Vocational and Non-Vocational


The difference between vocational and non-vocational degrees

Choosing a degree course is a complex business. If you regard your degree as an investment, providing a head start in a particular career, you can opt for a specialist vocational course. If so, research the course carefully and make sure that it teaches the skills that industry requires.

Broadly, degree courses can be classified into three main types:

  • Directly vocational courses essential for a particular career, for instance medicine or architecture.
  • Vocational courses, ranging from general subjects such as business and management through to more specialist courses like building surveying, retailing or computer games technology. Some vocational courses sound as if they provide a direct route into a particular industry – but beware, this is not always the case.
  • Non-vocational courses like History or English Literature. There is an argument for choosing a subject you are really interested in, getting good results and then applying for vacancies open to graduates in any subject.

Where a specialist degree is important

Choosing a sandwich course, with a year out in industry, conveys clear benefits. ‘Anyone who’s done a year out or placement, stands out from the crowd. They may have started working towards their professional qualification and they will have ‘bedded in’ to their working life. It is also common for students on year out placements to be offered permanent employment.

Where to tread carefully

With a fast- changing new industry, attractive to students, universities can be tempted to set up courses without taking full account of industry requirements. This is what appears to have happened with the very popular computer games courses. There are around 170 ‘games’ courses in the UK but only nine degrees have been accredited by Skillset, the body which supports skills and training for the games industry. The accredited courses are listed on www.skillset.org another good source of information is www.blitzgamesstudios.com. These websites describe the different job roles in computer games- which have different requirements. You need to understand the different roles before considering courses.

Post graduate instead?

In conclusion, if you are unsure about opting for a vocational degree, remember that vocational specialisation can be at postgraduate level. However, if you are intent on an undergraduate vocational course, then make sure its credentials stand up to scrutiny.


  • Is your intended course accredited by a professional institute or industry body?
  • Does the course have industry partners?
  • How many graduates from the course are working in the industry they trained in?
  • Four-year sandwich courses, with the third year in industry, are well regarded by employers and often lead to job offers.