Seven Factors to Consider When Choosing a Business Qualification in South Africa

“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life. Don’t be trapped by dogma – which is living with the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

– Steve Jobs

Geoff Steiner
Geoff Steiner

South Africa’s unemployment rate fell by 0,7% in quarter 3 2023 compared to the same time last year. However, our official unemployment rate is still 41.2%, on the expanded definition, which includes those discouraged from seeking work – the number of people not economically active is 16.3 million (1).

While most of those out of work have no post-school qualifications, Statistics South Africa Reports show that 10.6% of those unemployed were graduates and persons with tertiary education qualifications (1).

Research by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC) indicates that a key reason for unemployment among graduates in South Africa is a skills mismatch between company requirements and graduate qualifications. PwC suggests that universities are trying to make graduates more employable by reviewing and changing their curricula to improve job readiness, but South Africa’s youth are also choosing degrees that are not in demand (2).

For young people, especially those not able to access NSFAS funding, choosing the right degree which will provide them with a real chance of getting work and will help them advance in their jobs, is therefore a critically important decision.

For those interested in going into business, there are a very wide range of options available at Higher Certificate and Degree levels. In 2019, South Africa’s 131 private higher education institutions enrolled 122 461 students for programmes in the field of Business, Commerce and Management Studies (3).

So how should you decide which institution and which business qualification will give you the best opportunity to realise your dreams?

Well, there are arguably certain standards which an institution should meet just to get onto your consideration list – you can think of these as ‘qualifiers’:

  • Reputation – is it a recognised and accredited institution with an impeccable track record of ethics and good governance?
  • Faculty – does the lecturing faculty have sound business experience and do they keep up to date with the latest trends in business.
  • Course Scope – does the qualification cover the new work, does it reflect current best practices and is it globally relevant so that you are truly internationally mobile?

If you can tick these off, then you should consider a second set of ‘differentiating’ factors which will inform the final decision that you make:

  • Flexibility – is the qualification structured to give you the opportunity to pursue the other critical endeavours in your life – your work and income, your family, your ability to travel and to reside in different geographies?
  • Applied Skills – will the qualification equip you with work integrated learning and a very practical set of skills which you can immediately employ, and which will be regarded as valuable by employers and other businesspeople?
  • Affordability – have you heard the mantra that education is priceless, and that you should be prepared to spend all you can on your first qualification? The truth is that education is not a once off event and no qualification is likely to be sufficient for your lifetime – so you are going to have to learn and to spend again on further qualifications – affordability is therefore mission critical.
  • Individuality – are you going to be supported with your specific needs and requirements or are you going to become just another number or another sausage in the machine that gets churned out at the end of each year?

As a prospective student, you have right to get clear and timeous answers to these questions. Admissions personnel, Faculty Administrators, Student Support Services, lecturers and others should be available to help and assist you from the get-go.  They should be there to make it easy for students to do their best.

Choosing a career in the business world whether you work for yourself or for somebody else can be deeply rewarding and can have positive impacts on all aspects of your life. These include real financial literacy, understanding how economies work, being able to better manage your self and others, being able to spot and act on business opportunities, and the potential to offer financial security both to yourself and to those nearest to you as well as to those less fortunate.

Most of all perhaps, it will enable you to dream big.

Choosing the right institution and the right business qualification does matter.

Geoff Schreiner
Head Business Studies
Cornerstone Institute
Date: 30/11/23

Apply for our Business Studies programmes here:


  1. Statistics South Africa Quarterly Labour Force Survey
  2. Business Tech – Even with a degree, South Africans Can’t Find a Job – 17 May 2023
  3. Statistics on Post-School Education and Training in South Africa (2019)
Cornerstone Institute
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