Choosing the right college or university study course – South Africa

Choosing the right college or university study course – South Africa

Do not study non-technical courses at college!


The Life Orientation subject in high school is usually the last scheduled in the day and most learners get bored and take for granted. Surprisingly, it gets the most distinction passes in matric! A topic within this subject is “Careers, Jobs and Entrepreneurs”. I remember during an assignment where I researched what I wanted to study and work. This was an important assignment as it made a young boy from a township school think critically and make important life decision. Without this assignment I may possibly have fallen into the “choose what’s available” slot.


Many young people do not pay enough attention on careers and study option while in high school. It is very important to distinguish skills course and academic course. Skills courses are fundamentally different from academic course mainly due to the teaching and learning methods and the learning outcomes need to complete a qualification. Many you people tend to apply late for tertiary education; many choose universities primarily and colleges secondary. Many choose to apply for the same courses in these institution (e.g marketing, business management and HR). I would like to WARN young people against studying non-technical courses in colleges! Colleges have specific courses which require trade tests and experiential learning. They largely produce technical skills which are lifelong competent. This means, a successful college graduate with a technical skill qualification can be entrepreneur for life. Common examples are plumbers, electricians, diesel engine mechanics and most recently early childhood development educators, sound engineers and drone technicians.

Conversely, I would like to WARN young people against studying technical courses at university! Universities generally offer higher certificates, diplomas, and degrees for a variety of qualifications and career fields. It is important to know that at university, the same academic course can be offered as a Diploma or Degree depending on the learning outcomes and student entry requirements. Be careful and know the difference. Some technical qualifications completed at universities may be less valuable than a college qualification. For example, a Diploma in IT and a Degree in IT have different leaning outcomes and have different employment opportunities. An IT Technician job would require a Diploma, but a Data Analyst would require a Degree.


Ask yourself, what is your vision? Where do you see yourself in 5 years? What type of problem is your qualification going to solve? Are you sure you want to study and work in this field for the rest of your life?

The best place to start is to make two lists. The first list is about things that interest you, things that you enjoy doing, and the school subjects in which you perform well. The second list contains things that you do not find stimulating or interesting. Identify whether you want a technical skill or academic. Look out for bursary opportunities and check the requirements and apply for funding.



Use your mobile data wisely and do some research. In South Africa there is a national scarce skills list of jobs in demand for a 5-10 year period, use this to see whether your chosen career or study option will get you that job! Think long term, get a mentor or someone who has studied what you want to study. Go to YouTube and keep informed of the field you are interested in.

it is also important to look to the future when choosing a career. Many current career options may become obsolete in years to come as technology evolves and processes and behaviours change. Others will become more relevant and we will also see the rise of new career options




89 thoughts on “Choosing the right college or university study course – South Africa

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