Postgrad Queries: How can I become a further education teacher? Should I quit my medical degree?

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Q. Is there a postgraduate teaching qualification I can apply for that will prepare me to teach in the FE sector? I don’t think children and younger teenagers are really my cup of tea, but I am attracted to teaching as a career. I'm 24 and have a degree in geography.

A. Further education colleges (I’m assuming this is where you’d like to work) are part of an educational sector rather grandly called lifelong learning, which takes in a motley collection of institutions including prison education departments, adult education centres and private training organisations. The umbrella body for all these places is Lifelong Learning UK, and the key section on their website is here.

You’ll need to do a one-year full-time (or two-year part-time) course leading to a Diploma in Teaching in the Lifelong Learning Sector, which, just like school teacher training, will involve a teaching practice placement. There’s also a helpful Facebook page.

Q. After getting a geography degree a couple of years ago, I am now working in the geophysics field, spending most of my working life on a ship in the North Sea, recording seabed data for use in the planning of wind turbine sites. But I find it boring, and I want to work in the environmental consultancy field. Should I look for a Masters course?

A. It is true that an increasing number of job applicants in this field now have MSc qualifications, and that trend seems set to continue. However, in your case, a Masters may not be necessary if you can market your first degree and, more importantly, your work experience. The environmental consultancy area is a fairly new sector and so it’s not as structured in terms of entry requirements as many other professions. Given your background, a consultancy dealing with energy issues might be interested in employing you without further study. However, you may feel the need to update and broaden your knowledge before changing direction – in which case I suggest using www.prospects.ac.uk to research the available courses.

Some will give you a broad overview, while others focus on more niche topics, such as energy. If you’d prefer to try your luck in the job market first, you could contact recruitment agencies or approach consultancies directly on a speculative basis with a strong, targeted CV. In this case, it would be important to give positive reasons for wanting to join them, rather than a negative desire to escape from your current employment!

Q. I am currently in my fourth year of a medicine degree and I am now fairly certain that I don’t want to be a doctor, even though I enjoy the course and the study topics. I have been thinking of possibly moving into marketing, but am not sure of the best way to do this, or when to make a move.

A. Why, exactly, do you think being a doctor isn’t a career for you? Is it the contact with patients, maybe? If so, there are aspects of medicine where you could avoid patients – say in research or pathology. Clearly the discipline of pathology involves patients, but at least they can’t be awkward or argumentative!

Before opting out of medicine, though, get a feel for life in your intended work destination. In the case of marketing, you could gain relevant experience with a student society or charity to see if you have a flair for that kind of work and enjoy it. That experience might also help you get into a course or job. Remember that you can study marketing part-time, and in many ways that is the better way to do it, as you can apply your studies to your work and learn the theory alongside the practice.

The big question is whether you change direction before or after getting the degree that you’re more than halfway through. Completing your degree in medicine wouldn’t preclude you from taking up other careers, such as marketing, and your medical knowledge could prove useful in marketing pharmaceuticals or other medical products. There are also other roles, in medical journalism, clinical trials, research and medical school management that might also be relevant. On balance, I’d recommend completing your current course and then changing direction.

Thanks to Liz Hagger and Gill Sharp, careers consultants for Domino Careers. Send your queries to Steve McCormack at steve.mcc@virginmedia.com

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