Is a University Degree Still A ‘Must Have’ for a Professional Career?

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In our latest student news feature, Young Academic takes a look at whether University education is still necessary for a successful professional career. With higher education now not accessible to many demographics, the ACCA a look at the options available to the current generation of academics…

The rising cost of university has been well documented in the media. University tuition fees have risen nine-fold in the last six years and it is predicted that students who started university in 2012 will have £53,000 of debt by the time they have finished their studies. Today’s uncertain job market means that even those with a degree are not guaranteed a job in their chosen career. However, a university education is no longer a necessity for a professional career. There are viable alternatives which, for some, may offer more attractive ways of entering the professions.

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Professional qualifications, such as ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants) are opening up the professions to young people from all backgrounds. Such qualifications are very flexible and can be studied full/part time or by weekend courses and distance learning options are often available. This flexibility allows many students to work full-time and support themselves while they study. The quickest way to become ACCA qualified is to work and study at the same time. If you do, you could become an ACCA member in three or four years, the same time it takes to study for a degree.

Employers today place huge importance on solid work experience so the ability to work and learn simultaneously can put candidates at an advantage in the jobs market. At a time when youth unemployment levels remain high, having this level of work experience under your belt can be invaluable. Most businesses want new employees who can demonstrate work skills and have the confidence and ability to adapt quickly to the business environment. Whether you go to university or straight into the work environment, you will develop on a personal level. Today, most employers offer some kind of personal development programme for its staff. The world of work, combined with study, arguably, offers individuals more chance to develop.

An additional benefit of the ACCA qualification is that it is globally recognised which makes it an attractive option for students who would like to work abroad post-study and opens doors to multiple sectors around the world. Many current ACCA students point to this as a reason for choosing to study the qualification, including Shauna Beardsley. Shauna works in Audit at PriceWaterhouseCoopers (PwC). She joined straight from school after completing A-Levels in Maths, English Language and Economics. Shauna explains, “The ACCA Qualification is particularly appealing as it is known across the world, and means that once I’m qualified there is the potential to work in other countries with a recognised qualification.” In addition, the fact that every organisation from the big four, to tech giants such as Google, has an in-house finance team means you can work in almost any industry. So if you are passionate about football but don’t quite have the talent of David Beckham, you could still find yourself working for a Premiership football club.

While university does have many benefits, it is not the right path for everyone. In ACCA’s experience, students that have not attended university are no less successful than those who did. So if you are considering a career in accountancy, business or finance, a professional qualification, such as ACCA, could be the route for you. Other professions such as law also have their own non-graduate routes to becoming a qualified legal professional. If you have concerns about the spiralling cost of a university education, or if you are keen to enter the world of work sooner rather than later, ask your school or college careers adviser for more information about professional qualifications.

Analysis courtesy of Sarah Hathaway, Head of ACCA UK

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