Posted by / Wednesday 10 January 2018 / No comments

Career paths in the Sciences

For many young people at senior secondary school, choosing a career can be a wild tour in a labyrinth. Often young people would rather listen to their peers who appear to be more knowledgeable. The danger with this is that career choices are not that simple in reality. More often, the best informed are those who have gone through the mill, made their mistakes and now can boast of some hindsight benefits. In part, this is so because career decisions are closely tied with subjects studied at Senior High School and programmes read at undergraduate level.

Within the West Africa sub-region, the subjects read at the secondary school level together with grades obtained constitute strong determining factors in gaining admission to specific programmes in the university. Schools in the USA, UK and elsewhere offer some flexibility in terms of entry requirements. In all these, the natural sciences or what is often termed the general science options (electives), respond to stricter criteria for admission to undergraduate programmes. In this piece, I will like to take Senior High School students and prospective entrants through some subjects that support the career course they desire.

Careers in Engineering
Let’s begin with careers in engineering with specialization in areas such as Industrial & Systems Engineering. Civil Engineering & Construction, Bio & Biomedical Engineering, Chemical Engineering, Materials Science & Engineering, Electrical Engineering, Aerospace Engineering, Computer Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Electronics &Embedded Technology, Energy & Power Engineering, Automotive Engineering, General Engineering & Technology, Marine Engineering, Mechatronics, Mining, Oil & Gas, Robotics and similar fields.

University entry requirements 
In most universities where the programmes mentioned above are offered, entry requirements would likely include a combination of elective subjects like elective Mathematics, Physics and either Chemistry, Biology or Geography depending on the university of choice. This also goes with programme content in the particular university. For example, where a university, because of the content of its programme accepts 2 ‘As’ and a ‘B’ in in Mathematics, Physics and Chemistry, the same university could decide to admit candidates who did Mathematics, Physics and Biology, Geography or Agricultural Science but only with nothing short of 3 “As’.  With this in mind, candidates who are not taking the first choice subjects of the university department must know that they would have to work extra hard to be admitted to their programme choice. This said it must be pointed out that where specialization is done at the Masters level, then it may not matter much which engineering programme you read at the first degree level as long as the programme exposes you to sufficient dose of calculus, linear algebra and engineering computations.

Soft engineering
There are also some engineering programmes with less mathematics content. Let’s call them the soft engineering. They are Transportation Engineering, Environmental Engineering, software Engineering (Except the programming bit), and Textile Engineering. However, taking chemistry and physics as subjects at high school will be a good support for careers in these areas. Besides, most universities in the sub-region will require at least a very good pass in high school mathematics to be admitted to these programmes. 

Health Sciences
For health-related professions such as Medicine, Dentistry, Pharmacy, Veterinary Medicine and Physician Assistantship degrees, Biology, Health Science and Chemistry are important supporting subjects. Physics and Elective mathematics are strongly advised. A subject combination including any of these subjects should be sufficient. However, because these programmes are highly sought after by usually extremely brilliant students, your best bet will be to pass with excellent grades to be sure of getting admitted to these programmes.

While this explanation provides broad directions concerning career decisions and choices, the fact that there are over 200 universities in West Africa each with its peculiar admission rules makes these prescriptions anything but a one-measure-fit-all advice. They however give student a fair idea as to what they should be reading as subject at high school if they figured out what career pathway they want to choose. 

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