. At Durham University, for instance, where natural science is used as a blanket term to cover combinations of subjects from anthropology to maths, psychology and statistics, they say recent graduates have gone on to jobs as diverse as landscape architect, environmental engineer, risk manager and science teacher.

If you would prefer (for financial and other reasons) to take an OU course, this could eventually help you towards becoming an incorporated engineer. But the professional body in this field, the Institution of Engineering and Technology (www.theiet.org) does not accredit OU courses, although they do advise on the best courses to select. Look on their website for the various routes into the profession and a list of accredited courses.

The IET says many companies are suffering a shortage of newly qualified electrical power engineers, and it is offering scholarships to attract students – Google "Power Academy" for more information. The Electrical Contractors' Association says electrotechnical applications are increasingly being used in new fields – in sustainable building systems, for example. It can be difficult to assess a subject such as engineering with no previous experience of studying it at school level, which is why many people progress to it after a period in industry.

Careers advisers: the learndirect advice service at www.learn-directadvice.co.uk

S end 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 to chaydon @blueyonder.co.uk