What to do After 12th std? Explore the Various Courses and Career Options Available after 12th In-depth

It is a no brainer that students in India go through tremendous stress during their 11th & 12th classes. Apart from studying for the board exams, they have to prepare for umpteen entrance exams that go on until august of each year. Then comes the admissions time when students have to decide in less than a week what they are going to study for their undergraduation, which in turn will determine their future career. Pause here for a moment and reflect on this approach. Students spend two full years poring over their books for exams that they will be done with in 3 hours but when it comes to choosing a career that will be their bread and butter for the rest of their life, they actually end up spending less than a week on the whole decision making process. Doesn’t this approach seem a little careless? By no means are we suggesting here that exams are not important.Yes, they are very important considering how competitive today’s world is, but students must give equal importance to their career as well. Most end up choosing a course based on peer pressure, herd mentality or parental pressure. Considering that they are the ones who are going to be studying and working in the chosen area of study, if there is anyone whom they must listen to first, it is themselves. Following are some common Q&A that seeks to clarify various questions, misgivings and thoughts that students have about their future.

Which is the best way to go about choosing a course after 12th for college?

There are a few critical factors that must not be overlooked when it comes to deciding what course or career option to choose after 12th. They are as follows:

Interest: Life has it’s ups and downs and everytime something goes wrong or against your expectations, the only thing that will make you get up, dust yourself and keep trying is passion. In order to help you understand what passion really means, let’s use the late Steve Jobs as an example. This is what he had to say about his public outing from Apple in 1985 “But something slowly began to dawn on me — I still loved what I did. The turn of events at Apple had not changed that one bit. I had been rejected, but I was still in love. And so I decided to start over.” This is the power passion has on you. If you face difficulty of any kind in your professional life, it is the love that you have for your work that will help you get back on your feet over and again.

Practicality and economic feasibility: Although it is important that you follow your interests in life, there are some courses that may not suit your parent’s budgets as the fees is extremely expensive. In such cases, see if you can do something that is closely related to your first choice but is within your family’s budget. Regarding practicality, there are some fields out there that are great in terms of creativity but have very few job opportunities or are not lucrative enough to make a living out of it. In these cases, you can combine your passion with something more market friendly so that you can keep doing what you love and take care of your finances at the same time. For example, if you are interested in arts such as painting, try following it up with a degree in design or visual communications etc so that you can still do what you love while taking care of your finances at the same time. Many students also follow another approach - they do their undergraduate degrees in traditional areas such as engineering, sciences, commerce etc and devote their free time to their passion, be it singing, writing etc. Once their passion project grows and becomes big or starts bringing in money, they quit their full time job and focus on the project.

Suitability: Having explained enough about passion, there is one more very important factor that many students overlook and that is suitability. Sometimes, no matter how much we like a subject, it just doesn’t suit us. To elucidate this, I will use the example of a nobel prize winning scientist Dr. Shinya Yamanaka. Dr. Yamanaka won the nobel prize in medicine/physiology in year 2012 for his work on stem cells. But before he entered the world of research, he was actually trained to be a surgeon. However, during his first operation, which was to remove a benign tumor, a task that should not take more than 10 minutes, took him more than 2 hours to complete. At that moment, he realized that he did not have the required skills to be a successful surgeon and shifted to research by getting a PhD degree and the rest is history. At the end of the day, if something is not working for you or if you feel you do not have the aptitude for something, it is best to make a smart decision and choose a course that best suits your abilities.

If you have already decided that you want to develop your career in engineering, then you can use the following list, which describes the various career options in engineering, to decide which engineering degree to pursue:

  • If you are interested in learning more about automobiles, machines and how mechanical systems work, then mechanical engineering will be perfect for you.
  • If you are interested in biology and the various technological processes that manipulate biological systems and organisms to improve healthcare, medicine, agriculture etc, then biotechnology will suit you very well.
  • Chemical engineering will be a great major for students who are interested in learning more about the industrial processes that converts raw materials into useful products for the advancement and operation of the healthcare, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, electronics and the petroleum industry.
  • If latest innovations of the past decade such as mobile technologies, robotics, wireless technologies inspires you then electrical engineering will be a great option for you.
  • If you are into computers, internet and love programming and everything related to computers, then computer science is the best way to go about realizing your career goals.
  • Do man made structural wonders inspire you? If yes, then a degree in architecture or civil engineering will be perfect for putting your creative skills and engineering aptitude to good use.
  • If you are interested in entering a sector such as energy, oil and gas, petroleum etc. then a degree in mining engineering, petroleum engineering etc will work very well.
  • A degree in marine engineering will be perfect for students who want to enter the marine industry and do not mind sailing in the sea for long periods of time. Marine engineers study the engineering of boats, ships, vessels, oil rigs or any other marine vehicle. Marine engineering is a blend of mechanical and electrical engineering for the design, development and maintenance of marine based vessels.
  • For a more detailed description of each course, please look to the left of this page and select the engineering tab for more information on each field.

