The Degree Plus initiative at Queens means that you have the opportunity to earn an extra award alongside your degree. One of the biggest appeals of university for many people is the opportunities it gives you to meet new people and engage in activities which interest you and might help you make further decisions with your future career. And with Degree Plus you actually get credit for doing this!
There are numerous ways you can earn your Degree Plus, here are just a few;
Volunteering opportunities – something that always looks great on your CV, helping people for free! Within the university you will hear about many different volunteering opportunities, one of my personal favourites is Homework Club. Volunteering at Homework Club is the perfect activity if you are considering going into a career in education as it allows you to practise the skills needed to help other, younger students learn. And even if a career in education doesn’t interest you, Homework Club gives you skills in communication and is all round just a fun thing to do on a free afternoon!
Work experience – Any kind of career placement you do (as long as it’s not already part of your degree) can also earn you a Degree Plus. Personally, I can’t think of any reason why you wouldn’t do this. Placements are already great things to do as they give you an insight into your aspired career, give you skills that will make you stand out, and help you make contacts which will be highly valuable when you graduate. Once again, this is an activity that most people would want to do anyway and with Degree Plus you rewarded with more than just the experience!
Society Committees – Another example of activities that contribute towards a Degree Plus is joining a society committee! This is something which I highly recommend you do anyway, it’s a great way of meeting new people with similar interests and making friends, and much like everything else it helps you develop new skills to add onto that ever-growing CV. Joining a society committee is about as university as you can get, it’s something that you’ll never have the opportunity to do again, so go for it!
These really are just a few of the opportunities to earn your Degree Plus here at Queen’s. Hopefully it has given you some sort of idea as to what you can do here alongside your degree to make you stand out from the crowd. So, the bottom line is, go and discover a new adventure with Degree Plus! You never know what it might lead to.
You can check out the full activity lists and details of how you apply on the Degree Plus site.
Find something you’re interested in! Blogging is a great way to improve your employability, as regular articles will show off your content-writing skills to employers. On the other hand, playing a team sport will demonstrate that you understand how to work in a team. You could even try a hobby that is a bit more ‘out there’ – pushing the limits of what is considered the norm will give employers a reason to look twice at your CV!
Write, write, write
Queen’s has its own newspaper and other platforms which provide plenty of writing opportunities – get involved with these to hone your content and copywriting skills to stand you in good stead for graduate jobs. There is always a reason to improve your written communication, and journalism also contains elements of research. Ask around and find out what you can contribute, and don’t forget to keep a record of what you do to show employers later on!
Learn a language
Having a second (or third) language under your belt can help you to stand out in a competitive jobs market. Business in all forms is increasingly international so mastering a well-used language such as Spanish or French will often give you an edge. What’s more, the hard work and dedication that learning a new language entails is bound to impress employers. There are plenty of online resources and apps available to help you to become bilingual!
Take a short course
There’s no better way to improve your graduate employability than by embarking on a short course to improve your skills. Short, online courses from providers such as FutureLearn and Coursera are available in a range of subjects, so if you want to discover what’s involved in a particular role or brush up on soft skills there will be a course for you. It doesn’t have to be related to your career – any course taken demonstrates to employers your initiative and organisational skills!
Become an ambassador
Being a student ambassador is the perfect chance to demonstrate your drive and commitment, all without doing too much strenuous work. MyFuture often advertises opportunities for student assistants in the university and students’ union in a range of areas. Often these jobs will pay, so it can be doubly worth your while applying. Lots of companies also have university ambassador schemes, which you can apply to as well!
For more on developing your employability at Queen’s visit our Degree Plus site and find out how you can get an award at graduation on recognition of the skills you have built up.
Thought about volunteering but don’t know where to start? Órla Mallon from our MEDIA programme has collated this handy guide. Read on and prepare to feel good.
