What to study to land a job in South Africa

 ·28 Jan 2024

Young South Africans who just matriculated face a difficult decision over what to study, with future employment opportunities often on the mind.

Nedbank said that becoming a doctor, accountant, lawyer, or engineer is often the ‘safest’ option in terms of career path and pleasing one’s parents. These can be a good field for those who have the marks to get into them.

However, one must always consider their own strengths and passions when choosing a course to study.

“If you can earn your living in a job that you’re passionate about, you’ll have more chance of achieving success than you would doing something unfulfilling purely for financial security,” Nedbank said.

It also provided a list of questions that one must consider when choosing what to study:

  • What are my strengths?

  • What am I most passionate about?

  • Which careers will remain in demand in the future?

  • What kind of lifestyle do I want in my future?

  • What are my weaknesses and limitations, and which of these can I work through?

Although choosing what to study is based on the individual, there are several industries that can offer a wide variety of employment opportunities.

Information technology

The increased speed of advancing technology and digitalisation is unlikely to slow down, and the Information Technology (IT) field will continue to be a strong career option.

Degrees in computer science or software engineering can lay a strong foundation, as there is both theory and practice.

“A diploma in a related field like information technology or computer engineering can also open doors to entry-level coding or software development jobs. And if you really want to focus on the hands-on stuff, getting a diploma in software development or coding will give you more specific experience,” Nedbank said.

“With no matric certificate at all, you may be able to teach yourself coding through free online courses, then sell those skills as a freelancer or contractor. However, when it comes to applying for a full-time job with a company, employers often want to see certificates and qualifications.”

Health and wellness

The health and wellness industry is growing incredibly quickly.

The field goes beyond old-school beauty products, such as the field of somatology, which is the study of mental and physical well-being.

There are several possible courses to take, such as a BTech (Somatology), a somatology diploma or other specific short courses for certification in areas like personal training, yoga instruction or aromatherapy.

“It’s a field in which you’ll have intimate professional contact with clients, so your people skills are crucial. While studying for a somatology degree or diploma and majoring in your area of interest, consider taking additional courses in psychology, social sciences, nutrition or dietetics – or any other discipline that will help you interact with clients and advise them on lifestyle choices,” Nedbank said.

“These could prove very useful in your career, as they allow you to offer a holistic approach to personal care.”

Digital Marketing

Digital marketing is a simple combination of traditional marketing with the power of technology.

“It’s about understanding consumer behaviours and using that knowledge, combined with IT, to drive sales, customer loyalty and brand awareness. It includes copywriting, web design, analytics, search engine optimisation (SEO), web marketing, social media management and more,” Nedbank said.

Courses such as a BCom (Digital Marketing) will give insights into consumer behaviour, how to read market trends, and how to construct marketing strategies.

A diploma in copywriting and digital marketing or media practices are also good options, as is studying business administration with a marketing specialisation.

Travel, tourism and hospitality

The hospitality industry has three broad roles – hotel management, food and hospitality services, and guest relations.

Degrees or diplomas in tourism and hospitality are smart moves as they create a big-picture industry view and delve into specific areas, such as planning, marketing and managing operations.

There are also peripheral courses that can help develop people skills that are necessary for jobs, such as customer service, communication and leadership.

Other roles in the industry, including chef, bus driver, tour guide, and travel agent, also require specialised training and certification.

Renewable energy

“Eskom load shedding has been a problem facing South Africa for years, and it’s likely to remain so for some time, so why not be a part of a sustainable solution? From working on solar and wind farms to helping research and find ways to improve these systems, a career in renewable energy is a sure way to secure a bright future,” Eskom said.

“You could study engineering, logistics, or even marketing and sales – depending on which sector you want to enter.”

BCom degrees with a major in logistics and supply chain management are also good choices as they look at the essential transportation, storage, and distribution costs for renewable energy projects.

“Additionally, having an accredited qualification in marketing and sales can be beneficial in the sustainable energy sector, as it involves promoting and selling renewable-energy products and services.”

“There are also opportunities for professionals in fields like finance and project management, which are essential in any organisation.”

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