What to Do When You Don’t Get it Right the First Time: Changing Degrees

by May 29, 2019

Choosing a degree can be daunting, whether you’re midway through the HSC or deciding that it’s time for a career change. It can be difficult choosing without firsthand experience, and it’s not uncommon for people to find that the degree they chose isn’t quite what they expected. I had this exact experience, and found myself doing a degree that I quickly knew wasn’t right for me.

 How to know when the degree isn’t the one for you.

 Being challenged doesn’t motivate you

I began university studying a Bachelor of Software Engineering, a degree that I’d aspired to for several years. Everything seemed right, until I actually jumped into it. When I ran into challenges – which are inevitable in any degree – I found that I wasn’t motivated to overcome them.

At first, I did what I could to try to succeed in my more difficult classes. I talked to academics, attended U:PASS peer tutoring, and used university services such as the UTS Counselling Service to combat these difficulties.

After changing degrees to a Bachelor of Science in IT, majoring in Interaction Design, my response to challenges is profoundly different. When I face a difficult course, I’m motivated because it means I’ll gain valuable skills. Even when I face a course that I dislike (let’s admit it, they happen), I keep in mind that it’s a stepping stone to an industry I love.

It just doesn’t feel right.

During my first degree, I enjoyed portions of it. I loved the logical and problem solving aspects of programming, and I enjoyed the idea of making a product, especially one that could have an impact on someone else’s life. But I also knew that there was something missing.

For me, I found myself disliking the limited amount of human interaction within Software Engineering. I wanted to do something in which people would be central to my working life.

You know yourself well, and even if you can’t put your finger on it, you should listen when you feel that something is off. The UTS Careers Service offers a breadth of self-awareness and  careers assessments – often, they will confirm what you were thinking and can help you to make more considered choices about your career and degree.

What to do when you’ve decided to change degree.

Use your experience.

Over the course of your first degree, you probably gained a good idea of what you did and didn’t enjoy. Remember that you chose that degree for a reason in the first place – use your gained experience to inform your choice.

While I enjoyed programming and business analysis work, I knew I wanted something with creative aspects. Through researching the majors within the Bachelor of IT, I found Interaction Design. It included some programming – and plenty of room for creativity.

Try to look at the courses you enjoyed, as well as what degrees your peers were doing. If you’re still not sure, try asking an academic about their field and whether it’s right for you.

Your university will support you.

UTS offers plenty of services that are going to be able to help you when it comes to changing degrees. The University is here to help you succeed.

When I changed degrees, I first went to a careers consultation with UTS Careers, which allowed me to understand what I wanted from a career. Then, when I decided to change degrees, the Student Centre gave me all the necessary information.

The university provides these services to help you. You may be able to transfer internally, or you may have to apply through UAC again. Either way, UTS has your back.

Where does it lead you?

It clears your mind – more than you expect.

Studying a degree that isn’t right for you impacts you more than you know. It clouds your mind and motivations, and brings your focus away from the present.

The process of changing degrees is scary – I was worried that I’d get it wrong again. However, once I found my feet in my new degree, I quickly learnt how empowering it is to be studying something you enjoy.

It motivates you, and leads you to success

Once I was certain that the new degree was right for me, I was filled with wonder at the possibilities. Loving your degree, and being excited for where it leads you is quite possibly one of the best career motivators.

I found myself very quickly becoming career-focussed and wanting to give myself the best possible chances of working in my degree. I’ve been able to begin building a strong CV and professional brand and begin networking with Academics. I was also motivated to become an executive for a student society and apply for an internship with UTS Careers.

Finding the right degree is tough. Not everyone gets it right the first time, and you’re not alone in this experience. Plenty of other people around you have changed degrees. What matters most is having the self-awareness to recognise that what you’re doing isn’t right for you and to take action. It may be one of the best career moves you make.


Featured image of Unsplash

By Jake Evans

By Jake Evans

Intern at UTS Careers

Jake Evans is an intern for UTS Careers. He’s currently studying Interaction Design at UTS, and enjoys learning about how psychology influences our day to day interactions with technology, and how it factors into design.