Volunteering is a fantastic way to make a difference during your time at University – and Queen’s has an opportunity for everyone. You can develop a range of skills, communication, organisation, problem solving, adaptability and much more. The invaluable skills you can gain will look great on your CV and will show potential employers that you can take initiative and work hard for something you’re passionate about. Being a volunteer also gives you a chance to give back to your local community and make new friends!
Here are seven different volunteering opportunities available – but remember the list doesn’t end here. Check out the QUB Volunteer page, or Volunteer SU website for more options.
Raise Funds for Charity
Charities such as Nexus NI, Guide Dogs for the Blind, and Action on Hearing Loss (and many more) are always in need of local fundraisers. Not only could you be helping raise funds for charity, but you can demonstrate your organisational and communication skills. Or, if you know any other worthy causes, don’t be afraid to get involved to raise some cash!
Volunteer with the Elderly
Sometimes older people need a hand sometimes – and it is so easy to be there for a chat. If you consider yourself a good communicator, or you want an opportunity to develop those skills, there are many roles available with Parkinson’s UK or Age UK, or, become a helpline operator onHourglass NI. You could also lend your hand to those suffering with Dementia or Alzheimer’s through The Alzheimer’s Society.
Be part of Local Conservation Efforts
If you have a passion for environmental issues, and especially if you want a career within the environment sector, this is a perfect opportunity! Belfast City Council often runs conservation programmes, as well as opportunities with the National Trust.
Help in a local Charity Shop
There is a charity shop on almost every street in Belfast – and they are often looking for volunteers! Oxfam, Cancer Research UK, British Red CrossandMarie Curie are just to name a few. Check with your local charity shop to find opportunities and develop your interpersonal and communication skills while you’re at it.
Join the Fight to End Homelessness
Volunteering with Simon Community NImight just be one of the best things you ever do. They are Northern Ireland’s leading charity in the bid to end homelessness and aim to provide a roof over everybody’s head. Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, they have issued an urgent appeal for emergency staff, demonstrate your ability to take initiative and volunteer now!
Promote positive Mental Health and Wellbeing
Northern Ireland charity Mindwise aims to support people living with severe mental illness, through a wide range of methods, including providing housing, navigating the criminal justice system, supporting vulnerable people, and creating resource centres for people to socialise. Many of their volunteer opportunities involve facilitating or teaching a class – so if you have an interest in music, photography or gardening, this would be perfect for you! Mindwise also provide Safeguarding Adults training, and First Aid training, skills that are valued in any workplace.
This is just a short list of all the potential ways you could make a difference while you’re at Uni, so keep looking for opportunities to create positive change!
Volunteering can count towards your Degree Plus award. To find out how, visit the Degree Plus site.
Lunch and learn all about Queen’s employability award on 11 November from 12.30pm- 1.30pm.
What is Degree Plus?
Degree Plus is Queen’s employability award. It allows you to earn an extra certificate at graduation in recognition of the extra-curricular activities you take part in during your time at Queen’s. Volunteering, exchange programmes, peer mentoring and language courses all count towards the award.
How do you earn Degree Plus?
There are two ways of earning your Degree Plus Award. The first is called Provider Verified – where you complete one big activity and the activity provider automatically applies for the award on your behalf. The second route is called Combined Experience – this is where you complete two or more smaller extra-curricular activities and you apply for the award yourself, stating on the application form which of the 12 Degree Plus Employability Skills you enhanced during your chosen activities.
Provider Verified is the most straightforward way to get the award. Once you have completed the activity, you will automatically be recommended for the award. You don’t need to do anything else except collect your certificate at graduation (it will list the activities you completed on the certificate).
What happens at the Degree Plus Employability Festival?
During the Degree Plus Employability Festival, you will have a chance to meet providers who are offering programmes, activities and courses that are pre-approved for Degree Plus accreditation.
