But after 12 years and five albums, the award-winning songstress would not be doing anything else.
"I was studying philosophy in Glasgow 20 years ago and I always thought that was the big thing I wanted to do with my life," she said.
"I spun off into music by accident, I'd always loved singing and I joined a community singing group when I moved to Edinburgh just for the craic.
"We ended up doing pub sessions and through that people started offering me work.
"I've never looked back since."
After graduating with a Masters in Philosophical Inquiry, Karine's first job was teaching philosophical thought to primary school children in Castlemilk and the West End.
"It was all based on stories that had lots of ideas in them and using them as a way to get kids to ask questions and then they would become the topics of our class debates," she said.
"Some of the topics were really deep, like justice and fairness and they were trying to make sense of infinity and nothingness.
"I got such a lot out of doing that work, it was inspiring and now I know how switched on kids are."
She also spent six years working for charity Scottish Women's Aid.
"I worked as a play scheme worker and then working with women and kids who were temporarily homeless and living away from home because of domestic abuse," she said.
"I also ended up in schools again working with young people on anti-violence training and awareness raising.
"It was all amazing work and I met amazing people through it.
"As much as I loved my job, it was difficult work and I think at that time I had reached the end of what I had to give to it.
"Eventually I saw an opportunity to take a jump into music, I feel like I've been really lucky."
She's since released five solo albums of contemporary folk; Faultlines, Scribbled in Chalk, Fairest Floo'er, This Earthly Spell and the newly-released Traces.
She's also heavily involved in the Scottish folk music scene, working with Idlewild's Roddy Woomble, Orcadian folk three-piece Lau and singer Kris Drever and she's one eighth of Scottish-Canadian supergroup; The Burns Unit, comprising King Creosote, Emma Pollock, Future Pilot AKA, Kim Edgar, Mattie Foulds, MC Soom T and Michael Johnston.
Along with Inge Thomson on accordion and percussion, Karine's younger brother Steven is in her own band, providing backing vocals and acoustic and electric guitars.
"He's my bedrock back-up guy, I'd find it very difficult to make my music without him and we write quite a lot together, we're a team," she said.
The songstress is looking forward to her return to Glasgow's Oran Mor, where she'll play with a full seven-piece band, including; Sarah Hayes from Glasgow indie pop band Admiral Fallow on flute, Leila Dunn on Clarinet, Olympic Swimmer's Graeme Smillie and percussion expert Iain Sandilands.
"It's a rare chance for a bigger line-up instead of just the three of us," said Karine.
"It will help to bring in some of the layers of this album.
"It will be the first time I've played in the auditorium of the Oran Mor since my first album back in 2004, I think the venue had only just opened at that point, so it's a nice sort of coming full circle.
"It's a treat of a venue and a treat of a line-up as well."
n Karine Polwart, The Auditorium, Oran Mor, Byres Road, Glasgow, Wednesday, September 19. Doors open 7pm, tickets £15 and can be purchased in person behind the bar or by visiting www.ticketmaster.co.uk