Jump to Main ContentJump to Primary Navigation

Do you need a degree to change careers?


How many of us can claim a well-planned career path? One that starts with a clear idea of where we want to end up; great A-levels (I got that far); a relevant degree (none for me, never mind a relevant one); post-grad or vocational qualification (shorthand typing was mine); then a first, second and third job leading neatly to the final goal?

Not many. Even if the traditional education is there, so many of us want to change career or launch a business in a completely new field. What’s more, women are rarely educated for business: three out of four post-grad business degrees go to men. But having switched my career several times (from magazine editorial to advertising account management; from writer to florist; from dotcom publicist to dotcom founder), I have to say why not? It’s just a matter of deciding your next move then building the skills, experience and confidence to match.


It’s never too late, despite the typical student profile of interns, and is the best way to suss out the industry you plan to enter. Find out what kind of people succeed there. What does the work really involve? Could you do it? Not to mention gathering contacts and taking the chance to impress the hell out of whoever you can. Two weeks of unpaid work could turn your life around.


Develop digital skills to save money when building your own business or sneak in the back door of an existing one. My shorthand typing qualifications were geared less towards a dream to be Miss Moneypenny, more towards becoming Ms Magazine Editor. Being able to touch type at considerable velocity is still an advantage (try typeonline.co.uk and typingmaster.com) and the modern equivalent is computer programming (try codecademy.com).


Don’t be underprepared. Read everything you can about your chosen field. Sign up to some of the thousands of free email newsletters that will make you an expert in your field or browse relevant books and magazines. Create cheatsheets for yourself and have a point of view so that when you meet the one person who might give you a break, you have something to say.


Proving you don’t need a BSc:

  • Deborah Meaden
  • Dame Vivienne Westwood
  • Hilary Devey
  • Michelle Mone
  • Laura Tenison
  • Anita Roddick
  • Jacqueline Gold
  • Karren Brady
  • Holly Tucker
  • Me

Sophie is MD & co-founder of notonthehighstreet.com. Email sophie.cornish@stylist.co.uk or tweet @SophieVCornish

Picture credit: Rex Features

What do you think? Do you agree with Sophie that a degree is not essential to business success? Let us know in the comments below.



Does a degree equal success?


Sophie Cornish's Top Business Tips


Business Myths and Truths