What to do when you graduate with a BA: Alternative routes to the ‘adult world’

Anyone studying Arts has often heard the jokes about lack of employment opportunities. Indeed, we have often probably quipped the jokes ourselves in a feat of casual self-deprecation. However, while we may often joke about our lack of vocational skills, the idea that an Arts degree will get you nowhere is more myth, or comedic material, than a fact of reality.

In my first year of Arts, my Philosophy professor argued to a room full of first years that a BA in Philosophy would not offer us a specific route on a map that would hopefully lead us to a particular vocation. Instead, he said, it would offer us a compass. This is how I feel about my BA as I approach the next round of life choices. For many, a BA in Arts was something chosen out of uncertainty. It gave us the time to make a decision about what it is that interests us: we may have learned that we have a knack for academia, or, we learned that academia was simply not for us, but most importantly, that there was plenty of options.  

The knee-jerk reaction to graduating from a BA is to enrol yourself in a Masters to continue your study. For some, this is exactly the thing to do. If you want to further your academic career and become more proficient in your research then, of course, securing an MA is the logical step to take. However, academia is only one of the many routes that someone with an Arts degree can decide to pursue and this multiplicity of routes is something to remember.

Work Abroad!

The first option always worth considering when finishing an Arts Degree is to take a year out! Forget about essays and application processes. Leave the country, get a random job in a food truck or volunteer to pick some fruit and veg, live in the ‘dodgey’ part of an international city, get drunk (responsibly!), or even get sunburnt!

Great options for this are, of course, J1 Visas to America or Canada. But there are also alternative ways to live and work abroad. Sites such as WWOOF (World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms) or WorkAway.com are great outlets to find paid opportunities to help out on international farms or, alternatively, offered free room and board for your work. This would be a great way to see the world and find yourself on a very low budget!

Or, if you are considering more conventional volunteer work, UCC’s own Volunteering page (www.ucc.ie/en/careers/getexperience/volunteering/) lists several websites, such as volunteerworld.com and Irish Aid, where you can find more information.

Graduate Programmes

Perhaps you feel ready for an adult/real/”proper” job, but want to learn some new skills. In this case, a graduate programme is well worth considering. Programmes such as Aldi’s graduate Area Manager Programme take applicants who received a 2:1 or above from any degree. As the name suggests, this programme will enable Arts graduates to transition into business. Similar to this is the Jameson Graduate Programme. The programme encourages people from all areas to apply and train as an international brand ambassador for the company. This would certainly appeal to anyone in need of a bit of travel, especially those who are business orientated.

If you would like to experience a particular vocation without the commitment to a grad programme or college fees, internships are always a route to take. Any quick sweep of websites such as gradireland.com or indeed.com advertise a myriad of internships, and there is always the option to reach out to a company or professional of your choosing and ask them if they have any internships open for application.

Online Courses

Not all future employment and travel opportunities need to rest in the arms of marketing or management either. There is also the option to Teach English as a Foreign Language (TEFL). Through this online course, the TEFL qualification can allow you to live anywhere in the world and teach. The course is an investment as you must pay for it, but you can sign up for a variety of courses which can work around your budget and timetable.

Or, just relax!

A BA, or any other less vocation-centred undergrad, offers the chance to think about what it is that we enjoy and value, and that doesn’t necessarily mean that we are anywhere behind our peers in Law, Medicine, or Commerce. Regardless of whether or not we actually want to follow up on our BA with further study, we still come to graduate with some semblance of gained knowledge and more importantly, opportunities. It’s also worth remembering that despite all our intentions, sometimes things don’t end up how we intended. To throw in some acquired philosophical insight: shit happens, just relax and go with it!