Choosing the right degree

  • There are a variety of jobs available for graduates of equestrian-based degrees, but as many students find when they complete their course, many of the most popular careers require skills beyond those provided by an equine degree.

    It is a common myth that students can move straight from an equine studies degree to a career in horse physiotherapy, for example. You can’t. To become an equine physiotherapist a student must spend three or four years working to qualify as a human physiotherapist, then undertake two years working on people before beginning postgraduate training in animal therapy.

    Similarly it is incorrect to think a module in equine law during a generic equine degree is sufficient to become an equine lawyer. Belinda Walkinshaw, a lawyer with Pickworths, explains that equine lawyers apply normal law to equestrian-related problems. Therefore it is not possible to enter the profession with an equine degree.

    “If you have a non-law degree you still have to take your law qualifications. You would not get dispensation for having a law module from your equine degree.”

    This is why it is vital that students consider what they ultimately want to do, and assess whether they have the grades for the courses they need, before choosing their course. They also need to be aware of what potential employers look for in a candidate for the role they ultimately hope to fulfil.

    Welfare is a popular career choice for equine-degree graduates, though it obviously pays much less than something like law. Elaine Sawyer, head of human resources at the ILPH, explains that, when recruiting field officers, they look for a “good working background with horses”, “a working knowledge of the law gained over a considerable length of time”, and “the maturity to deal with difficult situations”.

    An equine degree would be useful for the role but only alongside experience and the other criteria.

    “The ILPH has 40 office-based support staff, many of whom have an equine background. For certain roles, equine knowledge is essential and a degree is a distinct advantage,” says Elaine.

    With regards to a career in nutrition, Katie Lugsden, equine products manager for Dengie Horse Feeds, explains that the ideal candidate for an equine feed adviser position would have an equine science (not studies) degree as well as being able to demonstrate experience in a communications role; for example, presenting or promoting a product.

    “For a products development position, we would want more than an equine science degree, either a masters or years of experience in this area of the industry.”

    Alison Field, human resources director at the BHS, received many enquiries from students with equine degrees and says that the usefulness of an equine degree depends on the type of role individuals are applying for within the society.

    “Many jobs at the BHS require administration and customer service skills. So, although equine knowledge is useful, it isn’t essential for these posts,” she says.

    “Specialist roles require degree level knowledge; but for managerial positions you need management experience. Our regionally based development officers have equine backgrounds and marketing skills.”

    Employers appears to agree that students need to do their research before choosing their degree, and ensure they gain practical and relevant experience in the world place, to ensure the right doors are open when they graduate.

  • This feature was based on a Horse & Hound’s careers special feature, published on 13 January ’05

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