What are the Best Courses to Study in South Africa?

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university of cape town

Choosing a course to study at the university can be a tedious task. The course you choose to study can determine the job you’ll do in the future, resulting in how much you’re paid a month.

Are you looking for what and where to study in South Africa?

First of all, it is crucial to know what skills are in demand. Secondly, you need to compare courses based on the institution’s expertise, reputation, and research in a particular field.

In this post, I break down the best courses to study in South Africa.

It is important to note that, most of these are also courses that South Africa’s top universities excel at – ranking among the top 500 courses in the world according to the latest QS World University Rankings.

1. Immunology

Immunology is a top ranking course in South African Universities. It is a very important branch of the medical and biological sciences that covers the study of immune systems in all organisms.

The Department of Immunology in most SA varsities offer MSc and Ph.D. courses. However, there’re undergraduate courses in basic immunology to medical, dental, nursing students etc.

It’s an interesting course to study if you’re very enthusiastic about medical and biological sciences.

Medical immunologists typically work in private offices, clinics or hospitals. They diagnose and treat diseases and conditions with allergic or immunologic causes.

According to SalaryExpert, the average immunologist salary in South Africa is R1,708,713 or an equivalent hourly rate of R821.

So what are the best universities in South Africa to study immunology?

Here are the best universities in South Africa (based on their reputation and research in the field) to study this course.

  • University of Cape Town
  • University of Witwatersrand
  • University of KwaZulu Natal
  • Stellenbosch University
  • University of Pretoria

2. Microbiology

Microbiology is the study of small living things that cannot be seen without the use of a microscope such as microorganisms or microbes.

Microorganisms include bacteria, viruses, microscopic fungi and yeasts, and microscopic algae.

Most graduates in microbiology follow careers like a biomedical scientist, scientific laboratory technician, science writer.

Microbiology courses are available at the undergraduate, postgraduate and diploma level.

Wits University’s School of Molecular and Cell Biology combines Microbiology and Biotechnology which is taken at third-year level.

The courses provide a good basic knowledge of the various groups of microbes, their morphology, metabolism, genetics, and taxonomy.

University of South Africa, Rhodes University offer Microbiology undergraduate degrees.

Before you choose to study this course, study the structure of the various medical schools before you make a decision.

When it comes to the best Universities to study this course, you cannot overlook the University of Cape Town, the University of Pretoria and the University of Witwatersrand.

3. Social work

Social work programs concentrate on teaching students how to help others in need through community programs, counseling sessions, and support groups.

Social workers may spend their time helping families escape the cycle of poverty, supporting individuals as they free themselves of addiction, or counseling people who suffer from mental illness.

UCT offers a four-year programme which allows the student to move into other fields such as Social Development, Social Policy, and Management, Probation and Correctional Practice, or Clinical Practice.

Social work is one of the most popular courses in South Africa

The University of KwaZulu-Natal (UKZN) received approximately 91,000 on-time undergraduate applications this year and the most popular course applied for by prospective students was Social Work where UKZN received 15,804 applications.

Social Work courses are available at Wits, Unisa, Uct, Ukzn, Up, Uj etc.

4. Clinical Medicine

Clinical medicine is a field of medicine that deals primarily with the practice and study of medicine based on the direct examination of the patient.

In clinical medicine, medical practitioners assess patients in order to diagnose, treat, and prevent disease.

Medical may refer to both clinical and research activities within medicine, on the other hand, the term medical may mean non-surgical and clinical would apply to both.

Here are the top universities in South Africa for clinical medicine according to US News, based on their reputation and research in the field.

These universities have shown strength in producing research related to a variety of medical and biomedical topics.

  • University of Cape Town
  • University of Witwatersrand
  • Stellenbosch University
  • University of KwaZulu Natal
  • University of Pretoria
  • North West University – South Africa

It is important to note that, for the three medical related courses in this list (Immunology, microbiology, and clinical medicine), University of Cape Town and Wits University together have produced 3 Nobel Prize winners in the medical field.

