Graduate Advice

Was getting a degree worth it?

Let’s be real. You’re worried that you've chosen a difficult career path. Jobs are hard to come by. It's a competitive world out there. Graduate unemployment rates seem scary, and coupled with the time and expense involved in graduating with a degree you might be wondering if it was really worth it.

Well, according to two Stellenbosch economists, if you've graduated with a degree, any degree, you’re headed in the right direction.

In a recent study, Hendrik van Broekhuizen and Servaas van der Berg set to find out just exactly how high graduate unemployment in South Africa really is. Their results revealed that your university degree stands you in good stead of landing a job after your studies.

Contrary to what previous studies and the media have postulated, graduate unemployment in the country is neither high nor rising at an alarming rate.

Sigh of relief? We thought so too…

In fact, to make you breathe even easier, statistics released in 2012 showed that South Africans who held a university degree entered the job market with an unemployment rate of only 5.9%. That’s to say that of the 25% overall unemployment rate, your university qualification minimises the likelihood of you not finding a job from 1 in 4 to 1 in 17.

And what’s even more surprising is the fact that the institution and faculty you’re in matters not, as long as you’re studying towards attaining a degree your chances of becoming employed are significantly higher.

Sounds too good to be true?

Well, Van Broekhuizen and Van den Berg claim that one of the problems with previous studies has been a failure in adhering to a single, consistent definition of the term graduate. The researchers go on to define a graduate as “someone who has a bachelor’s or higher degree from a higher education institution”. In other words, people with diplomas or certificates which may or may have not been awarded by higher education institutions are not graduates. Instead, they should be referred to as diplomats. As such, lumping graduates and diplomats together has clearly led to the over exaggerated graduate unemployment rate figures.

Graduate unemployment rate findings hold true for racial compositions too. Black graduates who are more likely to study courses in the arts, humanities and social science and attend formerly disadvantaged universities also have low unemployment rates. Even though the composition and quality of a degree may decrease the employability of a black graduate as opposed to a white graduate, black graduates are generally more likely to get a job in South Africa compared to other places.

And even if you decide to change courses, the good news is, as long as you ensure that you get your degree, you’re in a better position of building your career. And what’s even better is that armed with your degree, potential employers will appreciate your dedication to education.

If you're in need of a bursary to get started, we offer plenty of bursary tips and advice to help you get going. Good luck! 

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