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How to choose between a liberal or professional degree

Get to know the types of courses available to you
Have you had your career path mapped out since childhood, or are you convinced that your dream job doesn’t exist yet? We’ve got the tools you need to future-proof your learning.

So you’ve put in the hard yards. Thirteen years of schooling is finally coming to an end, and you’re on the home stretch but where to next? 

Do you choose a professional degree that will lead you down a specific career path, or do you cultivate your passions with a flexible liberal degree and be prepared for a range of possibilities?

What is a liberal degree?

Liberal studies degrees are highly flexible degrees which allow you to build your depth of knowledge in one or more areas. Some liberal studies degrees can be taken with professional degrees, enabling you to develop knowledge across disciplines and expertise in a professionally accredited field.

These degrees expose you to a wide variety of ideas, allowing you to develop both generalist knowledge as well as disciplinary expertise through your major and minor (or double major).

Liberal studies can help you:

With over 100 major and minor subjects ranging from architecture, sociology and marketing to neuroscience, nutrition and software development, the possibilities of a liberal studies degree are endless.

Being able to design your course based on your interests could be an empowering step forward into the professional job market.

By completing a Bachelor of Science and Bachelor of Advanced Studies, for example, you will gain essential knowledge in fundamental sciences without having to give up your interest in marketing. Expanding your education with a second field of study will prepare you for a range of opportunities in a variety of industries.

There’s a lot of pressure on school leavers to make significant decisions about their future. However, the idea that what you decide to study now will set your career path in stone isn’t necessarily true.

Many of our liberal degrees offer the flexibility you need to follow your interests and gain real-world experience. They are designed to prepare you for a versatile and agile career.

The combined Bachelor of Advanced Studies is an opportunity to enhance your degree, enabling you to graduate with two degrees in just four years. This option will allow you to:

  • take majors from two different faculties
  • study overseas with student exchange
  • gain real-world industry experience with an interdisciplinary project
  • complete advanced coursework or an honours year within your fourth year.

What is a professional degree?

Professional degrees are accredited degrees which lead to professional registration. These are generally much more structured in comparison to liberal degrees, often with compulsory placements which develop the knowledge and skillset necessary to prepare you for a career in a specific field and to gain registration with the industry’s accrediting body.

Professional degrees can help you:

You might already know that your interests and motivations match up with a specific career path, so you want to feel equally confident that your first steps out of school and into university are going to help you get there.

A professional degree is a means to professional accreditation, meaning that when you graduate you will be recognised and able to practice in a given industry.

You may know you want to help people, to improve the way things work, to give voice to the people who might not have one, but maybe you don't know which degree you'd like to do.

Professional degrees can help you pursue what you'd like to achieve through your career in a more defined way. 

For example, you may want to help improve the quality of lives in impoverished areas by becoming a nurse for a humanitarian organisation, or by creating low-cost housing solutions with your architecture degree.

Professional degrees, just like liberal degrees, can offer so much more than what appears at face value, and sometimes this may be helping you find the path to a broader outcome. 

Why not do both?

If you know you want to pursue your interests in greater depth while still developing professional expertise, you might consider combining a professional degree with a liberal studies degree.

This pathway can prepare you for a wide-range range of careers by cultivating a diverse skill set and breadth of knowledge alongside a professionally accredited field.

The first step to knowing whether a liberal or professional degree is for you is to assess your interests, strengths and motivations.

As long as you follow those, you'll be on the right track, and if you decide this changes along the way, rest assured there is always a pathway to get to where you want to go.

Hear from our students

Vince Lam

Bachelor of Commerce and Bachelor of Advanced Studies student
“Being able to study design alongside marketing provides a platform for me to fuse my creativity and design thinking and apply these skills in a variety of business situations.”
Bachelor of Advanced Studies

Meredith Munnoch

Meredith Munnoch
Bachelor of Applied Science (Speech Pathology)
“I chose speech pathology because I wanted to pursue a career where I could form relationships with and help people. I really enjoyed science and languages in high school, and this degree seemed like the perfect mix of the two.”
Learn more about speech pathology
Last updated 23 April 2020
22 September 2017