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Tips To Take You From Matric To Earning In Your First Professional Role

career options in software development male coder working on his computer at work

As students and their parents look ahead to 2023, it is both an exciting and nerve-wracking time in terms of career options. Will you be able to study or work towards a qualification? What are the options? If you can, how much will it cost, and can you afford it?

Make no mistake, an investment in education is most probably the most important investment you can make, but it does require careful planning and the discipline to see it through. However, it need not be overwhelming if you take the time to work through the following tips on how to fund your future.

Carefully consider the costs

Look carefully at what you are saving towards. Remember, education costs more than just the initial upfront tuition costs. Take the time to find out if there are extra fees or yearly charges.

Consider the textbooks and equipment that you’ll need – how much do they cost, every semester or year? Are you sure you have understood all the fees you will need to pay, from your first day through to graduation?

Will it be live-in studies or will you need to account for travel fees to and from campus? If so, be sure to choose a central and easily accessible location. Where will you be living, do you need to consider your own accommodation?

Don’t discount the value of in-person training as opposed to online courses – the dropout rate, network connectivity and load shedding need to be taken into account when thinking about online tuition. In-person training can, and does, take far more than just the subject matter into account – invaluable career and life skills can be learnt this way.

Once you have your eye on a programme, find out whether it offers support such as learner allowances. If it does, what are the requirements for you to qualify or apply for such support?

Understand the time value of money, and career value of your time studying

Once you have a clearer understanding of the costs involved and how much you need to raise, you must consider the time value of money.

Essentially, this means that you need to be realistic about how long it will take before you start earning a sufficient salary to start paying back your loan. Building the funding pool is one thing, appreciating the time gap before you can start paying it back is another entirely and should be a consideration when committing to your life goal.

Then, have a look at the course, qualification and campus. Are there opportunities to learn from or shadow real people in real careers? Let’s say you choose software development – are you sure that the skills and languages you will be taught are relevant and used in the workplace?

Once you are satisfied, ask whether completing the course or qualification will provide you with a step up into your career. Will you have had the opportunity to make industry contacts? Is there the possibility that you will be offered a job on completion?

How will you raise the funds?

Let’s be honest, the cost of living is sky high and most people will either have to apply for bursaries, apply for a loan of some sort, or start saving ahead of time to pay for the cost of education.

Large swathes of our population that fall into the missing middle, so to speak, where they cannot afford to pay tuition fees but don’t qualify for programmes that cover their tuition.

Many institutions provide bursaries but these can be extremely hard to secure because of exacting conditions and criteria which you need to reach just in order to apply. Keeping this all in mind, we must accept that bursaries – while amazing for those who land them – won’t always cover what you need. Where bursaries are awarded, be sure to understand if they cover living arrangements, travel, food, textbooks, equipment and a living stipend.

Many people will need to apply for some type of student loan. Many institutions have relationships with funders where things such as student loans can be arranged for students – but this requires a credit record.

If the student doesn’t have a credit record then they will need to lean on a parent or older family member. Be mindful of credit records and credit scores, whether you are the one taking out the loan or if you are the one standing surety for a student.

A credit record – which is attained through your spending and credit habits – will determine whether you qualify, and the rates offered to you. Sit with a credit provider and understand the various options, including fee payments and full-cost options, and what the payback terms are and when they commence.

As far as possible, the best piece of advice is to look at saving through creative means if a bank loan does not suit your context. If you still have time, various financial institutions have saving account options with attractive interest rates, as well as market-linked products that can deliver attractive returns if used correctly. If you haven’t yet, take the time to speak to a qualified financial planner and work through your options.

Avoid wasteful spending and short-term debt

An analysis of the national unemployment statistics makes it clear that those with qualifications are far less likely to join the unemployment queues. Education is vital, and you will have the rest of your life to be grateful for making the sacrifices now. Cut back now, and avoid short-term debt. Never take out a loan for anything that is not directly related to your education.

Start earning as soon as you can – look for retail or hospitality work over the weekends or during the evenings, if it does not affect your ability to wake up motivated and ready for your classes. Consider becoming a tutor – here you can use your skills to make extra money.

Student life and being young is a wonderful time to go out and have fun, but look for specials such as two-for-one or meal deals at restaurants. These are often the most fun times, with many students and young professionals grabbing the same opportunities. Share expenses as far as possible, whether it be rent, groceries, transport, music streaming, or internet.

Track your spending, especially any fees and interest charges on banking, cell phone bills, streaming services, data. Look where a small behavioural change can affect how much money you have at the end of the month. Sell what you no longer need, such as old sports equipment, clothing and textbooks.

Be humble, and be prepared to do the small jobs and make small sacrifices because you know that you are setting yourself up for a successful career and life.

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