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Help me get back into education
April 2, 2012 8:02 AM   Subscribe

What are the options for going back to university once you already have a degree?

I graduated from an English university in 2011, but I feel that my degree is worthless and I'm currently unemployed. I would like to get a proper education, preferably in biology or a similar science. However, I feel like there are few options open for me and would like to know what possibilities there are.

UK/EU citizen
Little savings/no collateral
Do NOT wish to study further in my undergraduate area
No money available from relatives
Willing to go anywhere, moreso within the EU
Do not live in city or town with a university

I feel bad about going back to university straight away, but it's better for the longrun in terms of career/life. Any suggestions how I might make this happen are welcome, even creative ones.
posted by Jehan to Education (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Have you considered an open university course?
They are tailorerd to adult learners, and also to people who want to study a subject they might not previously have any formal education in.

If you have been long term unemployed, then you might qualify for some sort of grant / reduced fees.

Unfortunately, as someone who has already gained a degree, you may find that any further education you undertake (from certificate of competence to masters Degree) will have to be self funded.

Open university used to be focused on sole learning, but now you have plenty of opportunities to meet up with students from your geographical area (assuming there are some studying the same thing s you) .

If you have access to a computer that allows you to install your own software, you can look at hundreds of taster courses from universities all over the world via iTune U, (just install iTunes, then you can look at the iTunes store for free) which is a very handy portal to all sorts of subjects.

Good luck
posted by Faintdreams at 8:31 AM on April 2, 2012

Pretty much all of the items on your list is going to make it very difficult to do what you're suggesting at this point in your life.

Was your original course aligned in any way with what you want to study now? If you've only recently graduated and don't have any significant work experience then you will find it difficult getting into a university again. Biology is quite popular and you would need to have the appropriate A Levels, Highers, etc. You could always look at the Open University, though the cost of those courses has increased quite a bit recently and I think you would have to fund them yourselves.

You are (I'm guessing) probably only in your early twenties; you have sixtyish years ahead of you. Take a few of those years to get yourself on a better financial footing and try again then. People change careers all the time, far later in life than where you are now.
posted by alby at 8:36 AM on April 2, 2012

Unfortunately the OU now charges £5,000 for a year's worth of courses, payable upfront. If I had that money available I would prefer to spend it on a physical learning environment where I know I would do better.

Also, for what it's worth I'm 30 this year. If I can find work I'm willing to save, but there's no guarantee of that. I don't really have a possible career to follow, so I feel it's better to try education again now than wasting another 10 years.
posted by Jehan at 8:41 AM on April 2, 2012

It looks like there are two elements you need to look at, and they are related:

- What courses could you be accepted for?
- How would you fund them?

For example, to do a Biology degree you must meet the criteria that would enable you to get a place, and you must somehow be able to get funds to be able to take up the place.

Funding for another first degree is probably going to be hard to come by, no matter the subject.

An alternative is to consider other types of courses that could help your career and which you might be able to get funding for. For example the Professional and Career Development Loans scheme allows a person to borrow from £300 up to £10k, and not have to start repaying anything until after they finish. It can't be used for a first degree, but can be used for many vocational qualifications and some kinds of postgraduate courses.

Other things to think about... if you meet the requirements to do a science degree, you likely are also already qualified for some jobs like Lab Technician (e.g. this) and those could be a viable route to start working your way towards a science career. Your employer might well support you in further studies, and if your employer was a university, you might well be able to take a part-time degree for free. If nothing else it certainly beats being unemployed.

Finally, if you have any interest in an IT career, that is still a field in which people can get started without a degree.
posted by philipy at 9:49 AM on April 2, 2012

Have you tested how valid your assumption is that a biology degree will make you more employable? Most first degrees don't really qualify you for anything, no matter what the subject is.

If you have clinical leanings, the NHS will pay your fees (but not all your living expenses) for certain courses, for example, for speech therapy. However, all newly qualified allied health professionals are struggling to get jobs at the moment and most of the people I know that graduated in the last year are not working in their field.

I don't know of any other way for someone in the UK to find another first degree other than self-funding.
posted by kadia_a at 10:32 AM on April 2, 2012

Hi, I'm a USian, but I have an English literature degree and am back in school for biology.

You need to do some legwork and start focusing more specifically on what you want to do. There's a huge risk that if you go back to school now, you'll wind up in the same place, feeling like you have no career path to follow when you get another degree if you don't narrow your interests now. What field within bio/science? What job descriptions look interesting? What job descriptions don't require more education? Where would you like to work? How can you attach it to your previous degree/interests? Start reading books and looking for opportunities to volunteer. You could possibly find a field job for the summer if you start looking now and are interested in that.

Getting a degree didn't work to propel you into a job/career this time. You need to do everything in your power to make sure that doesn't happen again.
posted by momus_window at 10:37 AM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

Also, please understand that a Biology degree is not a whole lot more marketable than an English degree. You might be able to do grunt work in a lab for ~$13 an hour. A B.S. in any hard science is not a good path to a nice job. I learned that the hard way.
posted by WhitenoisE at 12:28 PM on April 2, 2012 [1 favorite]

I don't know if they still do, but the OU used to let you take a loan, and pay back the course fees as you study. It makes it a bit more manageable. Of course you'd have to get a low-responsibility job to support you through that - I don't know how feasible that is where you are.

A lot of UK universities do distance learning in some of their courses - not just the OU - so it may be useful to look into that. It may also be worth looking into conversion courses which could allow you to study a different subject, possibly biology, at postgraduate level.

Some EU countries have Universities with cheaper fees - especially as another hike in UK fees will take place this year.

There are also some jobs for which a degree is a requirement, but the subject of the degree isn't important. Off the top of my head some forms of initial teacher training allow you to take a place in a school and earn a salary while you study. Other vocational courses may have similar arrangements.

You're still a recent graduate so I think you should also be talking to your University's careers department. They should know what previous graduates of your course have gone on to do: whether that's further study, or employment. They should have contacts in business/industry that may help. You're at exactly the point they are there to help with - so let them know you need that help. While mentioning your University, it may be worth keeping in touch with your old department, they may have odd jobs come up that they need help with - a person familiar with the department is a good choice.

It might help you to know that the problem finding work isn't about you, it's probably not about your degree either: a lot of recent graduates are having the same problems as you. Like everyone I'm not sure if doing another degree so soon will actually help your employment prospects at all.
posted by SuckPoppet at 5:08 AM on April 3, 2012

In my earlier answer I talked more about how you might get to do some kind of course, because that was what you asked for. I do agree with everyone that you should be cautious about doing that, even if you can find a way to do it.

It might just be worth it if you are studying a subject which you know for sure is in-demand with employers, you know that employers rate the particular course you will be doing, and you are confident you can do well on the course. If any of those are uncertain, I'd advise against doing anything that is costly and full-time.

You'd probably give yourself a better chance of succeeding if you started thinking about other ways to start building skills for something that you want to do and which there is a decent chance of finding work in. That might include being a volunteer or intern someplace, starting to build a portfolio of work in some area that you could use to demonstrate your skills etc.

As an English major with an interest in science, you could think about technical writing or medical writing for example.
posted by philipy at 6:56 AM on April 3, 2012

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