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Articles > Work & Training December, 07, 2015

Realising You’ve Made The Wrong Degree Choice 5 Years Too Late

Anya Moffatt
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It’s the age old argument – we make people, well children really, decide what they want to do when most are too young to really know. Then they grow up in a job they no longer want to do, and are miserable.

Then they get complained at, told they should have thought about that before they chose whichever particular course to study at university, or to go down a certain line of employment once they’d finished school. I’ve heard “it’s a means to an end” and “you’re earning, it’s money, that’s all that matters” too many times to count now. But maybe just earning isn’t enough, for some it’s quite literally soul destroying.

What to do when you realise you've chosen the wrong degree? After you've done it...

Photo by
Nate Steiner

I didn’t think I’d find myself in that situation, I thought there was no way. I was sure my chosen university subject of Events Management was the one. After all, I loved going to events, and I loved working at them too. I’d worked at several before and I’d loved that, even if I was merely standing around stewarding! So I was so sure that I was making the right decision, despite knowing I was letting people down – who studies law, psychology, history & biology at A Level to go on and study events?! Me, apparently. The high expectations from family & friends didn’t help either, it was almost a mini rebellion.

Now the time has come where I’ve never regretted a decision so much in my life. I mean, sure, if I’d chosen differently then I wouldn’t have the friends I have now, nor would I have just moved into a new house with my boyfriend, but I still can’t help wishing I’d chosen another subject to study.

But of course there’s not a whole lot anyone in this situation can do, you’ve already used your years of free education, and like hell can you afford to pay these new trumped up tuition fees out of your own pocket (or maybe you’re one of the lucky few who can)!

So you’re left, stuck wondering if things would be different and you’d be in a career you’re happy in if you’d chosen differently as a teenager. Instead you’re having to work hard to make things work, with no degree in the subjects you have now decided you’d like to work in. If you’re like me, you’re taking a multitude of cheap online courses, those being the only additional education you can currently afford. Wondering how many others are doing the same thing and are sat watching those online videos just to get those extra qualifications like you.

When I discovered that I no longer wanted to work in my chosen degree subject, I felt a little lost and it was as though all my purpose had gone, of course you feel like a failure. It’s a brutal reality to discover you’ve thrown away the best opportunity you could have had for a career you want.

So now it’s all down to hard work, making ends meet, and just praying that opportunities come along at the right time. Maybe if I work for long and hard enough in a job I hate, I can work towards saving to go back into education. But for now it’s a case of focusing on my hobbies as a distraction – who knows, maybe one day they’ll bring me an income in instead, after all, wouldn’t we all love to make money from our hobby, using our passions to earn enough to get through each day. If only when knew that when we made our choice of university course, potentially the biggest choice we’d make.

My advice – don’t take it too hard, you’ll be amazed at how many people are in the same situation as you! Even if you have to work at a job you don’t like for a short time whilst you figure out where you’re at, make sure every day when you go home you don’t just jump on the sofa and watch Netflix whilst scrolling through Facebook. Give yourself a little purpose, take up a new hobby if you don’t have one already – learn to play an instrument, write a book, learn a new language. From personal experience I can say that keeping busy whilst you’re in a bit of a rut (well this particular rut at least) is the best way out of it. For me writing and photography have given me back some much needed purpose whilst I figure out where to go from here!

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  1. Katrina

    As selfish as it may be, it does make me feel a little better knowing there are others in a similar position to me. I have a degree in a Humanities field, generally mocked by people I tell and absolutely useless to getting any sort of job I want. Truth be told, when I was 17 and chose my subject, I was more interested in the studying abroad that came with it. I enjoyed my course whilst I was at uni, but since leaving and bouncing between waitressing and admin work (respectable sources of income but a far cry from the city gal life I’d set up for myself in my head), I can’t help but kick myself for not thinking past graduation.

  2. Abishai Singh

    Nice work Anya. The article reflects the feeling of thousands of students that suffer the same diabolic situation in their carrier. It is very important to know what one likes to do before actually choosing the subject for bachelors.

