South Africa


Degrees and diplomas are no longer guaranteed tickets to securing a job

Degrees and diplomas are no longer guaranteed tickets to securing a job
(Photo: Christopher Furlong / Getty Images)

The world of work is changing rapidly and the competition for positions is fierce. One needs to think carefully before choosing a field of study.

Graduating with a degree, a diploma or a certificate from a university or college increases one’s chances of getting a job — but does not guarantee it.

A large proportion of unemployed people in South Africa today have competencies that are not required by the labour market. Technological advancements have radically changed the world of work and resulted in employees having to reskill or upskill, or face becoming redundant.

Further, technological advancements have led to workplace efficiencies, with fewer people required to do the work — but, importantly, this has also created opportunities for new kinds of work requiring employees with particular and sometimes different kinds of knowledge, skills, attitudes and values.

In South Africa, despite the very high unemployment rate, we do not have enough graduates with the required attributes needed by the labour market, which has resulted in a high reliance on skills from other countries. The Covid-19 pandemic has also played a major role in people losing their jobs. This means a large number of previously employed, and now unemployed people, is increasing the competition for jobs, making it more difficult for new graduates to get jobs, unless they have specific attributes — knowledge, skills, attitudes and values — required in the marketplace.

Making strategic study and career choices is imperative in a country in which the youth unemployment rate is currently at a staggering 66.5%.

Forecasting competencies that will be required by the labour market in the next five to 10 years requires conducting research and environmental and job analyses.

It is important to be as specific as possible in choosing areas of study. For example, deciding to study for an engineering or a teaching qualification is not specific enough as there are some kinds of engineers and teachers in short supply and others without jobs due to low demand for their particular skill set.

It is a good idea to have a few options, as spaces in many study programmes are limited.

Much information is available on the internet. Getting guidance and advice from others might be helpful, but they might also be unaware of the array of new occupations emerging in the dynamic world of work.

So, it is necessary to take the time and make the effort to do the research and to seek guidance from professional career advisers. Some large institutions offer these services free to prospective applicants.

Like opening a new business, where a thorough feasibility analysis is required, making a study choice requires research to predict future demand for graduates in particular fields of study. DM168


Question: Is it true graduates with qualifications from a university stand a better chance of getting jobs than graduates from a private or public higher education institution or a technical and vocational education and training (TVET) college?

Answer: No, it depends on the type and quality of the qualification and whether there is a need for it in society. Take time to understand the range of qualifications such as degrees, diplomas and certificates on the National Qualifications Framework (NQF) and whether an institution is registered and approved to offer accredited qualifications, and offers qualifications at higher NQF levels in that field.

Remember the sayings, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ and ‘all that glitters is not gold’! Students’ choices are often overly influenced by the advertising, marketing and recruitment by institutions in a highly competitive market for students. It needs to be checked that this is not for qualifications which are oversaturated in the job market. However, one does not always have to rely on jobs offered by others. Being entrepreneurial and starting one’s own small business is encouraged when jobs are in scarce supply. Many graduates from TVET colleges have lucrative careers such as plumbers, electricians and panelbeaters, and have become job creators.

Beware of bogus institutions and unaccredited and/or unregistered qualifications. An essential first step in making a choice is to check that the institution is registered by the Department of Higher Education, the qualification and programme accredited by the Council on Higher Education and the qualification registered on the NQF by the South African Qualifications Authority. A good starting point to do this is to check the South African Qualifications Authority website, and the Register of Private Higher Education Institutions. DM168

Please send questions and comments about education and career matters to [email protected].

Professor Monie Naidoo is an independent education development specialist and career coach. She was previously director of accreditation at the Council on Higher Education.

This story first appeared in our weekly Daily Maverick 168 newspaper, which is available countrywide for R25.


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