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Picking the right construction degree

Published on: 8 Jun 2009
1. Is the course accredited?

Non-accredited courses may have lower entry requirements, and it is possible to attain chartership, if you enrol on a top-up course afterwards. But if you want the shortest route to chartership, beware: it is often impossible to transfer from a non-accredited course to an accredited one later in the day without restarting.  Your eventual career path needs to be a factor early on in your course decision, and there’s little room to hedge your bets. Few courses have accreditation by more than one body, although there are a handful, such as UWE’s Architecture and Planning, accredited by not only the RIBA and Architects Registration Board but by the Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI) too, or Property Development and Planning, accredited by the RICS and RTPI.

2. How much will it cost?

Get to grips with different sources of funding is an afternoon well spent. Part-time funding is means-tested so not very generous if you’re already working, but if you lose your job or employer’s support, it’s worth knowing what else is on offer. The government website Direct Gov is particularly helpful.

3. How will you help me to get a job?

Ask what a university’s typical employment rate is, what type of companies graduates go to, and what the school or college will do to help you find a job afterwards. Some courses may be entirely sponsored by employers.

4. What will I really learn?

For more open-ended professions like architecture, course content can vary wildly from institution to institution. Degree shows, held in June, are a very good way to see exactly what students have been working on, as are conventional open days. But you could also find out a lot at home from reading between the lines. A good course can open many doors, so it’s worth asking around about the university’s reputation too.

5. Can I be flexible (particularly important if juggling a full-time job)?

Generally a conventional masters course is one year full-time, or two part-time. But universities may offer other options.

Mature students shouldn’t underestimate their potential. Part-time students can be  better at managing their time than the full-time students fresh from school.

There's also considerable flexibility should you need to defer your studies for financial or health reasons, switch from full to part-time, or vice versa.

6. Are the teachers top of the class?

The Times Higher Education Supplement,  ranks universities by a number of criteria, including research. You could also look on the website of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council at its database of past projects. Universities’ own websites also list individual tutors’ research interests.

7. Can I do an industry placement …

Many batchelor’s degrees offer students the chance to work in industry for a year during their studies, usually between the second and third year. Apart from the obvious financial advantages of a year of paid employment, work experience can also help students get the most out of their final year.

8. … somewhere exotic?

Some courses may be able to arrange international placements, particularly for courses such as quantity surveying and construction management. Although this will usually come down to the contacts individual tutors have in the industry.

9. How will you stop me getting bored?

You don’t just want to be chained to your books the whole time, particularly not with a practical subject like construction. Ask your admissions tutors about site visits and a mix of learning experiences such as team-based projects and presentations by industry representatives.

10. Can I do it in my dressing gown?

Students based overseas, or who just prefer to study at home might want to consider distance learning. These courses can be much cheaper than part-time equivalents and also allow you to keep working full-time.

For more on this read the full article Inquiring minds published in Building.