  3. Kareem Hesham

    You’re absolutely right, I am in desperate need of a hobby. I chose the field of communication and advertising, i did an internship in an ad agency and really enjoyed it. After graduation, I’ve been searching for jobs in many different fields including advertising but couldn’t find a full time role, the only companies to acknowledge my applications were other ad agencies and they mostly offered internships, I did not enjoy any of them since they only gave me tasks such as searching for images online just because they had no time to do them. Another thing I didn’t enjoy is that in my job am required to socialize with as many people as possible and I find that exhausting. Not only do I feel I have wasted 5 years of university, but I feel that I have also wasted 24 years of my life. I no longer want to waste anymore.

  4. abdrr97

    The world is made like this, we don’t have any choice

  5. Leah

    I’m definitely in the wrong course. I’ve switched once before. My original passion was Physics and Math, but I was worried that I wouldn’t do well in those courses. I barely passed my local pre-u exams. It is the toughest pre-u course in my country, but it was free (still have to pay for books and uniform). I decided to go with it because of financial problems.

    I’m currently pursuing Psychology, cuz I do want to help people, and people around me have said that it would be a better choice cuz I’m a girl – I won’t be able to do much with a Physics degree in my country, and the closest choice I have is Engineering, a man’s world (But now I know that it actually depends on your field).

    Now I wish I had stuck with my passion. I hate the ambiguity of the subject. I’m a visual thinker, hence I suck at words, and Psychology is A LOT of words. I feel I am wasting my time, and I feel especially so when I see my friends enjoying their course of study. I aim to get a second degree when I leave, hence I am looking for a part-time job and a company to intern in later in my internship.

    Many people have told me to ‘be practical’ about my choice of study, hence the wrong choice I made. I should have thought about all this before choosing my subject. But how would you know what caviar tastes like unless you eat it? Likewise, even after all that research, how would you truly know if you are compatible with the field of study unless you go into it? The people around me meant well of course. Now I just want people to listen when I complain about life, but while my friends listen to me, my family won’t.

    I curse my lack of self confidence. I curse my habit of thinking too much. #notapsychologist

    • Brit

      I am in exactly the same boat. I would have chosen Physics and Maths or engineering, but felt it was too much of a mans world. I went into architecture but my mental health deteriorated. I went into psychology and came out with a fairly useless degree that I found only mildly interesting. I am now craving some practicality and ‘hard science’. I excelled at these fields in high school and now feel I have let myself down – I have not lived up to my potential.

      BUT, I am choosing not to let this define me. Through my story there was no wrong choice, a choice is just a choice. But choices do follow with results that may have undesired outcomes. It is how we deal with those outcomes that matters. I didn’t make a wrong choice. I made a choice that didn’t consider what I didn’t know at the time. I can’t berate myself for that. I will now learn from it and move forward. I will focus on learning things that I love and not worrying too much about the specific career outcome. I am happy learning a variety of skills and using them in unique ways. Nothing is off limits either. There are so many online courses and books- with self-discipline you can learn A LOT.

      I now balance listening to audiobooks, completing online courses and researching interesting topics. My audiobooks are for both inspiration (biographies) and learning content. My online courses give me evidence of interest and achievement.

      The biggest part in all of this is celebrating the opportunities we do have and the successes of others! It is a wonderful time to be alive!

  6. Nashh

    I started uni with my friends. I chose the same course as them without thinking twice. Now I feel the pain of choosing the wrong course and knowing that I have no interest in it. I wish I could go back and chose a course I’m actually interested in.

  7. Lucy

    I am lucky as I started uni after working in what I thought was my chosen field (theatre) for a while, so I was able to use my allocated funding for my true calling (biology). If I were to change my mind again, I would look into a Masters degree. They are cheaper and do not necessarily need to be in a subject closely related to the original degree.

  8. Tempie

    I am saving this page in my browser and I am sure I will have to refer to it from time to time during this academic year lol. Being a foreigner studying in a British uni, with my parents paying for the ridiculously expensive tuition, I felt desperate when I finally admitted that I chose a wrong degree three months ago. I had some personal issues during school years and I was eager to prove to everyone that I was smart and not a loser which led to my disastrous decision of studying science. Now I’m in my final year, marks not looking good, don’t know if I can get any job. Only if I could have more honesty with myself and less vanity… But thinking back is useless, isn’t it? I am now planning to working for three years (if I can find a job) and then go to a fashion school, but for now my thesis is the more pressing and painful matter. I hope things will get better after my graduation.

