Get ready to make the leap into sciences
By now you should be across the wide variety of roles in this profession. So it's time to sharpen the focus on your goal and how you'll get there.
Being prepared for study in science at university, and making the right choices are two important final steps in reaching your career goals. Use the hints and tips below to create a To Do list, add these tasks into your Career Action Plan, implement your plan and then you'll be ready to make the leap.
Preparing to study at university
Scientists' work is often very hands-on, so studying Science at uni is focused on your learning and on applying practical skills. Most science courses involve a mix of lectures, practicals or labs, tutorials, and field work or camps. Some also involve industry placements where you can get industry experience and earn subject credits towards completing your degree - these opportunities are a valuable part of your university experience.
- Lectures involve you sitting in a lecture theatre listening to an academic talk about new scientific information, while you take notes to review later, and save for exam revision. There can be hundreds of students in any one lecture.
- Practicals are classes that involve you undertaking a set practical activity (similar to an experiment you would have done at secondary school) in a lab space or outdoors. There are demonstrators present during the practical activity, to assist you.
- Tutorials (or tutes) are small group sessions where you discuss scientific content with a tutor. The tutor can be the lecturer or a graduate student. These sessions are interactive and often require you to undertake pre-reading. In tutorials, you have the opportunity to ask lots of questions and seek clarification about content.
- Fieldwork is often part of many science courses and these usually run for a few days and involve you performing experiments and recording field observations. They are a more relaxed and fun way to study.
- Industry placements are often available and allow you to work in a related industry while you study. Not only does the work provide industry experience, but you can earn subject credits toward your degree.
In your first year of study, you usually choose subjects from a limited range of areas to develop your basic scientific knowledge and skills. Then, in later years, you can choose from a range of subjects, including chemistry, biology, physics, mathematics, statistics, and geosciences; or innovative subjects like introductory astronomy, environmental biology, natural hazards and human vulnerability, psychology, and computer programming.
Making the right choices
It's time to do some serious research to find which university courses and pathways best suit your needs and preferences. We've created a special LEAP landing page on each of our partner uni websites, to fast-track your research. Follow the links from our LEAP Partners page, to find out about the university, courses, entry pathways, scholarships & financial assistance, support services, and more.
Start by checking out generalist Science courses - this can help you better understand the different disciplines (majors) available. This can also help you to decide when and where to specialise. If you've already decided on a specific area of Science, check out the course outcomes for those that will get you the right qualifications or professional accreditation in that area.
You may not be certain of your exact career goal yet but don't worry, universities and courses usually offer flexibility to change direction. Check out Tim’s video - an interesting story about changing directions.
Things to consider when choosing a course
- What does the course cover? Science disciplines are highly diverse and you may want to focus in on a certain field of that discipline in your final years of the course.
- What core and elective subjects are available?
- What specialisations are taught in later years at each university? Not all courses offer all specialisations in years 2 and 3, so if you want to study in a particular area, make sure the choice is available in the course you choose.
- If you've already decided on a specific area of science, check if the course will get you the right qualifications or professional accreditation in that area.
- If you have decided on a specialised career, check the course outcomes to see if the course you are choosing will get you the accreditations required?
- If your preferred career requires more than one specialisation, which course combines these or lets you study more than one specialisation as a second major?
- Does the university offer Work Integrated Learning (WIL), student industry experience opportunities and Graduate Work Placement schemes? These can help you to obtain essential work experience and to secure ongoing employment in the profession.
- Are most of the people completing the course finding employment?
- What flexibility is available to transfer from one course or discipline to another, in case you find you're not enjoying your first choice?
Can you combine a science degree with another degree, such as computing, mathematics, arts or law?
A double degree:
- will broaden your expertise, add to your knowledge, set you apart from other graduates and give you more flexible employment options;
- is usually completed in a shorter time and at less total cost than studying for two consecutive single degrees.
- If travel or living away from home are a problem, what distance study options are available, for example online learning.
