Conversion Courses – thinking of making the switch?

By Kevin Branigan - Last update


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Whatever stage you are at, in either your academic or working career, it is never too late to change course and find a new direction. Postgraduate conversion courses were designed with that explicitly in mind. This is a course that allows you to change track in your career.

Tempted? What next?

Some conversion courses will provide you with another undergraduate degree qualification or a Masters degree, while others will offer a postgraduate diploma or certificate. The transition points are frequent, There are postgraduate courses that allow you to transition to software engineering from property management and vice versa. There are computing conversion courses and computing with IT management conversion courses on offer from several institutions. The most common areas for conversion courses are IT, arts and business, which commonly require a further qualification in order to secure a particular career path. Many are one academic year in length, or shorter, while the others, which tackle more technical or medical disciplines, are significantly longer.

Do you qualify?

To qualify for many conversion courses, you just need suitable grades from your primary undergraduate degree; a 2:2 frequently suffices. However, a large number of courses regularly require a 2:1. These can change from year to year, so don’t take previous entry requirements as gospel. Make sure you check directly with institution. Some training providers are happy to welcome professionals or mature students with significant working experience in a related sector in lieu of academic qualifications. It’s a good idea to contact the institution and course personnel directly to find out exactly what you’ll be studying and what you need to get in.

Alternatives

For some sectors, law for example, an undergraduate degree with good grades is a necessity. Conversion courses in, say, engineering or education have more demanding entry requirements. Teaching is always a popular career choice for students seeking to convert from another discipline. It requires a two year Masters course, but since the requirements frequently change in this discipline too, it’s important you check with the Teaching Council (www.teachingcouncil.ie) for the most up to date information.

For engineering, an educational background in either science or a health science would be applicable, as would some areas of IT. Medicine, obviously, has stringent entry requirements. If you have a 2:1 in your primary degree (preferably science related) you might be able to take an admission exam.

What does a conversion course involve?

With your primary degree behind you, you will already be familiar with the mechanics of course delivery; lectures, projects, workshops, etc. But like any postgraduate course, the pace is intense and the workload is significantly increased compared to what an undergraduate would be. It is also far more practical in its setup, with periods of fieldwork or work placements built into the structure of the course. This mixed approach, of both academic and practical sessions, will provide you with a balanced skillset at the end of your course. However, you should prepare for a significant workload during the course and all the related time and work/life pressures.

The right reasons

For any postgraduate course, the choice, of course, is key. Don’t pursue a conversion course to prolong your time in college, which is no reason to ever further your studies. Most frequently, students who choose to pursue a conversion course do so after working in a field for some time and finding it either unrelated to their field of study or interest or else find out that the reality of working life in that sector is unfulfilling for them. So, the last thing you want to do is choose another avenue that is not suited to your personality or your capabilities. Sit down and write down exactly what the career benefits are of doing a particular conversion course. What jobs will it enable you to apply for and how will it demonstrably improve your current position? It’s very important for your own wellbeing, and your career development, that you do not put yourself in a situation where you could fail. Make sure that what you are striving to achieve aligns with your academic strengths.

The next step…

Employers in general have a favourable view of conversion courses. This is because they provide employment candidates with a broad and diverse range of academic experience. They also illustrate a degree of commitment, initiative, and willpower by virtue.

Talk to your careers service at your undergraduate institution about postgraduate conversion course pathways and what your possible route could be.


Kevin Branigan

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