These are people who have the power to make you more employable in a number of ways. Firstly, the programmes they offer are designed to enhance your employability skills, making you instantly more attractive to prospective employers. Secondly, just by completing their activity, you will be provided with an award that you can talk about in future interviews as proof positive of your skills. Lastly, the fact that you took part in an activity and earned the award is in itself a testament of your initiative and automatically sets you apart from the crowd.
What types of providers are attending the festival?
From exchange and placement programmes to volunteering, research, mentoring and language courses, there will be a number of providers there offering a range of fun and rewarding activities that can help you achieve an extra certificate at graduation in recognition of the skills you have developed. All the providers attending the festival have confirmed that they are still running their programmes and activities this year.
Who else will be at the Festival?
You can also chat with the Degree Plus team and hear what employers like EY and NICVA have to say about the award.
Where is it being held?
The Festival is being held virtually in MyFuture, our online careers portal. You might previously have used MyFuture to search for jobs and events, or even to access CV help and support. But the portal has added a host of new features, including a virtual event hosting function, so we are excited to show you around.
Where does the lunch bit come in?
All attending students will be entered into a draw to win one of six £20 Just Eat vouchers – now who said there is no such thing as a free lunch?
The DEGREE PLUS EMPLOYABILITY FESTIVAL is being held virtually on 11 November between 12.30-1.30pm.
Degree Plus recognises the skills and experience you have built up during your extracurricular activities at Queen’s. The two important elements being that you have to take part in the activity while you are at Queen’s and that the activity must not be part of your course.
Here is more on the types of activities that count towards the award.
Eimear Gallagher, Business Operations Manager and Degree Plus lead says: “A lot of people try things for the first time at Queen’s. For any hobby, sport or activity you are interested in, there is a wealth of activities available. You might also be involved in full or part time work, volunteering or networking with employers. It is all available during your time at Queen’s and Degree Plus helps you make the most of that.”
Challenge and stretch yourself
As well as having fun, you can gain valuable skills and experience to impress employers through your extracurricular activities at Queen’s. A future employer might ask you what else did you do at Queen’s outside your degree. They will want to know how challenging and stretching those experiences were.
“Activities that genuinely stretch and challenge you are the ones that you enjoy the most,” says Eimear. “Those are the ones for which you will get accreditation.
She adds: “We also want you to learn and gain practice in articulating the skills that you are gaining from Degree Plus and the extracurricular activities you have been involved in so you can convey those with impact in an interview situation.”
Types of activities
Typically Degree Plus activities run the gamut from management and commercial awareness programmes such as Innovation Bootcamp, the Stock Market Challenge, Dragon’s Den, Free Student Membership of the Institute of Directors (100 free places) as well as Leadership Development programmes such as Queen’s Global Leadership programme, Inspiring Leaders, and Leadership in Practice (UOTC). Other activities include Students’ Union enterprise and volunteering programmes and Language Centre extracurricular courses. Extracurricular placement and internships also count towards Degree Plus. However, if a placement is embedded on your degree course then it cannot be used as part of your Degree Plus application.
Please note for 2020/21 some Provider Verified activities are not running while some are being offered remotely. To find out more, check our menu lists on the Degree Plus website for updates.
If you are applying for Degree Plus yourself via the Combined Experience route, then the two activities cannot be the same type of experience. You should combine two activities that developed different skills. For example, a part -time job in the supermarket and a language course, or volunteering in the community and participating in a sport.
How much time do I have to spend doing the activity?
The amount of time it takes to complete an activity depends on the intensity of the activity. At the minimal end it might be 12-15 hours right up to 200 hours over a year or two. The time invested depends on the activity and the nature of the activity.
If you are including participation in a sport as one of your two Combined Experience, for example, we want to know that you di more than passively turn up. It’s all about how much you engaged and what you got out of the experience as a result – this should all be reflected in your application form.