- University is more than just the study – universities are great social environments where you can make lifelong friends, so when looking at universities also consider the added extras like societies and clubs.
- You can also expand your horizons by studying abroad for a semester in many university courses. If that appeals, check what is possible in the courses you are considering.
Making the most of Open Day
University Open Days are a great opportunity for you to get a feel for a university. As well as getting to know the campus, you have the chance to meet current students, find out more about the courses you are interested in and learn about any clubs and societies at the university.
Go along with a list of prepared questions. Try to talk to the faculty staff who actually teach the course you're interested in and the students currently undertaking it.
To make the most of Open Days, download the Open Day Hints and Checklist [PDF 100kb] and consider the following:
- Plan well ahead. Decide which Open Days to attend, based on the Universities you are seriously considering as a preference.
- Remember it might be a weekend commitment. Consider your travel times and any accommodation needs, to maximise your time at the event.
- As well as the questions in our Open Day Hints and Checklist, write a list of your own questions to ask on the day.
Final checklist, then it’s time to apply
Tick off these last few items and you'll be ready to leap into uni:
- when choosing a course, think about how you’ll get to the campus;
- if you need different learning options, to fit study in with work, does it offer these;
- is there flexibility to change courses or disciplines if you change your mind;
- with a wide range of courses on offer, different ATARs will apply to different courses. If you don’t think you'll get the ATAR you need for your first choice, look for other science courses that may be available with a lower ATAR. Transferring back to your preferred course later on, if you are doing well, may be possible;
- when offered a place in a course, make sure you follow the right steps to accept your offer and follow the university enrolment steps, which should be outlined to you with your offer. Remember, if you get stuck, you can call the University directly. There are people sitting by the phone waiting to help you through this process.
Study pathways are not always smooth. There may be problems or barriers which you will have to overcome. There are many people you can talk to about any issues you have while studying (including counsellors, academics and administration staff). These are some common barriers that students experience:
...I complete the prerequisite subjects but my ATAR score isn’t high enough for the course I want?
- Check the middle-band entry consideration for your course as it may enable you to get in. Alternatively, you could begin a similar degree with a lower ATAR at the same university, or a different one, and look to transfer into your desired degree later on.
...I complete VCE and get the ATAR for my preferred course, but I did not complete the pre-requisite VCE subjects?
- Most universities will allow you to take a bridging subject or might offer you a competency exam. Contact the university you wish to apply for, to find out what they recommend.
...I’m interested in studying at uni but I haven’t got the marks and am unsure if I could even handle the material?
- Some universities allow for “single subject study” where you can study a single subject from a course. Then depending on your results you can potentially be offered a spot in the full course.
...I find that the course or university I chose isn't for me?
- Once you are in the university system, it is often possible to transfer from one course or university to another. Speak to an academic advisor about your transfer options and what credits you may get for relevant subjects already completed.
...I didn’t finish Year 12 but am now really interested in studying for a degree?
- Some universities have “tertiary enabling programs” which allow entry into tertiary study. Alternatively, you could study a diploma course at TAFE and use this as a stepping stone to get into university.
...I'm doing a diploma course but decide I really want to get a degree ?
- If you do well enough in your subjects, it’s possible that you could transfer from the diploma to the bachelor degree course. You may even get credits for relevant subjects completed. You will need to talk to someone in the future students area of the university offering the degree course you want to do, to see what your options are.
LEAP Partner Universities - our site's direct links to LEAP landing pages at each Uni website, where you'll find a helpful directory to their essential info.
MyUniversity - searchable info on all Australian university courses. (Australian Government site)
Study Assist helps school students and their families understand what support they are eligible for, if pursuing higher education, based on a range of study options available to them. (Australian Government site)
My Future has a guide to career development, to education beyond Year 12, videos by professionals and interactive career quizzes. My Future also has a new myfuture forum, a tool allowing you to talk to people working in a range of industries. (Australian Government site)
Ace Day Jobs is an ABC site that showcases a range of unusual and intriguing jobs and how people get into them. It includes a job match to connect you with a field of interest.