  9. M

    I should have gone after my passion and choose either science or engineering courses. But to everyone out there just know that you are not alone and that it’s still possible to do some part time study and learn along the way although the route might not be an easy one.

  10. Lee Hampson

    I would agree with the points you made with one caveat. Not everyone can have the nice job that pays well. As a society farmers are much more important than writers – all art is useless remember. People need to have awful desk jobs and boring paper work piles sitting on their desks because that is ultimately the pillar of this society. Just don’t expect to be able to be happy all the time; that is very problematic. Consider the celebrities who try to make this true for themselves and turn to dangerous activities or drugs because they need a new level of happiness. This is why the last point you make is so important – make the most of your own time. Dread the Monday and look forward to the Friday night. This is the way to stay sane and content with your life.

    • Anya Moffatt

      I agree with you entirely Lee. I feel like maybe my point didn’t come across as intended – for me, I know many people who actually enjoy (or at least don’t dread) their desk jobs. Some people enjoy the tasks that I find to be crushing.
      The post is more about not settling – what do you do if, like me, you find yourself having lost all purpose and regretting all the career choices you made. I’d rather be a farmer than an administrator – in fact if I could go back I’d do a degree that is someone related to animal care, or maybe even a photography degree. I prefer hands on roles to others, some people are the complete opposite.

      Essentially what I tried to get across in my post is that sometimes it’s difficult to face up to your career decisions you make when younger and how difficult it then is to change your past. I was in no way implying that everyone is going to be an artist/celebrity/writer etc, or even jumping with joy after each working day, but merely that you should not be stuck in a job you loathe and that makes you miserable. From first hand experience I can say that it is not healthy.
      (I would disagree with your point that all art is useless however – it gives many an escape that is often very much needed!)

      • Lee Hampson

        I think I didn’t get my point across either. A degree or not, people are very likely to (as you put it) completely loathe their job. But we need to that job whatever it is. The greater the population is the more likely it is that people will have no choice. Our society has a certain number of people working in the different sectors of work; it depends upon this. I admire your willingness to take on the demanding role of a farmer but there are few people willing to do this and less people who will completely change their career course – which is very important. If everyone who loathed their jobs left en masse we would all be screwed. Health be damned – that is the condition of the modern man.

        Damn that tricky Oscar Wilde! By “all art is quite useless” (authors note in The Portrait of Dorian) Grey.) By it, Wilde means that art is not something which is meant to produce or sustain the world we live in. Art is useless because it is what is meant to be enjoyed; in contrast, a spanner or brick may be ‘used’. So I see you agree with Wilde!
        Yours Truly,
        The asshole who likes to criticise.

        • Anya Moffatt

          You’re not an asshole by any means Lee, everyone is entitled to their opinion! Apologies for not picking up on the Oscar Wilde reference, I’ve never read Dorian Grey. (I do believe that art helps people to be productive, thus having a use in the world, but let’s not get into a circular debate about that haha).
          I firmly believe that no one should be in a job they loathe. Maybe my world is sugar coated but until you’ve been in a job you truly loathe then I guess it’s difficult to see (not just disliked, loathed). I don’t believe that anyone should be able to tell anyone else to essentially ‘deal with it’ when their health is suffering due to a job – there is always a better option.
          Not to mention that one person’s shitty job is another’s ideal opportunity. So yes, in jobs I’ve left in the past that I hated, I’m sure someone else filled my spot and probably enjoyed it a hell of a lot more than me! Everyone is different, thus the roles get filled. For every person who hates their call centre job, there’s someone else who likely enjoys their day to day life in a call centre,

          Also, just a final point – in my original post, I didn’t claim that everyone was going to have a cushty, well paying job, that they love – in fact the post was more about education and how to take it in a different direction when you feel like you’ve wasted three years of education.