Choosing electives for your degree

Choosing electrives for your degree - students looking at phone
Image of students standing and pointing at their phone

As you go into uni, there are plenty of awesome ways to mix it up when choosing electives for your degree.

If you thought the decision-making was over once you’ve chosen a degree, think again. Depending on your course, each year you will have to choose which subjects (or units) to study. And if your course includes optional electives, these are a great opportunity to try something different!

Lots of students use their electives to deepen their knowledge in their chosen field, but sometimes it can really pay to mix things up a bit. Whether your degree is in STEM or not, taking some subjects from the other side of the fence can have huge advantages.

For STEM students, skills in things like business, communications or languages can give your career a big boost. And for non-STEM undergrads, learning how to code, use statistics or analyse data could give you the edge over other job seekers down the track.

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To complete a degree, you need to follow the rules about which and how many subjects to take. Some of these are core subjects, which are compulsory. Some will contribute to your major (usually a minimum of eight subjects spread over multiple years). And others will be electives, which you are free to choose. Each subject is worth a certain number of credit points, which eventually add up to a degree.

Some degrees are more restrictive than others when it comes to how many and what electives you can choose, but a lot of universities are now encouraging students to look outside their main field of study. The University of Sydney offers a range of Open Learning Environment units to help students gain a wide range of skills. At the University of Melbourne, students are required to take a certain number of ‘breadth’ subjects outside of their faculties. And the Queensland University of Technology offers university-wide second majors and minors to help students broaden their knowledge.

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Zara Barger
Biomedical engineering student Zara Barger

For University of Technology, Sydney engineering student Zara Barger, an overseas exchange program provided an opportunity to step outside her comfort zone when choosing degree electives. She completed a three-week intensive in Austria, studying business and entrepreneurial subjects to complement her engineering degree.

“Engineers need to understand how businesses are run,” Zara says. “Knowing what their goals are is going to help your career in the long run. It helps you understand where you fit into a company.”

Eloï Ducasse, a science student at the University of Melbourne, has taken business and linguistics subjects as part of his breadth requirement. He hopes the business subjects will ultimately help in his career, but chose linguistics out of pure curiosity.

Science student Eloi Ducasse
Science student Eloi Ducasse

“I’ve always been able to pick up languages easily, and I was interested to find out why,” says Eloï. He says that learning about linguistics alongside arts students helped him improve his communication skills. “Doing non-STEM subjects gave me a different view on things. I would recommend non-STEM electives one hundred per cent!”

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Looking for more inspo on higher education options? Check out our Study Pathways section!

Or, you can download specific job info in our range of Job Kits, including future careers like Robotics and Automation Engineer, or Space and Defence Specialist!

Or check out our quizzes, mags or YouTube channel to find out more about STEM careers.

Chloe Walker

Author: Chloe Walker

Chloe is a freelance writer and editor from Melbourne. She loves talking to people about their passions, whether that’s STEM, arts, business, or something else entirely! www.chloe-walker.com

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