One of the first things you must know about the sciences field is that the career options in this field are very diverse and flexible. Just because you do your undergraduate degree in physics or mathematics doesn’t mean you have to do your master’s or doctorate degrees in the same. You can shift to other disciplines for your further studies. For example, students who do their undergrad in mathematics go on to do their master’s in bioinformatics, computer science, physics etc. Also, plenty of students finish their BSc degrees and pursue their MBA and move into management or write their civil services exams. Then there are students who do their PhD, follow it up with postdoctoral training and enter academia as professors or work in industries as scientists. At the end of the day, you really have a lot of options and your choices do not get narrowed down just because you have done your BSc in one of the basic sciences fields.

If you are clueless about what course to take in college, following are a list of suggestions that will you find your dream career path

  • Look for some good quality aptitude tests. You have plenty of these online, some are free while some are paid. Find one that is reputed in the market and give the test with proper focus and concentration. Once the results are out, see which courses are interesting and choose one that you believe best suits your needs and goals.
  • Look at subjects that you have a natural flair for. If you are good in mathematics and sciences and get great scores in these subjects, then chances of you excelling in engineering will be good.
  • List down all the subjects that you really enjoy studying, that excites you and kindles your curiosity. Then, look at courses that have these subjects as part of their core curriculum and choose one course that best suits your likings and goals.
  • Sometimes teachers, friends and relatives can gauge a student’s potential in a particular area. Speak to well meaning teachers and ask them which areas they believe you are talented in and look at courses that fall in one of those areas of studies.
  • One of the best ways to go about choosing the right course is to listen to your own inner voice considering that only you know yourself best, more than anyone else. Ask yourself what is it that you want to do with your life. What would you like to achieve in your life? If there is one only one type of work you are allowed to do for the rest of your life, what would it be? (Please be serious and don’t say watching TV).
  • Another foolproof way of finding out your interest goes like this. Take a piece of paper, a pen or pencil and close your eyes and just write down whatever it is that you have always dreamt of becoming since childhood. Don’t think for a second, just write it down. Yes, do it. Do you know why this sometimes works like a charm. Kids don’t have any limiting beliefs or are aware of societal and peer pressure. How many times have we said something like “I want to be a doctor” as a kid only to grow up and do something else because we don’t have the confidence or belief in ourselves to pursue medicine. When you follow this foolproof plan, what is in the paper is where your heart is. Go ahead and try it.

This is a very common issue among Indian students. On top of the insane peer pressure, we also have to fulfil our parents and society’s expectations of us. One of the first things you must understand with such an issue is that parents want only the best for their children. If they want you to pursue engineering, it is because they want you to get a good job, salary and settle down well in your life. In such cases, you need to take a firm stand and make them gently understand why taking up sciences will do you good. If possible, try doing a powerpoint presentation and display it to them detailing all the pros and cons of the field you are interested in, your future plans, job opportunities in that field etc. This will give them the confidence that you know what you are getting into.

What will affect your career is lack of good performance in your undergraduate years. If you are going to fail in university exams, waste your time instead of doing good projects and internships and bunk classes all the time, then you will have a very difficult time when it comes to finding a job or applying for higher studies. Just because you are not from one of the best institutions does not mean you are not poised for success in life. Great percentage, excellent internships, projects and research publications will really elevate your resume and are way more important than the name of your university. So, don’t let one disappointment get to you and focus singularly on developing knowledge and doing good work in your field.

If the course that you have got is something that you have zero interest in and you feel that the job opportunities or career prospects are not good, then it is best if you attend another university where you are offered a course of your choice. At the end of the day, your undergraduate scores, project work, internships and publications are way more important than the university you are attending. In-depth knowledge, passion, hard work and great work ethic is what will take you to great heights in your career, not the name of the university you do your undergraduation in.

This happens pretty regularly. Many students switch courses after one year of college, some even shift after two. Some shift from one field to another after college is over while some shift in their mid 30s or 40s even. It is perfectly okay to make a transition if you are not happy with what you are studying and no, it will not look bad in your resume/CV unless you don’t have a proper reason for the shift.

As much as money and job opportunities are important, so is interest and passion. Do not take up medicine or computer science just because these courses pay people well. Today’s world is highly stressful and whichever field you are in, be prepared to put in long hours and work extremely hard. If you are not interested in your work, then the long hours will soon become a drudgery and will slowly start eroding the quality of your life. For this purpose alone, do not make decisions based on money.

Doing your undergraduate degree from USA or UK will make a huge difference to your career due to the exposure undergraduate students get in these countries. Also, since USA and UK are one of the leading nations in the world for R&D, students will get the opportunity to work in groundbreaking and innovative research during their undergraduate years. This kind of opportunity is lacking in India due to lack of government funding, limited seats and a hugely competitive environment. Students also have more freedom and options regarding their major and the courses that they can take. Also, if you are doing your undergraduate degree, you will get the opportunity to be interviewed by top notch companies (provided you work hard and develop a great profile) like Google, Facebook, Microsoft etc whereas in India, these companies conduct campus placements only in elite institutions such as the IITs and the NITs.