The starting block

On your mark... get set... go!

If you are reading this website, chances are you are contemplating your future career move. Whether you are in grade 9 about to choose subjects, have recently completed school, or if you are simply just considering a career move, you are all probably feeling a fair amount of uncertainty. Making important life decisions such as what to do or study after school can often make you feel flustered, and the mere thought of it may leave you feeling exhausted, much like a sprint in a big race.

Choosing your future career is probably the most important decision you will ever have to make. The key to making the right decision, as with anything in life, is to be informed. To be armed with all the necessary information you need to make the right decisions. These decisions will ultimately determine the course of the rest of your life, or at the very least build the foundation on which to build your career and future success.

To make these all important decisions about your career and your future, it is important to know what options are available to you. Familiarise yourself with the South African Higher Education system, and then figure out which route would provide you with the best possible outcome.

Important things to consider include the obvious “what to study” and “where to study”, but equally important things to consider would be how to finance your studies, if your course is nationally and internationally recognised, and whether or not the institution is accredited.

It may all seem a bit overwhelming. You may think to yourself “so many things to consider... how do I know the ones I choose will be the best ones for me?” To help set you on course, we have compiled a step by step guide of everything you should be thinking about as you take the first of those all important steps towards career success!

Step 1

Know Yourself

The road to self-discovery is often a lifelong journey. Some people know exactly who they are and what they want to be doing for the rest of their lives, while others may only discover themselves well into adulthood. A useful way of identifying what your interests are, and linking up your personality type to these interests is by completing a career assessment (page 17), which is similar to an evaluation done by a career councilor or psychologist.

Through a career assessment, your personality type, interests, strengths and weaknesses are analysed. Based on this assessment, your personality type will be linked up to a list of possible career, which you would most likely be suited to.

Professional assessments can be quite costly, and if you feel that you need professional help in deciding your career path, most tertiary institutions have qualified career councilors on hand to answer your career-related questions. It is important to also research as much on possible on the careers you think you may be interested in to ensure you know exactly what it entails.

Step 2

Weigh your Options

Once you have decided on your career, now is the time to start your Career Path. Determine which route will be the best to go about achieving your qualification by understanding the various qualifications on offer, and which will be more beneficial for your chosen career. For example, would a degree, diploma or learnership be more suited to your chosen career.

Perhaps you may need to consider your social circumstances by choosing an institution close to home, or even distance-learning should you need to work to finance your studies.

Step 3

Institution Intuition

Once you have decided on the type of qualification you want to pursue, the next step would be to decide which type of institution – University, University of Technology, FET College, etc. – would be the most practical means of achieving your qualification.

Distance Learning as mentioned above is a popular choice amongst those who wish to study at their own pace, or those who may need to work whilst studying. There are other important things to consider as well including costs and entrance requirements which vary greatly from institution to institution, as in step 4 below. It is important to gather as much information as you can about the courses on offer at these institutions, and about the institution itself, especially whether it is recognised and accredited by the Council of Higher Education.

Step 4

Doing the Groundwork

Once you have decided on the institution and type of qualification, gather as much information as you can on registering and completing your degree. This includes admission requirements (many institutions base admission on the point system), closing date for applications, course fees, course duration, residence fees, etc. All tertiary institutions have websites where all this information can be found, as well as handbooks which they will gladly post to you no matter are in the country. Most universities have all the necessary information online as well.

Step 5

Yes, Money does Matter

Do not let money, or the lack thereof put you off pursuing your career goals. Given the tough economic environment, financial constraint is a very big issue for many South Africans. Many families are struggling to put food on their tables, and simply don’t have the means to send their kids to university. There are however financial solutions for If you do not have the financial means study after school, or to attend the institution of your choice. Enquire with your bank or tertiary institution’s Financial Aid office as to whether you are eligible for Financial Aid. This includes Student Loans, Bursaries or Scholarships. The latter 2 are usually awarded based on results, dependant on results and progress throughout the study period, which will be tracked by the sponsoring company, institution or organization.

Step 6


Once you are confident that you have all the information you need, and have made your decision regarding what, where and how to study, it is important that you do not delay in getting your application in. You do not have to wait until you get your final grade 12 results to apply to a tertiary institution – most institutions require applications to be submitted prior to final examinations, and use June or preliminary results to provisionally accept you, and then final results to confirm placement. Just remember that there are potentially thousands of students vying for placement at tertiary institutions, so the earlier you apply, the better your chances are you’ll get accepted. It is very important to have a back-up plan and to apply at more than one institution, just in case you don’t get accepted at your first choice.

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