From education to employment

What Are the Key Transferable Skills You Gain at University – No Matter Your Course

When it comes to choosing your university course, it mostly comes down to the career you’re looking to pursue after graduation. With so many course options, you’re bound to find one to suit what you’re aiming for.

Some, however, aren’t dead set on one specific career. Your ultimate goal might be to hold a senior leadership position at a Fortune 500 company, but you might not have your heart set on a particular sector or department.

The good news is that all university courses will equip you with transferable skills that benefit your career. Here, Heriot-Watt have provided expert tips about how the key skills you learn at university, whatever your course, can make you more employable.


The words “group project” might strike fear into the hearts of current and prospective students across the UK, but they’re really valuable. Teamwork is an essential skill that’s required in almost any job you could think of. Even if you pursue a role that involves a lot of individual work, like an author or photographer, you still need teamwork skills. Team alignment is essential to the success of business projects, with 97% of employers and employees saying a connected team can make a project more successful.

Through group projects and other team activities at university, you’ll learn how to work with a variety of other people. For example, many of us might have experienced group work with someone who does not pull their weight. Knowing how to deal with that issue professionally will be vital for your future career. You’ll also gain valuable experience in supporting others, as well as collaborating with people to come up with new ideas.

Time management

Two of the greatest skills you learn at university are how to manage your time effectively and how to work within both long- and short-term deadlines. Coursework projects – like essay submissions and your dissertation – tend to be medium-to-long-term projects, and you’ll likely be juggling multiple projects at once.

Amongst all of this, you might have some practical work to complete or a presentation to create and present in a lecture. Managing multiple projects that have different requirements and deadlines helps you to understand how to prioritise, which is key to time management. More pressing tasks will take priority over those that are either less urgent or have a longer deadline.

Planning and organisation skills

Alongside time management, the ability to plan out your workload and organise tasks and events will be useful in any number of roles. If you choose to undertake a degree that makes heavy use of practical elements, you’ll have a lot of opportunities to hone these skills in scenarios that will present themselves in the world of work. If you’re considering a more theory-based degree, you’ll learn how to plan tasks that require a lot of work hours, like your dissertation. Outside of your studies, there are other ways you can hone these skills – like volunteering.

Student Volunteering Week, which usually happens during February, gives students an amazing opportunity to take part in organised volunteering projects. But you don’t have to be limited to one week each year – most universities have partnerships with charities and businesses, offering volunteering opportunities year-round. This could involve organising fundraising events for your chosen charity, providing support during an event, or even getting out on the streets to raise awareness or money! All of these events can help you enhance your planning and organisational skills, as well as many others.


All of the various learning methods of universitycan help you learn some of the key elements of leadership. From your lectures and group projects to practical work and extra-curricular activities, leadership can be learned in any context.  You might assume the leadership role in a group project, which will help you with key skills in the workplace like delegation – a trait that’s critical to good leadership.

Some courses lend themselves well to the development of leadership skills and even teach them as part of the curriculum. Business management degrees have leadership embedded into their theories and practical sessions. What’s more, if you’re not 100% certain on the path you want to pursue through business, you’ll be taught about many different areas of business. Then, you’ll get the opportunity to explore specific pathways including accounting, marketing, finance, and economics.

Whether you have a dream career carved out in your head or you’re pondering your options, going to university can equip you with skills that are valuable in any job role. With three-quarters of employers prioritising transferable skills over essential skills, it’s vital to know how university can make you more employable, whichever degree you choose.

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