Choosing the Right University Course

Choosing the right university course for yourself is very important as it will most likely determine what you will be doing for your working life. We’ve had past students who graduate and go onto doing:

  • Commerce
  • Law
  • Engineering
  • Medicine
  • Science
  • Arts

or combined degrees (combinations) of the above.

We will talk briefly about what career paths each degree tends to lead to, and our recommendations for each degree.

What course should I choose?

Unlike choosing HSC subjects, there is no scaling implications or anything to do with special ‘rules’. University is purely about yourself – choose the course or courses that interest you. For example, if in the HSC, you did very well for economics and tend to enjoy the subject, choose Commerce or Economics at university. If you really enjoyed chemistry or biology, aim for medicine, medical science, pharmacy, optometry, physiotherapy or veterinary science. There are many possibilities, each with different goals in mind.

We don’t have any specific recommendation of which degree you choose, except that you should definitely choose the course you’re genuinely interested in. Whether you want to earn a high salary or contribute to your field, you will do well if you choose something you’re good at. There’s no point in choosing Commerce/Law or other highly demanded courses, just because your UAI was 99+ but you have no interest in commerce and/or law. Students who do this tend to regret their choices after a year or two, whereas students who choose degrees based on their interests are generally more fulfilled and do better in their degree and future career. There’s no substitute for the motivation and natural aptitude you will get from doing something you like, and no matter what you do, if you do it well, you will get what you want (whether it’s a high salary, recognition, contribution to your field etc).

Some common degrees

  • Commerce

Commerce is one of the most common courses students choose. It is a good choice, and possibly has the greatest number of career options. The most common commerce majors at the reputable universities are: accounting, finance, actuary studies (UNSW) and marketing. There are also other, less common majors.

Commerce is the degree to choose if you want to be an accountant, or get into finance (work in a bank) or marketing (work in advertising). The pay for these types of jobs are great and there’s an endless variety of jobs to suit all tastes and interests.

Generally speaking, UNSW has the most reputable business school in NSW, so if you’re aiming to get into this course, we recommend UNSW as one of the better universities that offer this degree. USYD, Macquarie Uni and UTS are also universities that offer reputable commerce courses.

UAIs required for commerce range from 94-96 for UNSW and USYD, and lower for the other universities. As with all references to required UAIs, check the UAC published UAI cutoffs each year at the UAC website, as they vary a little year to year depending on demand and supply.

  • Actuarial studies

Actuarial Studies is ideal for those who are good at maths and want to apply this to university study and their future career. Actuaries are people who work at big insurance companies, who use complex mathematical methods to calculate insurance premiums.

A common misconception people have of this course is that they will become actuaries at the end of their degree. This is most often untrue, as actuarial jobs are in low supply, and most graduates end up working in finance, in the field of financial engineering designing new financial products etc. This can be quite a lucrative field, especially if part of a quantitative team in an investment bank.

For actuary, traditionally Macquarie University’s actuarial degree is the most highly regarded. However UNSW’s actuarial degree is also quite popular, and UNSW being a generally more reputable university (especially internationally), we recommend doing actuary as part of the commerce degree at UNSW.

The UAI required for this is 95+ for UNSW’s commerce degree, or slightly higher for Macquarie University’s degree.

Law Law leads onto very lucrative careers. Law graduates tend to make the most money out of all degrees in the long run (yes, even medicine makes less!) Students who want to make lots of money in their future careers are advised to aim for Law, even if they won’t want to eventually be a lawyer. The reason is because employers of large commercial companies (banks, investment banks, investment firms, accounting firms, trading companies etc) tend to seek out the Law graduates to fill their higher paying graduate positions. Law graduates tend to be high quality, intelligent, social, well-spoken and dynamic people, and employers know this.

Although the skills you pick up in law are largely irrelevant (unless you be a lawyer), employers tend to use the fact that you did law to know that you are smart enough to do law. It’s like going to the fruit market and picking apples from the premium bin, because you know that all apples you pick will be high quality apples. For this same reason, sometimes people who do medicine end up being hired by investment banks and management consulting firms (very high-paying jobs), simply because those employers know all students who do law or medicine tend to be very smart and capable.

Therefore we recommend if you get a 99+ UAI and want to do commerce, you may as well combine it with law. It will be a great step forward for your future career.

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