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Degrees of learning: university - what are the benefits?

Why go to university?

At university, you’ll have a chance to focus on a specific subject and study with experts in your field. There are plenty of degrees that will set you up for a career in the construction and built environment sector, from engineering to surveying, business management to finance and accounting, plus many more.

Having a degree will help you apply for higher-level jobs after graduation. Many university and college higher education (HEcourses provide opportunities to study abroad or gain work experience whilst studying, to increase your employability.

For many young people, university also offers a first taste of independence. It’s an opportunity to broaden your horizons and meet new people from all walks of life.

Who is university for?

University is for students who have typically completed further education, such as A Levels, BTECs, HNCs or HNDs. You can apply to an HE course or degree, providing you have the right entry requirements, once you have finished your school education or you have finished a college courseYou can also apply at a later stage in your life if you want to, to pursue new interests or up your professional game. 

You don’t have to go to university to get a job in construction, although for some construction career paths employers will expect higher qualifications, such as Higher National Certificates (HNCs) or a degree.  

You may need a higher or degree-level qualification to work in:

  • Construction management
  • Surveying
  • Architecture or architectural technology
  • Engineering (such as civil or structural engineering)
  • Landscape architecture
  • Archaeology 
  • Town or urban planning
  • Ecology or environmental consultation
  • Sustainability
  • Heritage conservation

You have to be self-motivated and organised to do a degree, and you’ll need to manage your time well to meet deadlines. 

What’s included in a degree?

When you first study higher education or a degree, you will be known as an undergraduate. If you have completed a degree you will be known as a postgraduate.

Full-time undergraduate degrees can take up to four years to complete. Postgraduate degrees generally take an additional year.

During a degree, you’ll spend time in lectures, seminars and on individual study. Depending on your circumstances, you may choose to attend university in person, or you could enrol on a distance-learning course and complete all the work online.

Each year of your degree will consist of learning modules covering different topics. Most of these will be mandatory, but many courses also allow you to specialise and pick modules related to what you want to do in construction, such as sustainable building design, planning or project management.

Your degree may include trips, work experience or a chance to study abroad. Extra-curricular clubs and volunteering opportunities offer a chance to develop leadership and organisational skills, as well as meeting new people.

What happens after my degree?

When you’ve finished an undergraduate degree, you can continue studying for a postgraduate qualification or start to look for a job.

Construction firms often advertise places on graduate training schemes, which are designed to fast-track new graduates into the world of work by providing mentoring, hands-on training and professional development. Many companies will accept graduates from business or management degrees with transferable skills.

Alternatively, you could look for other roles being advertised in your field.

How much does university cost?

The fees for HE courses and degrees vary from country to country, so you should check with your HE provider about any costs. 

For example, in England, undergraduate tuition fees cost up to £9,250* per year  (*as of 2023). Postgraduate course fees are higher and vary depending on the course and institution. 

In Scotland, there are no fees payable for tuition, but there may be fees payable for accommodation. 

Student loans are available in England, Scotland and Wales to help cover tuition fees and living costs, and advice on how to apply for a loan will be provided when you apply for a course.

How do I choose a degree course?

There are hundreds of degrees which may help you enter the construction and built environment sector. It can be daunting trying to figure out which is the right one for you.

If you have a specific role in mind, such as construction or landscape management, urban planning or engineering, you could look at the universities which offer courses in your chosen field. Prospects and UCAS are good places to start researching degree courses. 

Many people come into the construction industry having studied subjects such as business development, management, IT or finance. These routes are a good way to keep your options open and equip you with transferable skills that are valued by employers.

If it’s important to you to gain work experience as part of your studies, you could base your course choices around that, or you may decide to attend a university that is well known for teaching your subject area. It’s a good idea to attend university open days to meet course tutors, get a feel for the environment and ask questions to help you come to a decision.

What are the benefits for employers?

Employers in the construction and built environment sector value graduates, as they have demonstrated their ability to work hard and will have had opportunities to develop important skills such as time management, teamwork, self-reliance, problem solving and communication.

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