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How to choose between a liberal or professional degree

22 September 2017
Get to know the types of courses available to you

Whether you’ve had your career path mapped out since childhood, or you’re convinced that your dream job doesn’t exist yet, we’re giving you the tools you need to future-proof your learning.

So you’ve put in the hard yards. Thirteen years of schooling is finally coming to an end and you’re on the homestretch to completing the HSC… but where to next? You’re left with a decision: do you choose a professional degree that will lead you down a specific career path, or do you cultivate your passions with a flexible liberal degree?

What is a liberal degree?

Liberal degrees include Arts, Science, Commerce and combined versions of these degrees. They are highly flexible, allowing you to follow your interests and learn with a multidisciplinary approach. You are exposed to a wide variety of ideas and disciplines, developing generalist knowledge alongside disciplinary expertise through your major and minor (or double major).

Future-proof your career by preparing for more than just one

There’s a lot of pressure on school leavers to make significant decisions about their future. However, the idea that what you decide to study now will set your career path in stone isn’t necessarily true. In fact, many of our liberal degrees offer the flexibility you need to follow your interests and gain real world experiences to prepare you for your dream job - whatever that may be.

The combined Bachelor of Advanced Studies is the perfect example of cross-disciplinary learning. Not only will you have the flexibility to take majors from two different faculties, but the time within your degree to take full advantage of exchange and real-world industry, community and research challenges - including the option to complete an honours year within your fourth year. These programs enable you to gain critical workplace experience and cultivate global perspectives, ensuring you’re prepared for a wide range of dynamic and challenging careers.

Cultivate your passions by designing your own course

With over 100 major and minor subjects ranging from architecture, sociology and marketing to neuroscience, nutrition and software development, the possibilities of a combined liberal degree and an Advanced Studies degree are endless. Being able to design your own course based on your personal interests could be an empowering step forward into the professional job market. By completing a Bachelor of Science/Bachelor of Advanced Studies, for example, you will gain essential knowledge in fundamental sciences without having to give up your interest in marketing. Expanding your education with a second field of study will prepare you for a range of positions in a variety of industries.

Choosing a professional degree

Professional degrees are accredited degrees which lead to professional registration. These are generally much more structured in comparison to liberal degrees, often with compulsory placements, which develop the knowledge and skillset necessary to prepare you for a career in a specific field and to gain registration with the industry’s accrediting body.

Be job ready

For some, a clearly defined career path may be more appealing than a flexible one. If you’re already sure of the career path you’d like to take, a professional degree is the most direct approach to getting there. For instance, our Bachelor of Nursing (Advanced Studies) will give those of you who have your heart set on becoming a nurse the skills and experience needed to become an industry leading one, with real world experience across the public and private healthcare systems, in simulation clinics and through 880 hours of wide-ranging clinical placements.

Complement your expertise with interdisciplinary experiences

Despite professional degrees having a well-defined structure, at Sydney you will be given the opportunity to get involved in projects, competitions and internships outside of your primary study area. Most recently, students have helped solve real-world challenges for Australia’s largest book retailer Dymocks, while in the faculty of Engineering and IT, students have helped engineering firm Cardno navigate a drone-enabled future. 

The Dymocks Innovation Challenge demonstrates the commitment of the faculty to a strong engagement with industry, as well as to providing our students with the opportunity to develop not just strong technical skills but an ability to understand the complex contexts in which they can be innovatively applied.
Professor David Lowe, Associate Dean, Faculty of Engineering and IT

Enhance your studies

From 2018, you will have the opportunity to build novel skill combinations and boost your personal and professional development with our Open Learning Environment (OLE) units. Available to all students, the sprawling suite of online subjects will offer foundational knowledge in areas such as design thinking, data analysis, ethics, leadership, programming and cultural competency.

The opportunity to pursue an interest external to your chosen area of study was once unimaginable in a professional degree. However, these short, standalone units will offer just that. You will have the choice and flexibility to take on topics such as business entrepreneurship, cultural competence and global health challenges. All students will have free access to online components of the OLE and those enrolled in a liberal studies degree will also undertake for-credit components as part of their courses.

By choosing either a liberal or a professional degree at Sydney, you will be opening up a world of opportunities and experiences that will prepare you for jobs that don’t even exist yet.