To find out more about Provider Verified activities for the year ahead, don’t miss our Degree Plus Festival on 11 November
At Queen’s, we refer to the two types of Degree Plus award using the terms ‘Provider Verified’ (formerly Route A) and ‘Combined Experience’ (formerly Route B) – but what do these terms mean and what is the difference? Eimear Gallagher, who leads the Degree Plus team at Queen’s, is here with this quick explainer.
A Provider Verified activity means a third party automatically recommends you for the award
The most straightforward route to gaining your Degree Plus award is through the Provider Verified route. This is where you complete a significant extracurricular activity from the approved list, for example, a Careers service development programme, SU Handy Helpers, an inspiring leaders programme or certain Language Centre programmes.
You don’t need to apply for Degree Plus via the Provider Verified route
The activities listed on the Provider Verified menu offer the opportunity to gain significant experience over several days, or months. In this case, the approved provider advertises organises and assesses the activity. The provider then submits a pass list to the Degree Plus team so we can update your QSIS record and arrange your Degree Plus certificate ahead of graduation. You do not need to do anything else once you have successfully completed the programme.
Why do you not need to apply for Provider Verified Degree Plus?
The activities on the Provider Verified menu have already been vetted by our Degree Plus team as being significantly challenging, so they are ‘pre-approved’ as being eligible for the award
A key part of Degree Plus is reflecting on the skills you have developed during a programme or activity. When you complete a Provider Verified activity, that reflection is embedded in the activity.
“Degree Plus is about developing your skills, experiential development and networking. If completed in full, a Provided Verified activity will include some form of articulating back to the provider what you have gained,” explains Eimear Gallagher who heads up the Degree Plus programme at Queen’s.
This means as part of the programme or activity, you will be asked to evaluate what you have gained through an assessment exercise. This might be a presentation, interview or application form set by the provider asking you to reflect on which of the Degree Plus skills you have developed and how.
Once you complete and pass the provider’s assessment exercise, your name will be added to a pass list and sent to the Degree Plus team to update your student record. You can complete as many Degree Plus Provider verified activities as you like. You will receive one certificate at graduation with the activities listed.
Combined Experience means you have to self-nominate yourself for the award
The Combined Activity route offers the opportunity to complete two or more small activities and complete an application form. The two activities should be from the approved menu and must demonstrate different Degree Plus skills. For example, you might complete the form using your part-time job and your volunteering experience as your two activities, but in your application form, you must demonstrate that you gained different skills during each experience.
Combined Experience menu activities include membership of a club or society, employer challenges and insight programmes and volunteering opportunities. “It could be a part-time job in Tesco or your local supermarket and a six-week language course,” says Eimear. “Work experience doesn’t have to be a placement with a graduate employer. It could be volunteering in the community in your home town, participating in a sport or Red Cross volunteering.”
You only need to apply for Degree Plus Combined Experience once. You will receive one certificate at graduation with ‘Combined Experience’ detailed on the parchment.
“The application formgives you the opportunity to practice articulating your experience on a form,” says Eimear. This practice will come in handy when you come to apply for jobs.
You will also need to evidence the activities.
“Evidence could be a payslip, an email from a voluntary group saying you have engaged in a certain amount of volunteering over a set number of weeks, or an email from an SU clubs or society confirming your involvement,” says Eimear.
Degree Plus is about actively engaging in activities, not passively turning up. In your application form, you need to demonstrate to the Degree Plus panel what you contributed and what you got out of it – keeping theDegree Plus skills at the forefront of your mind.
When do I need to apply for Combined Activity?
There are two chances to apply each year: the winter deadline is midnight on November 1 and the summer deadline is midnight on April 1.
While these deadlines are set to enable those graduating in winter and summer to achieve the award in time for their graduation ceremony, students in pre-final year can apply by these deadlines in order to bank the award early. In that case, it will remain on your student record and you will receive your Degree Plus certificate at graduation.
“If you are first or second year, you could use either of those windows to upload your application now and we will assess it,” says Eimear. “If you don’t meet it the first time, we will give you feedback, and you will have a second opportunity to re submit.”
