Part 2: How to know if you’re ready to start studying
We already wrote a #itsawildlife blog post about whether or not you need to have a degree in wildlife conservation which you could treat as part 1 to this article.
And so, for “part 2” today we’re looking at how to know if you’re ready to start studying. And we’ve broken it down into 6 easy steps:
- a requirement for your dream job
- test it out first… for free
- love your subject and respect your teachers
- keep your eyes on the end prize
- lifestyle fit
- technical stuff
I wanted to put a little note at the start of this article – everyone is different and everyone wants different things from their studies. It’s one of those things (like so many) where your level of commitment is largely up to you and your own personal motivations.
As such, for some people, studying is more of a background activity to their lifestyle whereas for other people it is more of a full-time commitment. It can be the same qualification and same level and it will mean different things to different people.
We will talk a little more about this in step 5. But for now, let’s crack on with the 6 steps to help you work out whether or not you’re ready to start studying…
- A requirement for your dream job.
The first thing I would look at when deciding if you’re ready to start studying is whether or not the course you’re looking at is a requirement or strong recommendation for the dream job you hope to get out of it at the other end.
To determine this, have a look under the “requirements” section of several job advertisements for your dream job to see what shows up. And if it isn’t obvious, you could even call people considered experts in the field. I know, how scary!? But seriously, if you want to work in, lets say, Australian mammal conservation – call the curator of mammals at the state museum, call an ecologist on a Bush Heritage or Australian Wildlife Conservancy sanctuary that protects mammals, call a research scientist at the state government department for the environment, speak to your supervisor if you already have a volunteer placement in wildlife conservation. Honestly, make the call – what’s the worst thing that can happen!
Remember that all universities are also business institutions and they make more money with more students. So, it certainly pays to have a second opinion!
2. Test it out… for free.
If you can, after taking the time to work out what your dream job is and ultimately your goal behind studying a course, I would 110 % recommend trying it out. For example, if your dream job is working as a field ecologist for a not-for-profit organization like Australian Wildlife Conservancy then jump on a biodiversity survey with them as a volunteer. If you would like to work as a zoo keeper in the captive breeding programs for threatened species, look at becoming a volunteer at your local zoo, wildlife park or even, in some cases wildlife rehabilitation centers offer training in care and husbandry of wildlife. Whatever you want to do, there is a way to try it out for free – and despite the awkward feelings you may have for reaching out or signing up – there’s honestly nothing to lose.
We have a full blog post about how to find volunteer placements and internships so have a read of those.
One of the real considerations with studying is time – it usually takes between 1 and 3 years at a minimum to complete an entry-level course (the former being a certificate 3 in conservation and land management, and the latter being a Bachelors of ecological science). Considering this is a significant portion of time, you wanna make sure you’re gonna love the outcome of all your hard work and study!
3. Love your subject and respect your teachers.
What I mean by that is if you feel passionate about the subject and you know you can get along (and respect) your primary lecturers, professors, supervisors – then you are in good stead for an enjoyable study experience. Period.
Take the time to meet your supervisors and search around for a subject you enjoy and have experienced already (read more about this in the previous step), especially for more lengthy studies like Honours, Masters or PhDs. So how do you do this? Well, you can speak to people at Open Days, you can look up the TAFE and University curriculums you’re interested in and speak to most lecturers and staff in charge of overseeing the courses by looking up their contact details online. That’s what they’re there for so don’t be shy.
If you’re committing to a longer-term study, for example, choosing a PhD supervisor. Organise a time to in – meet them and the other people in their lab. Even better, if you can get out in the field with them or their students as a volunteer you will get a much better understanding of how they work and whether or not you will be compatible
4. Keep your eyes on the end prize.
It’s true what they say about the journey rather than the destination… but the destination (AKA your goals and dreams) is super important. For this reason, committing to a course or other program of study is always easier if you know what you want out of it – your “why”.
And your “why” can be plural – you may want to step into working your dream job at the end of the course, enjoy the course, meet like-minded friends, learn something of interest to you, experience the “study lifestyle”, receive a recognized qualification – the list goes on. But definitely have a think about your why before you sign up to study as well as throughout the process.
The reality of studying is that some days, some weeks, even some semesters will feel frustrating – boring units, bad grades, terrible lecturers, difficult schedule to fit in with your life – whatever makes it challenging to you, if you remember WHY you are studying it will be much more meaningful and motivating for you to push through those difficult times.
5. Lifestyle fit
Before you commit to studying, think about your other commitments in life and how they will fit in around it. Do you have existing work, mortgages, children, family, pets – whatever priorities you have in your life, it is important to acknowledge them and the time and energy they require from you BEFORE you start studying.
It is also important to remember that now you can study full-time, part-time, online – educational institutions are making it easier and easier to study so there’s never been a better time to pursue your dream career in wildlife conservation!
6. Technical stuff
It’s boring for sure but it is definitely important to mention. The technical aspects that need to be considered before committing to studying include pre-requisites, endorsement by supervisors, funding and payments (including scholarships and government support for students), other commitments in your life – and more!
The best way to get on top of the technical stuff is to contact the course coordinator (for the educational stuff) and any student services bodies (for the lifestyle stuff). For lengthy application processes such as scholarships, this is sometimes best done 6-12 months prior to enrolment and it can certainly save you (or in some cases even make you) some money, depending on what’s available so they can certainly be worth the trouble.
Get your head around the nitty gritty details and it can save you headaches down the track.
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