Your postgrad queries answered

How can I set up alone in careers guidance? And I want to study in Europe
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Lead me to guidance

Lead me to guidance

Q. Having been a careers guidance teacher in a grammar school for 30 years, I intend to apply for early retirement this year, and would be keen to use my knowledge and skills within some careers advisory field other than school. Working for a large organisation and/or individual coaching appeals to me, but I feel I need the postgraduate qualifications that would offer me the skills and knowledge and confidence to go it alone in some kind of consultancy service.

A. There are a number of ways to qualify as a careers adviser. A good place to start is with the Qualification in Careers Guidance (QCG). This takes one year full-time, combining academic study with work-based learning. It's offered at 13 UK institutions and ratified by the Institute of Career Guidance (see www.icg-uk.org).

You could then take the NVQ/SVQ Level 4 in Advice and Guidance, or an NVQ Level 4 in Learning Development and Support Services. Both qualifications are gained on the job, usually by working for a company that is part of Connexions (see www.connexions.gov.uk). You could also consider working for Connexions and studying for the NVQ part-time (they may sponsor you to do this).

You say you want to move out of the school environment, but how about the field of higher education? You'll need experience and, usually, a diploma in careers guidance or the QCG. For career information and entry routes see www.prospects.ac.uk/links/occupations.

Gaining the necessary qualifications - and the added experience - should give you the confidence and contacts needed for consultancy work. Plus, maturity is a distinct advantage - it makes you far more credible with clients!

I want to develop

Q. I graduated from University College Dublin with a pass BA Int Arts Degree (German/Italian). I would like to begin a postgraduate course next year in social development, or environmental and sustainable development. My degree is not relevant to the postgraduate course that I would like to take, but I have extensive experience working with NGOs and I have also worked as a volunteer in tribal villages in south-east Asia.

University College Dublin offers a social development masters and HDip course. Do you know of any other university in Europe that offers a similar course? I would prefer not to be in England unless the course was very well recognised.

A. What you need is some careful planning and preparation. While opportunities for postgrad studies abroad are growing, finding the right course means researching both the institutions and the education systems.

There are some major differences to consider. Luxembourg, for example, has only one university (so courses are limited), while Italy has 77. Then there's funding - hard to find in Spain, easier in Italy. You also need to know how your degree will be regarded abroad. In Germany, the three- or four-year British or Irish first degree is not generally accepted for the purposes of postgraduate study: you'll need an UK Masters equivalent.

Your experience will be an asset, but institutions will vary in terms of how important they deem it to be.

You can find out the requirements of each national education system via the Project Visa website www.embpage.org/. It's worth trying Ploteus (Portal on Learning Opportunities throughout the European Space), which provides information about learning opportunities within Europe, with links to universities. Advice on studying in mainland Europe can also be found on www.prospects.ac.uk/links/abroad.

But perhaps you need to think carefully about why you want to study abroad. Is it to improve language skills, for example? As far as England is concerned, both Oxford and University College London offers postgraduate courses in the field of social development.

Thanks to Mike Cox, career consultant at Graduate Prospects

Send your queries to Caitlin Davies to reach her by next Monday, 24 January at 'The Independent', Education Desk, Second Floor, Independent House, 191 Marsh Wall, London E14 9RS; or fax 020-7005 2143; or e-mail caitlind1@aol.com

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