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Choosing the right degree

6 Oct 2017

When thinking about university degrees, it’s tempting to stick with what you know. If your child isn’t sure what they want to study, it’s natural to lean toward professions like law, teaching or nursing: most of us know someone who works in those fields, and studying them can feel like a safe bet.

But what about the road less travelled? While more traditional degrees can be a great choice, there are a growing number of new or emerging fields, like Serious Games or Animal Ecology, where your child can find their niche.

One example of a student who chose a less familiar path is Mitchell Tilly. In high school, Mitchell loved subjects like maths, science and design. So along with his parents, he assumed he would study engineering.

But when he began studying engineering subjects while still at school through USC’s Headstart program, he realised engineering was not quite what he was after.

“I was interested in the subjects, but by the end of the year I knew engineering wasn’t right for me,” he said. “I knew I wouldn’t wake up every day keen to go to work, and that’s what I was looking for in a career.”

So Mitchell “went back to square one”, looking at course guides and university websites to find any programs related to maths, science and design. There, he came across USC’s degree in Urban Design and Town Planning.

Rather than simply designing buildings or infrastructure, urban designers and town planners work with government, industry and the community to create precincts and spaces that bring people together, and connect communities to the places around them.

“Town planning seemed like a good bridge between engineering and the other things I was interested in, like design, business and communication,” Mitchell said.

“My degree is the perfect in between. There is maths and science involved, but I’m not crunching numbers all day – it’s a mix of working in the field, talking to people, and helping to shape communities, which is really rewarding and engaging.”

Now in his second year of study, Mitchell sits on the Sunshine Coast committee for the Planning Institute of Australia, and previously served on the Queensland Young Planners committee.

“I’ve had a lot of opportunities to meet employers and get involved in interesting projects,” he said.

His advice to parents whose children are considering a less traditional career path is to get involved in the decision-making process.

“My parents helped me organise to chat with a practising town planner, and my dad came along to a community forum on town planning where we had a chance to meet the people who became my lecturers, which was really useful,” he said.

“My parents had some questions that I hadn’t thought of, so researching the profession with them, and going to events and Open Days together, helped confirm that it was the right choice for me.”

Applications are now open to study more than 120 USC undergraduate degrees – including some your child may not have thought of!

USC also holds regular Meet USC events on campus where parents and prospective students can speak to USC's Student Central team about career pathways.

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