Learning: for Love or Money? I Oxford Open Learning

Learning: for Love or Money?

Should you study for the sake of learning, or solely to train for a career? It might sound like a simple, even silly question, but it’s one that’s more substantial and difficult to answer than you first might think.

Thirty years ago, having a degree of any kind usually guaranteed a relatively well paid, professional career. However, in 2015, the financial and employment climates are tough, unyielding and highly competitive. It makes sense that if you are embarking on a degree course, it should be one that is highly likely to result in a job and career. Vocational courses such as engineering, IT and medicine are often chosen for this reason. However, it is often difficult for young people to choose the right course, especially when they are still at school. Learning has its own merit, and has many positive effects on the individual. There is also a lot to recommend the idea that getting involved in a subject that really, specifically interests you will lead to success.

If you are choosing to study for a degree, you might be lucky enough to have a relatively wealthy family who will support you financially. However, most people get through their undergraduate years with a combination of student loans, parental help and part time jobs. If you are investing in yourself to the extent that you are borrowing money, working hard and getting support, it makes sense that you will want to see a return on that investment. That could come in the form of a successful, well paid career. Home ownership is currently an unattainable goal for many people, as the requirements in terms of a deposit and income are much more stringent than they were 20 years ago. If you are able to buy your own home because of a successful career founded on a carefully chosen degree course, you will have achieved security and stability for yourself and your family. Financial stability is not necessarily an indicator of happiness, however, but undoubtedly it does add to your quality of life.

While there are many advantages to studying in order to train for a career, how do you know which path to choose? If you are deciding on a degree course whilst still at school, and living at home with your parents, how do you know that medicine, for example, is the career for you? Even if you are a little older, how do you choose a career with little or no experience of what is actually involved? If you would rather choose to study for the sake of learning, you’ll base your choice of degree on a subject that really interests you. As a result, reading and writing for your degree will not feel like a chore, as you’ll be genuinely enjoying extending your knowledge. Over the course of your time at university, you could discover career paths that you didn’t even know existed. The result could be that you have a job that brings a lot of fulfillment, rather than just a fat bank balance.

The point is that both approaches have their merits. One may be more practical, one more personal, but they are as worthwhile as each other. Studying any subject, whether for the sake of learning or to train for a career, will enhance the individual in many ways.

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I'm a former English teacher and private tutor who is passionate about education. I've been writing professionally for the past three years and have written educational worksheets for use in schools as well as contributing to an educational journal. I've also written on every other topic under the sun!

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