Should You Avoid Popular Degrees? – Series Introduction

This entry is part 1 of 4 in the series Atypical Degrees

Choosing the right university degree has always been a challenge!

For students, the ‘right’ choice would largely be governed by predetermined factors such as parental influence, a bias towards a friend’s choice of university, or a draw towards the most popular courses studied by students.

These are often the main deciding factors for students choosing where to study, with course popularity and family influence arguably being the strongest factors.

In my opinion, avoiding overly popular degrees may actually be beneficial to a lot of students.

The main suspects include:

  • Medicine
  • Computer Science
  • Business
  • Psychology
  • Nursing etc..

The list goes on!

Please speak to an advisor about your university decisions!

In conjunction, student decisions seem to be also governed by financial gain, ease of employability, and risk to job security.

…And rightfully so! The course you choose to pursue should result in good employment, good prospects, and adequate pay.

The resulting problem

This is not to say that popular degrees are bad – after all they are popular for a reason. However certain issues arise when programs of study are pursued simply because it appears to be a popular, accessible, or stress-free route to the job market.

The resulting problem is simple – if your decision to study a degree is largely based on what others have decided are the best paths for students (hence their popularity), you may eventually hit one of two issues.

  1. You end up competing for roles that you are less experienced in, in a saturated market. This will result in difficulty finding your ideal employment.
  2. You end up disliking or second-guessing your career options by basing the majority of your choices on short-term considerations such as financial gain (but in reality other things must be considered in conjunction).

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that if you study for a degree that thousands of students graduate from every year, you may have some difficulty landing your dream job, especially if all the experience you have is from your time at university.

In other words, are your university options governed by what YOU would like to do? Or are they governed by what is most popular, what looks like it would make you a lot of money, what would be easiest, or what would allow you to appease the minds of your friends and family?

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

In my opinion, there are some clear things to look out for when deciding on what to study, or which path you may like to take.

There is always overlap, and there isn’t a definitive right or wrong decision to make or take.

I am a strong believer that you can make the absolute best of a bad choice, and you can equally make a giant mess of what would otherwise be a good decision.

However, Here are some things to look out for:

  1. Money motivated – Is your choice money motivated? This is fine, however, be prepared to make some sacrifices in terms of stress/enjoyment – just because something leads to high-paying jobs doesn’t mean it’s immediately right for you.
  2. Something you’re good at – This is a good thing to consider – is it something you will excel at? You should typically be working towards something you excel at since this will make demonstrating experience and competence easier, helping you to stand out!
  3. Family pressure – This doesn’t always have to be a bad thing, as family/friends and siblings typically want the best for you – however they may not actually know the best for you. Take opinions from close friends and family under advisement, however, since you are the one who will be doing the work. You would do better to prioritize what your gut tells you.
  4. Ease of work – This could mean two things. Ease of finding work, or how easy the job will be. Typically you shouldn’t be looking for easy jobs, and largely you should be expecting most things to be difficult.

The key takeaways are that if money motivation plays a significant role in what you decide to study, you should strongly consider other options or at least rethink your current plans.

Often, the university route, (unless it involves some route in industry, manufacturing, or starting your own company) isn’t going to make you enormously wealthy (i.e multimillionaire), regardless of what you study – and that’s the brutal truth.

It’s certainly not true for the popular degrees (that will make you a multi-millionaire) because if that were the case, the majority of university students would be quite wealthy and successful. We however see that the opposite is true (depending on what you consider wealthy and successful), even for degrees that lead to high-paying jobs such as medicine, you are almost guaranteed to NOT be a millionaire.

For most, however, becoming a multi-millionaire isn’t the immediate goal, and most will usually be happy to make enough money to take care of themselves, and their families, while possibly saving to buy a house.

This is very achievable, and for most people, it would be the right goal to have.

if only a few realistic goals were set from the start:


Goals are important – it allows you to orient yourself, and check that you are actually making progress.

Having a post-university goal (set pre-university) for your ideal job will help you decide what you want to study.

Some examples:

  1. Upon employment – In my first year right after graduation, make £30,000
  2. During university – enroll in a program that provides work experience, or the option of a year placement
  3. Get into a field with a shortage of workers, or an industry with growing prospects such as cybersecurity, data analysis and IT.
  4. Enrol in a degree with globally recognized job prospects

These are just a few examples of goals you could use to set yourself targets before even enrolling on any degree program.

They will help you set a standard for yourself, and might even guide your degree search – be as aspirational as you like!

Atypical Degrees

Atypical degrees are degrees that are often overlooked.

The idea is if more students simply knew about other degrees that are available to them, they are more likely to make better-informed decisions about the right courses to study, and the right jobs to pursue.

This will also help students avoid oversaturated markets, making the process of finding meaningful work experience and therefore better jobs a more enjoyable process.

Every few weeks, a curated degree item will be added to the list of atypical degrees.

If you would like updates on when a new degree has been added, join the email list below.

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