If you missed our recent Degree Plus intro session, you can rewatch it here:
When it comes to articulating the skills you have developed during your time at Queen’s, Degree Plus is a great tool to have in your armour. Here is why.
Degree Plus is supported by employers
“Employers like EY and Nicva are putting their name to the award – that is an indication of the level of interest and support employers have in students who complete this award,” says Eimear Gallagher, Business Operations Manager at Careers, Employability and Skills, who heads up Degree Plus.
It quantifies your soft skills
“Degree Plus develops your employability. Even if an employer has never heard of the Degree Plus award, they will definitely be interested to see that you have completed a significant amount of extracurricular activity. It shows you have stepped up above and beyond your degree programme, and that you’ve managed your time effectively and balanced it with your studies,” says Eimear.
She adds: “The fact that you can present the validation of those activities in the form of a certificate helps to give employers security that everything you are saying you can back up and evidence through both your degree and your Degree Plus certificate.
It shows initiative
“Degree Plus is an indicator of initiative.,” says Eimear. “Degree Plus is not compulsory – it shows you chose to set up and accept the challenge of exploring a new interest.”
It allows you to practice articulating your skills
Both routes to Degree Plus involve an element of self-reflection during which you will be asked to analyse which of the Degree Plus skills you have developed and how.
With the Provider Verified route, this might involve a presentation or form at the end of the programme. For Combined Experience, you will be asked to complete an application form to evidence the skills you have gained during two extracurricular activities.
Either way, this self-reflective element forms a key part of the award.
“We want you to learn and gain practice in articulating the skills that you are gaining from Degree Plus and the extracurricular activities you have been involved in so you can convey those with impact in an interview situation,” says Eimear. “To be able to articulate these things and how they’ve helped you; how your employability has developed through them – that’s an important skill in itself.”
Whether you are graduating this year or just want to bank the award early, Eimear Gallagher, who heads up Queen’ s employability programme, is here to answer all your burning questions.
What is Degree Plus?
“Degree Plus is about encouraging you to get involved in extracurricular activities in and around Queen’s, but also to give you the opportunity to get a reward for that; to get an accreditation from the University and have it recorded on your Queen’s QSIS record,” says Eimear.
She adds: “At graduation, in addition to your Queen’s parchment confirming your degree, you also get a Degree Plus certificate. That is confirmation from the University that you completed an activity or activities and it will name the specific activities you have undertaken as well.”
What counts towards Degree Plus?
“There are a large number of activities to choose from, the last count was over 180. There are two different routes – Provider Verified and Combined Experience,” says Eimear.
“There is no compulsion to do it,” says Eimear. “It’s for people who want to differentiate themselves and to stand out from the crowd; stand out from others with whom you’d be competing in graduate labour markets.”
Eimear Gallagher is the Business Operations Manager at Queen’s Careers, Employability and Skills. To contact the Degree Plus team, email firstname.lastname@example.org
Emma Kelly, a student on our MEDIA Programme, on why Degree plus is the secret CV weapon every student needs.
1.Employers recognise its value
Degree Plus is an employability award that you gain alongside graduation that demonstrates your dedication to extracurricular activity at Queens University. It adds an extra boost to your CV and is well renowned among employers as it signals to them that you worked hard to develop the skills that are needed for their workplace.
2.It can give you an edge in the job market
University students are constantly being told that the job market is fierce and competitive, regardless of what field you are in. Unfortunately, the situation has only worsened during the pandemic. Final year students may be feeling hopeless at the prospect of graduating into our economy; therefore, we are continuously looking for something to give us an edge over our competitors. Degree Plus could be that extra something to boost your CV.
