Young professionals are blazing a trail in the field of IT in South Africa, with more professional jobs offered in this sector than in any other – and career prospects are very encouraging, particularly for students who are considering what to study at university.
With technology shaping the workplace of the future, far more careers in the sector are now an option than even a few years ago, says Professor Kevin Johnston, the head of the Information Systems (IS) department at the University of Cape Town (UCT).
Careers range from website, app and game developers to networking specialists, project managers, data administrators and business analysts. South African job search websites such as Career Junction offer a far higher number of jobs in Information Systems than in any other field.
“There’s an explosion of jobs in the sector,” says Johnston. “Graduates in Information Systems are in great demand. We hope this will encourage young people to consider studying Information Systems at UCT.”
Johnston says every single UCT IS student who graduated last year was offered a job in the IS sector in South Africa. Most IS jobs are competitive and well paid as there’s a shortage of graduates and professionals are in high demand.
IS skills are transferable and many UCT graduates have chosen to work in countries in regions across the world, from Europe and the US to Asia and Africa.
He says that many UCT IS graduates have become successful entrepreneurs in South Africa and globally. South African entrepreneur Mark Shuttleworth, as well as Sam Paddock, the founder of rapidly expanding online education company GetSmarter, both studied Information Systems at UCT.
“Information Systems lie at the heart of modern business,” Johnston says. “It also gives you the tools to start a tech company with your skills alone. Often, new businesses require a lot of capital and wide variety of skill sets. The opportunity for IS grads today is that they have the skills to start tech companies, often without the need for funding.”
The IS Department, which is part of the Commerce faculty at UCT, offers a range of qualifications and courses accommodating students from first year to PhD levels. The undergraduate programme ties in with an internationally recognised IS curriculum, while postgraduate courses cater for both part-time and full-time students.
In all courses up to Honours level, there is extensive practical project work through the department’s partnerships with the public and private sectors, and universities across Africa. In Cape Town, senior students interact with clients such as the City of Cape Town and industry leader, EY. They are able to build valuable career skills while developing small commercial applications.
Entrepreneur Paddock said studying IS at UCT had been richly rewarding.
“Information Systems was an exceptional programme for me,” Paddock says. “Key to my experience was the third and fourth year Systems Development projects. They gave us real-world experience in a team setting that helped us develop the skills and the confidence to build a system from nothing. Without this experience, I’m not sure I would be where I am today.”
Cape Town-based GetSmarter currently has more than 150 employees and 45 course instructors who have educated over 30 000 people so far in partnership with top universities in Africa.
Johnston says a career in IS is rewarding as graduates are able to make a difference wherever they work, by using technology to improve the efficiency of companies, boost customer experience and bring change to communities.
He said IS graduates were often very people-focused with a passion for understanding business. Information Systems focuses on the business organisation – the people, business processes, information and technology – while Computer Science focuses on the technology and requires more mathematical and technical skills.
Apart from opportunities to innovate in industry, the Internet of Things was also transforming the way people work, play and live, with home automation becoming increasingly popular worldwide. A wide range of devices in “smart homes” have been designed to save electricity, boost security and make life more efficient. Johnston sees this as an increasing trend in South Africa, and an opportunity for graduates to explore.
He says that UCT aims to be a leading African centre for research and study of Information Systems, producing world-class graduates and research, while also playing a positive role in the upliftment and empowerment of people in South Africa.
Johnston adds that applications to register as an undergraduate student at UCT in 2016 close on 30 September, 2015.
For more information on the Department of Information Systems in UCT’s Commerce Faculty, phone 021 650 2261 or see
To apply to study at UCT, please go to www.uct.ac.za.