What comes after the expensive piece of paper? What UBC students plan to do with their degrees

For many UBC students, undergraduate studies are just one element of their future plans, suggesting a holistic approach to career planning for today’s students. The Ubyssey interviewed students in a variety of faculties, programs and majors to learn more about what they want out of their degrees — and what they plan to do after they graduate.

Graduate school

For some students, their degree is first and foremost a precursor to specific graduate programs. For Suprita Anand, a second-year kinesiology student, her bachelor’s degree allows her to gain relevant experience and complete prerequisite courses for a master of physical therapy.

As an international student from Singapore, this course of study would also qualify her to live and practice in North America. Anand chose to study kinesiology due to her interest in “how the human body works and health in general,” acknowledging that her science prerequisites may necessitate adding time to her degree.

Mona Meighan, a third-year student majoring in applied animal biology, also views her degree primarily as a step towards further professional certification. Meighan plans to apply for the master of science in biomedical communications at the University of Toronto, which would allow her to pursue a career in medical illustration.

“The requisite for [the intended program] is just any four year bachelor’s degree, but then most of the prerequisites are science-based, so that’s why I’m in science [...] at the same time, obviously, that’s pretty unrelated to animal biology,” said Meighan.

A desire to pursue graduate school not out of necessity, but out of a desire to deepen knowledge and expand future opportunities, was a common theme amongst students.

Aiyana Twigg is a fourth-year student with a double major in anthropology and First Nations and endangered languages (FNEL). She stated that, while she believes she would be able to work in her community with solely her bachelor’s degree, pursuing graduate studies in anthropological linguistics or Indigenous language revitalization would allow her to “get certain funding [...], to carry out certain research projects within the community that I might not have the credentials to do [otherwise].”

Nyah Lamarre, a second-year student pursuing a bachelor of design in architecture, landscape architecture and urbanism, chose her degree based on her personal interests over specific career prospects, similarly to Meighan and Anand.

“I’ve wanted to do something that was creative, and I think this can help with that,” Lamarre said.

She does not have a career path in mind yet, but Lamarre is confident that the skills she develops through her studies, particularly in design programs like Adobe Suite and AutoCAD, would enable her to enter the workforce without pursuing further education, though she is interested in attending graduate school.

Likewise, while Meighan plans to attend graduate school, she nevertheless believes that there would be career paths available following her undergraduate studies. Beyond medical illustration, she also holds an interest in aquaculture, and says that certain roles within that field may not require field-specific graduate studies.

Kishoore Ramanathan, a fourth-year student majoring in English literature with a minor in biological sciences, also plans to attend graduate school. For him, this will include attaining his bachelor of education before pursuing further studies, and eventually a career, in education administration. Though not directly related to his future career plans, Ramanathan nevertheless feels that his undergraduate studies have contributed valuable skills.

“English Lit [...] is all about mastering communication and identifying other people’s ideas. [...] Being able to identify people’s perspectives and identify how to communicate best with people is difficult and it’s something that we have to practice all the time,” Ramanathan said.

His minor in biology, in addition to providing laboratory skills and allowing him to further explore his passion for biology, has “really given [him] an appreciation for diversity.”

Work Experience

Another common refrain from students was the importance of work experience and a holistic approach to qualifications.

Siddarth Chadha, a fourth-year electrical engineering student currently completing a co-op term as a quality assurance engineer with Universal Douglas, expressed his belief in the importance of work experience and of the co-op program in particular.

“Co-op [...] teaches you more time management and collaboration, and just the ins and outs of the working world, which is something that you don’t learn [in university classrooms],” Chadha said.

Chadha believes that his co-op experience and his studies will be equally important in future job applications. He also highlighted the life skills he’s developed in university, stating they were on par with the actual course material.

“University really prepares you, so when you do go out there [in the working world], when you have deadlines, it feels a lot more manageable,” Chadha said.

Anand also highlighted the importance of work and volunteer experience, particularly in physical therapy, which she says is centred on “knowing the science behind [a patient’s] injury ... but it’s also a lot about being able to communicate with the patient why they’re feeling this way.”

With the suspension of the Kinesiology Co-op Program, Anand stated that it has been particularly difficult as an international student to find adequate work or volunteer experience.

“Those are soft skills that can only be developed [by] watching someone, like when you shadow a physiotherapist, or when you yourself are doing it in a very practical environment. My courses or grades don’t teach me that,” Anand said.

For Twigg, too, real-world experience and connections are equally important to the classroom environment, if not more crucial, particularly for her planned work in Indigenous language revitalization.

”Going to school is great, and learning all of this is great, but you have to actually be in the community and working with the community and doing that volunteer experience to really learn from the people around you.”