3.Alumni vouch for it
Queens University Belfast alumni Ciara O’Neill graduated with a BSc in Psychology. In her final year, Ciara looked towards Degree Plus as a way of strengthening her CV and received Degree Plus with her degree. Since graduation she has completed a Master’s in Clinical Psychology, worked as a project worker for a children’s charity and is now a senior psychologist. Ciara’s resume speaks for itself; she has done incredible things since her graduation and she credits Degree Plus for strengthening her applications to her Master’s programmes and subsequent jobs.
Ciara felt receiving Degree Plus demonstrated to her employers that she was well-rounded and was more than her First Class Degree. Her volunteering and societies participation were outside the realms of her degree, this strengthened the view that she went above and beyond just completing a degree at Queen’s.
4.It provides great examples for interviews
When applying for her positions post-graduation, Ciara drew upon the skills that she developed through her experiences with Degree Plus. These extracurricular activities allowed her to develop her communication skills – which is the hallmark of any psychologist – and her Degree Plus experiences provided a great talking point in her interviews. It also demonstrated her flexibility and her ability of time management – skills that are valued by employers in all fields!
5.You can choose how you earn it
Degree Plus has two routes, verified activities (previously known as route A) and combined experience (route B). Ciara opted for the Combined experience as she met the requirements through her volunteering and participation in societies which she fit around her completion of her Psychology degree.
6.You might already qualify and not know it
Ciara recalls someone mentioning Degree Pus to her in her final year, she checked the requirements and realised she met them. She didn’t have to do anything extra. “It looks great on my CV,” she said, adding that the formal recognition of extracurricular activities was a testament to the life she lived on Queen’s Campus. Ciara thoroughly enjoyed the time she spent volunteering and in societies – the Degree Plus qualification was just an added bonus!
If you are a final year student reading this post, it’s important you check the Queen’s website to view the requirements for Degree Plus. Perhaps you might be surprised to see you meet the requirements – there are hundreds of activities which could qualify you for this award.
To learn more about Degree Plus, join our information session on 6 October at 1pm.
From expert guidance to building your CV, our Careers Consultant Mary McLaughlin explains how to start planning your career at Queen’s – whatever your study stage.
1.Make an appointment with a Careers Consultant
The Careers Consultants are available to meet with you in a one-one appointment to help you navigate the job search for part-time and on-campus jobs as well as potential summer internships and placements related to your area of study. The Consultants are normally located in the Student Guidance Centre and are currently conducting appointments online. Make an appointment via MyFuture.
2. Log into MyFuture
MyFuture is the University’s online careers management system. In the system you will find on-campus jobs as well as other part-time student jobs, summer internships and placements, and full-time positions for graduates. This is a great place for you to start your search for an on-campus or part-time job as well as to find opportunities to go abroad and events to connect with local employers. You will also use MyFuture to book one-one meetings with Careers Consultants. Use your student ID to log in.
3. Fit job experience around your studies
As you consider taking on a part-time job or getting involved in extracurricular activities, it’s important to make sure that you save plenty of your time for studying and all of the reading that many of your classes will require. This is particularly important in the first semester, when you are adjusting to University life and courses. The University policy for on-campus jobs allows for working only 15 hours per week during term-time to allow you enough time to focus on your studies. Search jobs on campus.
4. Access free online career planning tools and resources
Queen’s Careers website has a wealth of information for those of you searching for a job whether that be part-time, a placement, or a graduate position. Get tips on where to search for jobs, how to write a great CV and cover letter, and how to prepare for an interviews. Also, the website has information on international opportunities and programming with employers from Belfast and beyond! Visit the Careers website.
5. Make your extracurricular activities count
Many of you will work part-time jobs, volunteer, or take part in a student society or progamme offered by Careers, Employability and Skills during your time as a student. You can gain accreditation for completing extracurricular work-related learning alongside your degree through DegreePlus. The certification helps you to articulate your development and achievements to others, including potential future employers. You’ll also receive a certificate at graduation. Discover DegreePlus
For more information or to discover how Queen’s Careers Team can help you plan your future, get in touch.