The transferable skills hiding in your degree

The key to realising the potential of your degree is to understand your transferable skills. You have probably heard of them before, but here’s a quick guide to unlocking the skills hiding in your degree.

When it comes to choosing a career, some graduates worry that their degree is too broad, or doesn’t qualify them for a certain sector. Don’t be disheartened, it’s not about what you study, it’s about what you learn. Many graduates don’t end up working in their field of study, but this needn’t be seen as a failure. It just so happens that that the majority of jobs aren’t attached to a particular academic discipline.

What are transferable skills?

Transferable skills are the things that you have learned to do while completing you degree, and they are what make you employable. Your degree is a succession of activities (researching, writing an essay, giving a presentation etc.) with the end goal of earning a degree. In the same way, a job is a collection of tasks that perform a service for clients, or produces a product etc. The key is to find what you have learned to do during your degree and how you can then apply them elsewhere.

These are the skills that are listed on a job advert, and you may have more of them than you think.

What skills do I have?

Here are some of the key transferable skills and how you pick them up. If you haven’t had the right experience yet, make sure to seek it out, within your degree or even from a societies or a part-time job.

Team Work

The ability work well in a group to achieve a goal.

  • Why it matters: In nearly every job, you will have to work with others. This might be collaborating on a particular project, or day-to-day interractions where you all contribute to the success of a business
  • How to build it: Group projects during your degree, or a part-time job where team work is valued. Extra-curricular societies are also a key way of building this skill, whether as part of a sports team, or working on a committee

Organisation and Time Management

The ability to prioritise tasks, meet deadlines and take responsibilty for your own work.

  • Why it matters: Employers want to know you can manage a professional workload, turn in your work on time and get the most out of a working day
  • How to build it: Depending on the structure of your degree, you will likely have worked on more than one piece of work at once, balancing research and production. Likewise, if you have a part-time job or are part of a society, you'll have to manage various responsibilities alongside your degree.

Written Communication

The ability to produce clear, concise written material, with an eye to its intended effect and audience.

  • Why it matters: Most jobs will require a degree of written communication, be it inter-office emails or memos, reports, marketing emails, summaries of results. You may have to write for various audiences, such as colleagues, customers, or prospective clients
  • How to buid it: If your degree involved extended pieces of writing, such as essays or reports, you have been working on this skill. For further practice, you can try starting a blog that's relevant to your intended area of work, or writing for a university paper

Verbal Communication

The ability to communicate ideas verbally, in a clear, appropriate manner in a range of situations. 

  • Why it matters: You may need to present your ideas to others in the business, or pitch a project to prospective clients. Likewise, this is important for collaborative work, and negotiation
  • How to build it: Take the chance to present your ideas during your course and take an active part in discussions. Other options include debating societies, where you can build your skills in persuasion

Research and Analysis

The ability to find appropriate information, assess it's value and present it in a clear way, fit for purpose.

  • Why it matters: You may need to research a market position, product or client; the ability to find and present information will always be in demand. This may also include interpreting data from your own work to analyse effectiveness and improving performance
  • How to build it: This will likely factor into your degree, with essay or lab work requiring you to evaluate available information and present your own conclusions. The ability to handle large amounts of data is also a very useful skill. You can supplement university work by following stories relevant to your sector in the press, and presenting your conclusions on a blog


The ability to motivate and delegate and show awareness of the effect of your actions on the work of others.

  • Why it matters: Even though you may not be entering at a position of authority, leadership skills are important at every level; to inspire, encourage, and engage
  • How to build it: Taking part in team sports or committees, or working proactively to movivate when taking part in group projects during your degree. Volunteering can also offer opportunities to work on your leadership skills while helping others

 A career doesn't have to be built solely on what you studied; build it on what you want to do instead. You might be surprised at how many doors open when you realise what you're capable of.