If you have obtained your diploma in humanities, but are somewhat disheartened by its value on the current job market, you might eventually arrive to the radical decision of making a horizontal career leap to seek employment in sciences or engineering. While this makes economical sense, you will soon realise that in order to pursue such a career, you must first pursue the education.
When we are talking about a radical career change (like from a language teacher to a software engineer), some short crash course into the field will often not suffice, and you will find yourself browsing bachelor programmes before you know it. However, when you are an expat, things tend to get more complicated (subtext: longer and more expensive), so you better do your research before you make your final decision.
High School All Over Again
In order to enrol at a Dutch research university or a university of applied sciences (hogeschool), you should be a HAVO or VWO graduate.Effectively, this means that you have to produce a recognised equivalent of a high school diploma with a particular set of subjects. This set will differ per study programme you want to pursue in the higher education, but the chances are that it will be some mix of mathematics, chemistry, physics and biology. Dutch pupils receive this diploma when they are 17 or 18 years old, but you can also obtain it as an adult.
Luckily, it does not mean that you have to attend an actual high school for its full duration. There are specialised VWO courses where you can pick the curriculum you need. Depending on how many courses you need to take, the whole process can cost you a year of your time and almost as much tuition money as you will pay later for your higher education.
If you are a stubborn expat, you will be happy to hear that there are also VWO courses and exams in English out there, however, if your plan is to follow a study programme in Dutch afterwards, it might be the path of least resistance to also do your VWO in Dutch. If you indeed choose to do so, you may be required to pass your NT2 exam first (you will need it for the university anyway).
Watch Your Language
Back to the university requirements:as a foreigner, aside from your HAVO/VWO, you will also be required to prove your language efficiency by presenting either your NT2 certificate (for study in Dutch) or IELTS or TOEFL certificate (for study in English). It is always advisable to first check with your chosen school which certifications you need to obtain in your particular situation to be eligible for their study programme.
All in all, obtaining a solid education costs substantial amount of time, money and effort, so you should think twice about your motivation and commitment to do so. For the same reason, you should be sure to pick a study programme in a field that will increase, not sabotage your career prospects. Good talk to a career coach can save you money and time in the long run. On the bright side, once you have your new Dutch diploma in hand, you have a comparative advantage on the job market. Veronika Bacova
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