It is not to say that these varsities are the best in this field but to give you an idea on how to choose your medical school.

5. Agricultural Sciences

Agricultural science is a broad multidisciplinary field of biology that encompasses the parts of exact, natural, economic and social sciences that are used in the practice and understanding of agriculture.

There are two recommended universities in South Africa to study Agricultural science. They are;

  • Stellenbosch University
  • University of Pretoria

Careers in this course include agricultural marketing management, agricultural financial analyst, production planner, agricultural meteorologist, researcher, soil chemist.

Payscale estimates that those with Bachelor of Science (BS / BSc), Agriculture Degree earn R483,000 average salary.

6. Plant and Animal Science

The animal and plant sciences differ greatly, but they do share some commonalities.

While Plant Sciences focus on topics such as how to make plants grow and protect them from insects, Animal Sciences focus on animals such as livestock, as well as managing their bodies and systems.

Topics in this course may include plant research, plant pathology, plant nutrition, veterinary medicine, marine and freshwater biology, and zoology.

Top Plant and Animal Science universities in South Africa include;

  • University of Pretoria
  • University of Cape Town
  • Stellenbosch University
  • University of KwaZulu Natal
  • University of Witwatersrand
  • Rhodes University
  • North West University – South Africa
  • Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University

Students interested in plant and animal science can explore these top-notch universities that have shown strength in producing research related to the field.

7. Space Science

Space science involves all of the scientific disciplines that come with space exploration and study natural phenomena and physical bodies occurring in outer space, such as space medicine and astrobiology.

The major courses offered by South African Universities in the Space Science field are Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Whilst Astronomers view the stars and galaxies, Astrophysicist interprets astronomical data gathered by astronomers and understand how our universe works.

These are exciting programmes aimed at future scientists interested in space science.

South Africa is an exciting base for scientists in the fields of Astronomy and Astrophysics.

Over the past decade, the South African nation has become increasingly dependent on space-based applications to manage its national resources and to support its safety and security objectives.

There is, therefore, a need for professionals in this field. However, just a small number of universities are offering Space-Time courses. The best of these are;

  • University of Cape Town – Astronomy
  • CPUT – Space science and technology
  • Wits University – Astronomy and Astrophysics
  • Unisa – Astronomy

8. Law

Law is one of the best courses you can study in South Africa.

There are several universities offering this course with the aim of developing the next generation of skilled legal professionals who will ensure the maintenance and strengthening of an open, free and democratic South Africa.

Here are the best-ranked universities in South Africa to study Law.

  • University of Cape Town
  • Stellenbosch University
  • University of Pretoria
  • University of Witwatersrand
  • University of Johannesburg

The average salary an Attorney/Lawyer is R191,866 according to PayScale.

9. Developmental studies

Development studies is a multidisciplinary branch of social science. It is offered as a specialized master’s degree in a number of reputed universities across the world, and, less commonly, as an undergraduate degree.

Development studies is a critical area for study, teaching, and research for South African students as well as students from the rest of the African continent.

Possible careers for graduates of this course are Research Analyst, Research, Coordinator/Assistant, Public Policy Researcher, Senior Policy Analyst, Development Consultant, Management Consultant, International Aid Worker, etc.

Developmental studies courses are offered in the following SA higher educational institutions.

  • Wits University
  • University of Pretoria
  • University of South Africa
  • University of KwaZulu-Natal
  • University of Johannesburg
  • North-West University

10. Anthropology/Archaeology

Archaeology is the study of human history through material remains such as stone tools, food residue, rock art, pottery and settlement plans.

It is an ideal companion major subject for anyone studying History or Anthropology.

Studying Anthropology/Archaeology course in South Africa involve specific research interests into issues related to human evolution; the emergence of modern humans; and the history of hunter-gatherer, pastoralist, and farming communities in southern Africa, as well as the archaeology of more recent colonial settlement.

Three of the best universities where you can study this twin course are;

  • Wits University
  • University of Cape Town
  • University of Pretoria.

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