Firstly, find out which career suits your personality and then come back here to find out which qualifications to pursue to get a step ahead of the rest in that field.
Let me just quickly summarize how the further study works.
Many people seem to think that an honour’s degree is more acclaimed than a postgraduate diploma, but that is not the case at all. After you get your undergraduate degree you either continue with an honour’s if your degree is research-based or you can go with a practical-based option and get a postgraduate diploma (PGD). The successful award of a PGD allows you to progress onto a master’s degree without having received honour’s in your bachelor’s degree, ultimately rendering them the same educational level. There are also professional courses which focus on developing the skills you need in order to work in a particular industry. Usually they give you the chance to gain valuable on-the-job experience through vocational training and are awarded by professional bodies. Many of these courses follow on from a degree or equivalent qualification; however, such academic experience isn't always required.
Take a look at the table on the right and see where you're at and what level you can climb up to after your current course.
For the love of all things good, any C or below-grading South African please read this.
Higher National Diplomas and Foundation Degrees
In South Africa there is a massive advantage to qualifying through tertiary education and with the 24.5% unemployment rate, the demand for the opportunity to do so is high. Herein, however, lies the problem… the standards for getting into university in South Africa are declining which results in more people achieving the minimum acceptable marks for admission to a faculty and then presuming that it is a ticket to becoming a highly-qualified professional. The reality is that becoming an electrical engineer or a chartered accountant is hard.
The average person (regardless of positive discrimination) with a C aggregate statistically will not qualify. The irony is that the people who need positive discrimination the most, need their resources to be protected the most -yet they are the ones having it wasted along with their time attempting to do so. Unfortunately, in South Africa a common belief in government ranks is that lowering the standard to get into university will result in more South Africans becoming highly qualified professionals. So we are sold this pike dream that university is everything.
A report by Dr Andre van Zyl shows that 50% to 60% of South African first year students drop out and subsequently just under half of the ones that make it through first year actually end up graduating. The target at this stage for the average-grading South African should not be a degree, it should be a higher national diploma. There is a massive demand for passionate people to fill occupations in teaching, agriculture, sales, nursing or mechanics and the growth potential in these fields is not nearly as stagnant as the stigma suggests. The results, in fact, show that people qualifying in these fields are more likely to be employed in the following 6 months than the average university degree graduate.
Online Study Landscape
Whoever invented the internet (I think Tesla first toyed with the idea) just may have also provided the path to cure the world of unfair poverty. Honestly, you can get access to a world-class, online course through Harvard for a pittance all the way from a wifi-equipped cave in Timbuktu. I always said there’s only one-way to cure Africa’s poverty problem and it’s through quality education and technology. We should prioritize the installation of projectors in classes and then play recorded lessons from the best teachers while the sub-par current teachers in rural areas only act as teaching assistants. Anyway, I’ve gone on a tangent –but in case that happens, you know I said it first.
Back to your options.
I don’t know how much research you’ve done into online programs but I’m not going to be talking about the tried and tested UNISA (which is ranked well over 800 in the world university rankings) –although that offers accredited degrees as well. I’m talking about online providers that have digitized courses at some of the best universities all over the world for your benefit. It’s all in the name of free education. These 'smartie-pants' have realized that there may be the next Steve-Jobs-genius stuck somewhere like India with the potential to change the world but no medium to learn the basics of coding through. And I reckon they deserve a Nobel peace prize for it.
The good news is that even if you aren’t a genius and you want to work through an accredited course in anything from nutrition to app development, you can take it for free or actually earn a verified certificate from the institution for as little as $120 if you pass. I’ve personally done an online course through MIT called “Entrepreneurship: who is your customer?” and I found it to be far more interactive and interesting than all my business courses at UCT put together throughout my degree. This may however be due to the fact that MIT is the number one university in the world and UCT has dropped to number 148.
If you want to check out your options, the most reliable platforms that facilitate online courses through these types of universities are Coursera, Alison and GetSmarter(the most established in South Africa). Frankly, even if you’re already a professional or a student, doing one of these super flexible courses taught by such renown names in each field is bound to boost your CV (along with travel) and give you a leg up when the next opportunity comes knocking.
Still not convinced? Another plus is that if you do well enough, often these courses are a gateway into a full master’s or honour’s directly through the accrediting university. So if you feel like you just didn’t get those marks you wanted in your undergrad but you want to do a postgrad at a good school, nail this and it’s your ticket.
The Most Important Tips to Help You Not F*CK Up
The top universities (in South Africa and the world) are well known to us all but there isn’t too much out there about courses bridging your undergrad to your desired career. There are also many private institutions with programs that claim to do this but whose qualifications are not as acclaimed in the corporate world as they make themselves out to be. Don’t always believe a guidance counselor; remember private institutions want ways to make money.
Firstly, read the prospects of each major you’re interested in under the tabs on this site because some don’t have much of a future. You don’t want to spend loads of money or get in debt only to realize that you’ll probably not get a decent enough job to pay it back.
Secondly, before you select your post-graduate institution, do some research. Unfortunately there aren’t many reliable ranking sites on South African universities via departments. I recommend you go straight to the source. For example, if you think you want to work in marketing, send an HR rep at a dominant company (like Unilever or Omnicom) an email telling them of how interested you are in working there one day. Request where they get most of their marketing graduates from. Do they think postgrads at (insert 3 interested schools) are good fits for their brand? You’d be surprised at how many get back to you admiring your initiative.
Thirdly, don’t discount a university just because of the cost –there are a multitude of bursaries available from private institutions. Check the link for South African options filtered by faculty. If your grades are high enough but your household income isn't as high in relation then you will likely find a bursary. You can apply to as many as you want.