What should I study to ensure I can get a job?

Passing matric is a huge accomplishment, and you can pat yourself on the back for achieving this milestone. Now it’s time to consider the next step towards your long-term career goals. For many, that will be an entry-level job that requires a matric only, in an industry where on-the-job training and years of experience are your route to promotion and seniority.

But depending on how well you passed your matric, you may qualify for several tertiary education options. Are you keen to study further and obtain professional qualifications that will set you more firmly on the path to success?

Matric pass levels and tertiary study options

There are 4 different levels of matric pass. You need a bachelor’s-degree pass (also called a matric exemption) to be able to study for a university degree, although it also qualifies you to apply for any other tertiary diplomas and courses. A diploma pass provisionally qualifies you to study any of the National Accredited Technical Education Diploma (Nated) courses offered by TVET colleges. You could also study at a university offering Nated or Institute of Certified Bookkeepers (ICB) courses, but only for diplomas, not degrees. ICB courses help prepare you for a career in business and financial management.

The third-highest matric pass level, the higher certificate, won’t qualify you for a degree or diploma course, but you can still apply to tertiary institutions to study for a ‘higher certificate’ qualification. This category of matric pass also qualifies you to study short courses for qualifications in various sectors, including tourism, hospitality, wellness and beauty, childcare, and event and wedding planning.

There are also a number of short courses you can study if you get the lowest matric pass, a national senior certificate, as well as learnerships in companies that will employ you at entry level, and then help you to study for further qualifications in-house. If you’re determined to study for a degree or diploma at a university or TVET college, however, you’ll need to explore bridging courses that can help you upgrade your higher-certificate or national-senior-certificate pass to meet the entrance requirements.

Questions to ask yourself when considering courses 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?

These questions will help you decide what kind of career you should pursue to align with your skills and interests. Many institutions provide career tests created by experts to help you find your ideal study path. Use these tools, speak to professionals in fields that interest you, and conduct your own research before you make a decision.

Your parents may have your best interests at heart when they tell you that becoming a doctor, accountant, lawyer, or engineer is your ‘safest’ option. And if you’re inspired by any of those careers and your matric results qualify you to study for them, they could indeed be your best option – but really, the best career for you is one that stimulates you and makes your life feel purposeful. 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.


The travel, tourism and hospitality industry is an amazing option if you love exploring new places and interacting with diverse people


Here’s a list of 5 industries to consider, and some suggested courses you can take to qualify for a career in one of them:

1. Information technology

The fast pace of advancing technology and digitalisation is unlikely to slow down anytime soon – if anything, tech is likely to become even more engrained in our daily lives. The field of information technology (IT) will continue to be a strong career option.

IT is a vast field with many different job roles. You might want to work in software development, business analytics, data administration, robotics or even game testing, among many other possibilities. A degree in computer science or software engineering is a great foundation – you’ll learn both the theory and get the 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.

Of course, in the IT sector degrees and diplomas can be less important than performance and a capacity to learn and experiment. 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. If you are self-taught and you’re using your skills to earn in IT, consider devoting part of your earnings to getting some kind of certification, such as those offered by companies like Microsoft.

2. Health and wellness

The health and wellness industry is a fast-growing field, and somatology – the study of mental and physical well-being and treatments to improve it – is an excellent option if you’re interested in the world of aesthetics and holistic health. In other words, if you’re trying to explain it to anxious parents, the field covers more than old-school ‘beauty treatments’.


Digital marketing is descended from the long-established traditional marketing industry


Somatology covers physical and aesthetic treatments like reflexology, hydrotherapy, weight-loss management, facials and laser skin treatments. Some courses will cover different components, depending on whether you’re studying for a degree, like BTech (Somatology), or a somatology diploma. You can also take specific short courses for certification in areas like personal training, yoga instruction or aromatherapy, so you can specialise in the field you like most.

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

3. Digital marketing

Digital marketing is descended from the long-established traditional marketing industry, beefed up 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.

There are several academic routes into the field: for example, a degree like a BCom (Digital Marketing). This will give you a good understanding of consumer behaviour, how to read market trends, and building marketing strategies. Or consider a diploma in copywriting and digital marketing or media practices. Another option is to study business administration with a marketing specialisation or media studies, focusing on advertising.

4. Travel, tourism and hospitality

The travel, tourism and hospitality industry is an amazing option if you love exploring new places and interacting with diverse people. Imagine getting paid to see the world or live on a holiday resort! Be aware that it isn’t all sunshine and volleyball on the beach, though – catering to the needs of holidaymakers makes for a demanding environment. On the plus side, it is an environment with many different roles falling into 3 broad categories: hotel management, food and hospitality services, or guest relations.

Getting a degree or diploma in tourism and hospitality management is a smart move, since it gives you a big-picture view of the industry and delves into specific areas like planning, marketing and managing operations. Additionally, there are many peripheral courses that can help you develop the people skills essential for success, like customer service, communication and leadership.


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For specific roles in the industry, such as a chef, bus driver, tour guide, travel agent, hotel manager or game ranger, specialised training and certification will be required. For example, chefs will typically attend culinary school, while bus drivers will need a commercial driving licence, and game rangers will need to complete a ranger training programme or similar.

A diploma in travel and tourism is a good start if you want to become a travel agent or hotel manager, but if you have a bachelor’s-degree pass, you can also consider a degree in hospitality management.

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

A BCom degree with a major in logistics and supply chain management is a great choice because it covers the essential aspects of transportation, storage and distribution of materials used in 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.

What are the highest-paying jobs in South Africa?

According to Statista, ‘Executive management and change positions offered the highest salaries in South Africa.’ In 2022, those in this field earned on average $87,000 (around R1.5 million) per year. People working in the financial services sector, which includes commercial banks, investment banks, stock brokerages, credit unions, insurance companies and asset managers, earned an average annual income of $73,000 (around 1.3 million).

But remember – the most available jobs are not usually the highest-paying ones.

Provinces with the most job opportunities

In the Employment Insights report published by Career Junction in November 2022, opportunities in Gauteng remained steady, as the province continued to have the most vacancies (54%). Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal together accounted for just over 30% of job offers, while international work opportunities remained at 3%.

In KwaZulu-Natal and Western Cape, recruiting for administrative, office and support professionals had increased by more than 100% since 2020. Eastern Cape also experienced a notable jump of 81% in recruitment for these positions within the same period.

Overall, the demand for business and management professionals showed a significant increase between 2020 to 2021 and continued to rise, although at a slower rate, into 2022.

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But if you really just cannot wait to start working, don’t despair – there is a variety of jobs you can apply for with only a matric.