When you completed Class 10, you had a relatively simple choice of 3 streams, but now when you pass out of Class 12, you will suddenly be faced with literally hundreds of options for courses. It’s natural to feel daunted, especially since certain degrees appear to reach the same career, but through different paths. The key is to take the process step-by-step.
At the college level, the majority of degree courses can be identified as either professional degree courses such as B.Tech or MBBS, or academic degree courses such as B.A, B.Sc., etc. Traditionally, academic degree courses held more value, but the popularity of professional courses in recent times have firmly established their ground in the job market.
A professional course is one that provides you with practical skills, making you job-ready at the completion of the course. In comparison, the goal of a degree course is to provide you with a strong academic foundation in a particular subject, not necessarily making you ‘job-ready’.
Let’s discuss compare the advantages and disadvantages of Professional vs. Degree courses to help you figure out which works the best in your case.
Benefits of a Professional Degree
There are several reasons that have led to the rise in popularity and demand for a professional degree, the most important of which is that it prepares you directly for the job market. Popular degree courses are B.Tech (engineering), MBBS (medical), BDS (dentistry), and B.Arch. Other off-beat courses such as culinary arts and animation also fall under the purview of professional courses.
1. Provides Practical Training
Professional courses typically involve a hefty amount of practical training, industry practice and internships, and are generally highly detailed in one particular area, rather than a vague understanding of the subject. As a result, you would have a significant amount of knowledge and skills required for a full-time job.
2. Courses are Fast-Paced
The environment of an institute offering professional degree courses tends to be fast-paced, and courses are so structured to get you into the habit of being on your toes in a hustling and bustling work environment
3. Admissions are Based on Entrance Exams
Majority of professional degree courses provide admissions on the basis of an entrance test, therefore, even if you were not able to score high marks in Class 12, you can still get into a good institute for your degree.
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Disadvantages of a Professional Degree
Although professional degrees have numerous benefits, there are also certain disadvantages to pursuing a professional degree.
1. Competition is Usually High
One of the main disadvantages of pursuing a professional degree is the level of competition that exists in the market. Especially in fields such as engineering and medicine, students begin preparing years in advance or even drop years to focus on studying, resulting in intense competition.
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2. Not all Institutes Provide Quality Education
The popularity of professional degrees has resulted in a mushrooming of colleges and institutes, many providing substandard quality of education and training, reducing job opportunities available after the course. Since technology is advancing at a rapid pace, it’s important that the institute is up-to-date and providing you with relevant knowledge and skills. Therefore, it’s essential to thoroughly verify the college or institute you are considering, checking its accreditation, recognition and placement records.
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3. May Not Build a Solid Academic Foundation
The very fact that professional degrees are so specialized can act as a disadvantage as well. Since you would not have a general academic foundation to fall back on, changing careers later on in life would be more difficult if you have studied a professional degree.
4. No Option for Distance Education
At a time when distance learning and correspondence education have become commonplace, allowing you to work while you learn, professional degrees and courses are generally full-time only, requiring a hefty time commitment.
Now, let’s discuss academic degrees.
Benefits of an Academic Degree
Academic degrees, such as BA, B.Sc. and B.Com have been considered more ‘traditional’ and well-established forms of higher education and are available in a variety of specializations, such as B.A Economics, B.A English, B.A Hindi, B.Sc. Physics, B.Sc. Computer Science, B.Sc Applied Science, and the list goes on. An academic degree typically provides a thorough education and knowledge on the specific subject, after which the student can pursue a Master’s degree or a professional course.
1. Keeps More Career Options Open
One of the biggest benefits of pursuing an academic degree is the level of flexibility available, especially if you are not 100 percent sure of the career path you want.
For example, if you know you are interested in English as a language, you can pursue that at the Bachelor’s level and move on to a career-oriented course in media, teaching, writing, designing, etc. after your B.A, buying you 3 more years to decide on a career. If you are interested in Physics, studying Physics at a B.A level can help you identify which specific area of the subject your interest lies.
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2. Helps You Specialise
Studying the same field at a Bachelor’s and Master’s level (for example, B.A Psychology followed by M.A Psychology) will provide you with a more in-depth knowledge of the subject matter.
3. Admissions are Merit-Based
Admissions are generally conducted on the basis of marks in Class 12, or on the basis of small-scale entrance tests. For example, if you want to become a software developer and have scored well in your Class 12 marks but fared not as well in engineering entrance tests, you can opt for B.Sc. Computer Science academic degree which will provide you with a lot of the same knowledge. To top it off, pursue a few certifications and you will be ready for a job.
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4. A Few Courses Require Academic Degrees
There are many jobs/professional courses which require the minimum eligibility criterion of graduation, for example, LLB degree and Chartered Accountancy. The eligibility criteria can be met through academic degrees in a similar field that would be easier to study and helpful later on. In the case of law, B.A Political Science would be a good match, or a basic BA degree while B.Com or B.Sc. Mathematics would help in Chartered Accountancy.
5. Provides the Option of Distance Education
Academic degrees are also available in distance education and correspondence formats, so you can pursue an academic degree alongside a job or alongside any other course.
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Disadvantages of an Academic Degree
Apart from the benefits of academic degrees, there are certain disadvantages as well.
1. It Doesn’t Make You Job-Ready
On its own, an academic degree is typically not enough to get a high-paying job or to launch a successful career in an established field. You would invariably have to add on either a Master’s degree, a short-term course, a professional course, or a certification to be able to have an established career.
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2. Some Fields Require Professional Training
In many fields, a professional course is required and cannot be replaced by academic studies. For example, in medicine, it is mandatory to complete either MBBS or BAMS (Ayurveda) or BHMS (Homeopathy) to be able to practice medicine as a licensed doctor. While academic degrees are available in fields such as B.Sc. Allied Health Sciences and B.Sc. Hospital Administration, they are not equivalent to a full-fledged medical professional degree. Similarly, to practice law, an LLB degree is a must.
3. Cut-Offs May Be High
Admission cut-offs in well-known, reputed universities such as Delhi University can reach sky-high, even beyond 95 percent for some courses.
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Which One Should You Opt For – Academic Degree or Professional Degree?
The choice of a career is a major life decision, and the selection of a suitable college course can be an important step in the direction towards your dream career. Research carefully and identify your goals before you decide which course you should select.
While for some careers, a professional degree is absolutely essential, there are numerous other careers available after an academic degree. A professional degree trains you with job-required skills, but an academic degree helps evolve your overall knowledge in a specific subject, widening your horizons and grooming your personality.
If you still have doubts regarding which type of degree is best for you, try career counselling to help you take a well-informed and suitable choice.
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