Grade 9 – How to Choose the Right High School Subjects?

Teacher, parent or learner, here is everything you need to know about choosing Grade 10 subjects.

The time has come. You are in high school and need to decide which subjects you will take. But how do you know which subjects to choose in order to meet all the prerequisites for your future varsity degree? Annique writes about her experience.

As soon as I had the chance in high school, I dropped Maths like a hot, nasty potato and made French one of my main subjects instead (at the German School, this meant that Maths wasn’t part of my final exams). When I made that choice, I was focusing purely on what would get me through Matric and Abitur (the ‘German Matric’), because quite honestly, Maths was the absolute end of me and I was more than happy to neglect it. At that point, I didn’t really think about how this might influence my future university career and my wish to study Psychology, nor was I very proactive in enquiring about it.

When the time came to apply for Psychology, I was told that the only way I’d be accepted is if I did an additional year of Maths, because my Maths mark was so bad (no surprise there…), and Psychology requires Maths for Statistics. I remember that day well, and I just said to myself – well, if that’s the case, I better look for something else to study! Funny enough, this set-back ended up being exactly what I needed…

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What Subjects Do I Need For My Career Path?

Subject Group at school

(recommended choices in addition to the 4 compulsory subjects)

Field of Study at university

(examples)

Career Paths    

(examples)

Human & Social Studies 

(Geography, History, Religious Studies)

  • Humanities subjects (e.g. Languages, Arts, Social Sciences, Psychology, Education, Philosophy, Journalism, Law)

Business, Commerce, & Management Studies

(Accounting, Business Science, Economics)

 

Services 

(Consumer Studies, Hospitality Studies, Tourism)

(FYI, services imply jobs where you help or work for someone, e.g. banking, cleaning, chauffeuring)

 

  • Tour Operator
  • Chef
  • Hotel or Guesthouse Manager
  • Airline or Cruise Ship Cabin Crew

Arts & Culture 

(Dance Studies, Design, Drama, Visual Arts)

  • Fine Art or Photography
  • Drama & Theatre or Acting
  • Dance
  • Design (e.g. Fashion, Graphics)
  • Fine Artist or Musician
  • Performer or Entertainer
  • Graphic or Fashion Designer
  • Architect

Engineering & Technology (and Sciences)

(Civil Technology, Electrical Technology, Engineering and Graphic Design, Mechanical Technology)

  • Engineering (e.g. Mechatronic, Mechanic, Civil, Electronic)

 

  • Engineer
  • Medical Technologist

Agricultural Science 

(Agricultural Sciences, Agricultural management Practices, Agricultural Technology)

  • Agricultural Studies
  • Farmer
  • Winemaker
  • Nature Conservationist
  • Landscape Engineer

Sciences & IT

(Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Computer Applications, Information Technology)

  • Health and Medical Sciences (e.g. Marine Biology, Physiotherapy, Speech Therapy, Doctor, Psychiatry)
  • Computer Sciences and Technology
  • Physio– or Speech Therapist
  • Doctor or Biologist
  • Engineer
  • Program Developer
  • Software Technician

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Human & Social Studies:

(Geography, History, Religious Studies)

Field of Study at university

Humanities subjects (e.g. Languages, Arts, Social Sciences, Psychology, Education, Philosophy, Journalism, Law)

Career Paths

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Business, Commerce, & Management Studies:

(Accounting, Business Science, Economics)

Field of Study at university

Career Paths

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Services:

(Consumer Studies, Hospitality Studies, Tourism)
*FYI: services imply jobs where you help or work for someone, e.g. banking, cleaning, chauffeuring

Field of Study at university

Career Paths

  • Tour Operator
  • Chef
  • Hotel or Guesthouse Manager
  • Airline or Cruise Ship Cabin Crew

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Arts & Culture:

(Dance Studies, Design, Drama, Visual Arts)

Field of Study at university

  • Fine Art or Photography
  • Drama & Theatre or Acting
  • Dance
  • Design (e.g. Fashion, Graphics)

Career Paths    

  • Fine Artist or Musician
  • Performer or Entertainer
  • Graphic or Fashion Designer
  • Architect

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Engineering & Technology (and Sciences):

(Civil Technology, Electrical Technology, Engineering and Graphic Design, Mechanical Technology)

Field of Study at university

  • Engineering (e.g. Mechatronic, Mechanic, Civil, Electronic)

Career Paths 

  • Engineer
  • Medical Technologist

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Agricultural Science:

(Agricultural Sciences, Agricultural management Practices, Agricultural Technology)

Field of Study at university

  • Agricultural Studies

Career Paths    

  • Farmer
  • Winemaker
  • Nature Conservationist
  • Landscape Engineer

[dt_divider style=”thick” /]Sciences & IT:

(Life Sciences, Physical Sciences, Computer Applications, Information Technology)

Field of Study at university

  • Health and Medical Sciences (e.g. Marine Biology, Physiotherapy, Speech Therapy, Doctor, Psychiatry)
  • Computer Sciences and Technology

Career Paths

  • Physio or Speech Therapist
  • Doctor or Biologist
  • Engineer
  • Program Developer
  • Software Technician

A Quick Note on Maths Lit…

Before you decide to opt for Maths Lit instead of Pure Maths, it is very important for you to make sure which of the two you will need for your tertiary studies. Most degrees and university studies require Pure Maths. This doesn’t mean that you can’t study if you choose Maths Lit, but it does limit your choices. Make sure to be well-informed about application prerequisites for your desired field of study.

Reflections

Back to my story… When I realized I couldn’t study psychology, I decided to do a general BA instead, with focus on Film & Media, and various interdisciplinary electives on the side. In 2nd Year I specialized in Screenwriting and after my undergrad, I went on to complete an academic Honours dissertation.

The thing is, my true passion and talents (I say this with humility), are research and writing. It has always been that way. In high school, I won Creative Writing awards and had top essay marks.  So even though I was and still am intrigued by Psychology, I actually ended up studying something that compliments my strengths and talents.

This doesn’t mean it was clever of me to neglect Maths and be ignorant of certain application prerequisites. You should absolutely enquire about these things, as it can be essential to have taken on certain subjects in school. The point I’m trying to make is that even though we have to start thinking about our futures when we choose our subjects in Grade 9, it doesn’t necessarily predetermine anything. You might change your mind completely about what you want to do after school. You might even change your mind during the course of your studies, or have a total and unexpected career change as an adult (no, I’m not implying a mid-life crisis). In our day and age, these things happen all the time, and it’s okay!

Whatever the case may be, do your best in all your subjects, also the ones you don’t like – precisely because you never know when the knowledge you gained might come in handy or pay off.

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Some Tips on Choosing Your Subjects

  • Before choosing your subjects, talk to a school or career counselor who can assist or advise you. Have a look at an article from a Wits Career Guidance expert at Wits.
  • Try to contact someone in the profession you wish to pursue and ask them about their education and the steps they took to get to where they are
  • Job shadowing! It’s one of the best things you can do to see if your dream job is, in fact, a dream, or rather a delusion – or… a flat-out nightmare (trust me, this happens, and job shadowing can sometimes make you dodge a bullet)

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We know this can be easier said than done, but study what you love, because chances are it’s exactly what you’re good at. One of the best things you can do for yourself is to learn what your strengths and weaknesses are, and to be truthful to yourself about it.  Don’t choose something that will be a struggle from day one and make you miserable. Ask yourself what you do well, what you enjoy, as well as what stimulates you spiritually and intellectually – then go after it! Have a look at what career options are out in the world here. 

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