Offbeat courses taking edge among students

Offbeat courses taking edge among students

preferred Career options for students who specialise in robotics have expanded. DH Photo/ B H Shivakumar

Gone are the days when Indian students either opted for engineering or medical after the completion of their high school. Today’s generation is not shy from taking the road less travelled. At present, unlike earlier, they have a range of options to choose in compliance with their personal interests and skill sets. The 2018 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange reveals that Indian and other international students in the US are turning to off-beat courses, while traditional STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) courses continue to be their top preferences; some specialised courses such as Robotics, Automation and Mechatronics are also witnessing an increasing demand. As we draw closer to 2019, let’s look at some courses that will gain popularity in the forthcoming year. 


Because of the rapid progress of AI (artificial intelligence), robots are no longer considered dumb-machines doing simple, repetitive tasks. With the arrival of humanoids like Sophia and SoftBank’s Pepper, they have made huge leaps in recent years. Simultaneously, the career options for students who specialise in robotics have expanded, from conducting research to designing industrial robots in a variety of industries. Therefore, the student ratio opting for Robotic courses is likely to go up in 2019. 


With the Fourth Industry Revolution (4IR), automation has already started making profound impacts on the business world. Be it manufacturing, automotive or retail, nearly every sector is now investing heavily on automating tasks that are tedious, repetitive and dangerous. As traditional job roles are evolving, the demand for automation experts is growing by the day. This explains why a large number of international students is now inclining towards automation courses. Other than automation engineering, certification courses in industrial automation are also expected to take off next year. 


Mechatronics is a new branch of engineering that has caught the attention of students lately. The Stanford University’s online portal describes it as the intersection of mechanical engineering, electronic engineering and software engineering. Broadly speaking, mechatronics engineering focuses on technologies involved in building intelligent electro-mechanical systems.

After completion of their course, graduates can look for work opportunities in various areas including automation and robotics, AI and expert systems, sensing and control systems, computer-integrated manufacturing systems and transportation and vehicular systems. Since it is a specialised field, only a few universities currently offer this course at undergraduate and postgraduate levels. 


At a time when people with disabilities make for 15 per cent of the global population, the demand for disability support workers is on a rapid rise in many countries. In Australia, for example, the Healthcare and Social Assistance sector is speculated to grow 16.1 per cent by 2025, creating over 2,50,500 new jobs. Students with a degree in disability programme can find a wide range of jobs. Be it a speech therapist or a full-time caregiver, the options are plenty.
Students can also decide to work for government bodies after graduation. Most medical schools in popular study destinations offer specialised courses in disability care. 

Another course that is tipped to gain popularity in 2019 is infection control. This specialised field of study prepares students to work in an array of settings such as hospitals, healthcare facilities, government departments and private labs among others. While some universities offer regular courses in infection control, there are also certificate courses or part-time programmes on the subject. In most countries, however, they need to get a licence before they start their professional life. 

Besides these courses, students are also getting lured by other interdisciplinary programmes like geophysics, marine engineering, game design and development, says the 2018 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange. The scenario in India is not much different. Although most of them still prefer to choose a safe career path, popularity for unconventional courses is slowly growing. For the coming New Year, it is expected that this shift in their demeanour will majorly influence the careers.

(The author is with ESS-Global)

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