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Want a flexible career path and a 'real' job? Then opt for an Arts degree

Last week marked the end of the 2012 CAO application and offer season, so the focus has now firmly moved on to 2013.

It is good to see some moves being made in the direction recommended in both the Hyland Report and the recent report of the heads of Irish universities. The reports suggested that HEIs move further towards more common (as opposed to specialised) entry routes to third level courses.

A perusal of the CAO 2013 Handbook shows that some higher education institutions (HEIs) are reducing the high number of entry routes and offering more options within one entry code.

NUI Galway, for example, has merged a number of entry routes into its physics programmes. Up to now, applicants were invited to use individual codes to apply to separate options within the degree. Now a single new code, GY320, offers applicants entry into a physics programme with a choice of options: applied, biomedical, theoretical, and astrophysics as they progress.

Meanwhile, as students consider their choices of college courses, the question of what courses lead to what jobs is very important.

Third-level education is often thought of by prospective students, and by their parents, as the time when you study something that helps you to get a real job.

Ideally, even the course title should declare what that job will be. Medicine, for example, more than likely leads to a career as a doctor, that of engineering to a career as an engineer, etc.

Much recent emphasis is on employment opportunities in the STEM disciplines, ie, science, technology/ICT, engineering and maths.

Recruiters report that not enough candidates can be found to meet some of the opportunities in these areas, and third-level courses in these disciplines are certainly becoming more competitive in terms of entry points.

In this context, the choice of an arts degree is sometimes regarded a little sceptically, as not a "real" choice, certainly not one leading directly to a specific job.

While it is true that an arts degree in itself does not automatically qualify a graduate for a particular occupation, those who choose to go into an arts programme are as likely as graduates of many other disciplines to end up in a variety of careers.

An arts degree in itself will develop intellectual skills such as comprehension, analysis and communication, and these are often qualities that employers value.

The fact that they have the degree leaves graduates open to take postgraduate courses. In a world where the emphasis may be on flexibility, arts graduates more than many others may be able to adapt to changing career paths.

After an appropriate postgraduate course, arts graduates may end up in any area of business, such as accounting, marketing or banking, or in careers such as journalism, law, public relations, the civil service, or areas like computing as well as in areas like teaching.

Open days: Tomorrow, UCD is hosting the UCD Arts Information evening from 6:30pm-8:30pm in the Newman building in Belfield. Students should register online if they wish to attend. Also tomorrow, UCD Science, Engineering & Technology Careers Fair will take place in restaurant building in Belfield, Dublin 4. NUI Galway hosts an information evening in the Tara Towers Hotel, Dublin 4, from 7pm-9pm tomorrow for interested applicants from the Dublin area. Dundalk Institute of Technology (DkIT) holds its annual Open Day on Friday from 9.00am-3.00pm and on from 10.00am-1.00pm.

Irish Independent