Subject choice and career pathing

Grade 9 is an important year in the life of every South African learner. You need to start thinking about possible careers during grade 9. Your choice will also depend on what subjects are offered at your school from Grade 10. In order to make the right choice of subjects in grade 10, learners should know the career path they wish to pursue on completion in Grade 12.

In order to obtain the National Senior Certificate in Grade 12, learners must have SEVEN subjects – four compulsory and three which are chosen at the end of Grade 9 for Grade 10 – 12.

The four compulsory subjects are 2 official Languages (one Home Language and one First Additional Language), Mathematics or Mathematical Literacy and Life Orientation. Learners must also choose three optional subjects from a list of 25 approved subjects. Of these, a maximum of two additional languages may be selected.

Learners are allowed to change two of the optional subjects in Grades 10 and 11. In Grade 12, learners are able to change one of the optional subjects.

Why is it important for learners to make informed subject choices?

The subject choice at the end of Grade 9 could determine the field of study learners can follow once they complete school. In other words, if learners do not select the correct combination of subjects, they could find themselves unable to enter into certain higher or further education programmes. So when making this important subject choice, learners should consider their options for when they complete school and select accordingly.

For some career paths, a learner may need to complete a degree at a higher education institution or a certificate/diploma through a Further Education and Training College or a SETA. The first thing learners need to know is that to qualify for higher/further education and training studies they must make certain that they have the right subjects to meet the minimum entry requirements to study further. Of course, for a degree, diploma or certificate studies, it is important that the learner chooses subjects that are appropriate to the career he/she intends to follow and that they try to keep their options open as their plans may change as they go along.

How can learners get advice on subject choices and career options?

The South African Qualifications Authority (SAQA) with the Departments of Higher Education and Training and Basic Education launched the NQF and Career Advice Service in January 2011 that has a website, a career advice help line, guidance materials, and a weekly radio programme in partnership with SABC Education that is broadcast on nine regional radio stations in nine languages.

Fully qualified Career Advisors provide career information, guidance and advice by telephone and also respond to queries received by telephone, SMS, ‘Please Call Me’, E-mail, Facebook and Twitter.

Call them on: 086 999 0123
SMS or send them a PLEASE CALL ME (they will call you back)on: 072 204 5056
Email them on:
Tweet them on:
Talk to them on:

Making decisions about your career does not have to be difficult. You should know what you enjoy doing and what careers appeal to you. Try a Career Quiz if you need some clarity.


Further Studies after Grade 12

Choosing the right subjects is only the first step to getting into a university, university of technology or FET College. Learners also have to have certain levels of achievement to meet the entry requirements for that particular qualification. One way for universities to measure your level of achievement is with a point rating system, no matter what kind of tools universities use as entry requirements, the bottom line is that the better you perform in all your subjects, the more options you have.

When you apply for further studies at an institution, they will also consider your Grade 11 subject marks before you have written the National Senior Certificate.

The subjects that you select on entry into Grade 10 must link to the field of study in which you are interested as a future career. In addition, each direction or field of study will have its own set of entry requirements, which means that you will have to achieve at a certain level in certain subjects. Many qualifications for example, require you to achieve well in mathematics. But each course of study will require you to achieve at a certain level. Make sure that you begin to work very hard in all your subjects from the beginning of the year.

University/University of Technology

If you want to go to University after you finish school, you will need to achieve at least a NSC with an achievement rating of 4 or better in at least four subjects chosen from the designated 20 credit NSC subjects listed below:

Accounting, Agricultural Sciences, Business Studies, Dramatic Arts, Economics, Engineering Graphics and Design, Geography, History, Consumer Studies, Information Technology, Languages (refer to institution websites for their language entry requirements), Life Sciences, Mathematics, Mathematical Literacy, Music, Physical Sciences, Religion studies and Visual Arts.

If you want to attend a University of Technology you will need to achieve at least a NSC with an achievement rating of three or better in four of the designated NSC 20-credit subjects listed below:

Accounting, Agricultural Management Practices, Agricultural Sciences, Agricultural technology, Business Studies, Civil Technology, Computer Applications Technology, Consumer Studies, Dance Studies, Dramatic Arts, Economics, Electrical Technology, Engineering Graphics and Design, Geography, History, Hospitality Studies, Information Technology, Languages (refer to institutionwebsites for their language requirements), Life Sciences, Mechanical Technology, Mathematics, Mathematical Literacy, Music, Physical Sciences, Religion studies, Tourism and Visual Arts.


What role can parents play?
  • Parents are encouraged to discuss the various options with their child to ensure the appropriate subject choices are made.
  • Parents can help their children collect information on a variety of careers and the necessary subjects and NSC grade 12 passes that they will require.
  • This is a very important decision that will have an effect on the learners’ future, especially their career options.
  • Parents can assist their children to make subject choices depending on what the child is interested in doing or the kind of career the child may be considering.
  • Almost all types of employment require some kind of training. Further education and Training Colleges and Universities require learners to have particular combinations of subjects in order to study further.
  • It is particularly important that learners find out if they need mathematics or mathematics literacy to study further.
  • Parents could approach the School Governing Body to request the school to collect information on further study options and careers from the District, Province or FET Colleges and /or universities
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