Many young people continue to ponder the option of taking a professional course as they seek to have an edge in a highly saturated job market.  Photo / Edgar R Batte


To study or not to study a professional course

What you need to know:

  • Young people continue to invest in education with many going for professional courses that some believe make them better employees or give them leverage over others. However, in this article, we examine the best way possible and if at all you need to spend money and time pursuing a professional course

The need to find work has never been more urgent than it is today. 

According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics (2021), 9.3 million young people aged between 18 and 30 years, were not in school, work or training. 

The facts above speak volumes and show the biting unemployment that Ugandans continue to grapple with.

But even with such levels of unemployment, many young people continue to invest in education with many going for professional courses that some believe make them better employees or give them leverage to get employment.

A professional course is industry-specific and practical training meant for working professionals. 

“These are courses you do to have a deep dive into a given subject. They are very important to do because, through them, one acquires the knowledge and skills required for a particular job,” Joan Larok, the team lead at Magister Training Associates, says.

Henry Kibirige of Sofos Consult, a human resource consultancy firm, says several companies are making their employees redundant for one reason or another. 

“It is crucial that one is ready to look for other jobs and what better way than to have a professional course under your sleeve. It supplements your experience hence making you employable” he says.

Nonetheless, not every course is good for you as it should be picked with care for it to give you the desired push.

Why a professional course?

While many root for the narrative of experience reigning above academic qualifications, in several institutions, the paper qualifications required cannot be underestimated.

Kibirige says if a job requires that one is a master’s degree holder, chances are they will be the first sieve. 

“It is also important to note that as the world becomes more tech-savvy, even the selection criteria are becoming computerised. Therefore, if the programme has been set to only allow those with ACCA, one with a diploma and 20 years of experience will lose out,” he says.

Even in instances where the selection is manual, in institutions such as government and international organisations, academic qualifications hold. 

“If one shortlists people that do not align to set requirements, they must provide reasons as to why they have done so. Who is willing to stake their name for another only to be labelled corrupt? While bribery exists, many will choose the higher road to avoid any negative outcomes,” Kibirige says.

It is in such cases that professional courses are crucial as they set you above the crowd and are a justifiable reason why you deserve to be short-listed. 

That is not forgetting to make you a desirable candidate for the job, because as Larok says, professional courses have an edge over flat courses as many are globally recognised hence a wider employability.  


While there is a conversation around an overload of people with professional courses, as of 2021, the World Bank estimated that there was a shortage in some professions. 

For instance, the World Bank reported that there was a shortage of about 8,000 professional accountants, which presents an opportunity for professionals to skill up.

“With about 4,000 professional accountants at the moment, we are yet to reach saturation levels,” Larok says and notes that most accounting professionals are concentrated in cities and government employment, with the private sector left to struggle for the few available ones. 

As a young person, it is important to ensure that you are always ready for any job opportunity that might avail itself.  Photo / File 


Some people have lost out on employment because they could be ‘overqualified’ for the job.

While some may front that as an excuse to keep away from professional courses, Kibirige says the issue of over-qualification is akin to being exceptionally beautiful at a beauty contest as it is not a crime. 

“While you may suffer envy from other contestants, it does not mean you undo what is there. Therefore, being overqualified is not your fault, in as much as it can work against you as has been my case in some instances,” he says.

To deal with this, Kibirige says, when applying for a job, one should read the job requirements and only include the requisite qualifications.

“If a bachelor’s degree is the needed qualification, there is no need to display your two postgraduate diplomas and two masters. Even the recruiter might get scared. Therefore, applying wisdom is crucial,” he says. 

The person can then update their curriculum vitae after getting the job or during a review, such as performance appraisals, which makes them qualified for other internal jobs or promotions.

Fighting redundancy

While a certificate may expire, a skill never will, unless it becomes obsolete. For instance, due to the advent of computers, typists became irrelevant. However, a software engineer only needs to learn the software programme updates to remain at the top of their game. 

Another example is that when Covid-19 hit, some jobs got more demand, and others became a bit redundant or had less demand while new ones were created.

“In every area, there is continuous skills change because technology is [always] evolving. The problem is when people think that after one level, school and learning is done yet learning is continuous if one is to remain relevant,” he says.

It is also detrimental when someone thinks they cannot work outside their field of study. 

Kibirige believes that going to school is just an opening to the world of work. It is meant to give you the confidence to do more and diversify. 

“It is imperative that professionals think outside the box to create transformational opportunities. For instance, an IT person can also work as an administrator yet leverage their skills to better their output. Imagine that they create a system to profile the different animals in the zoo for the tourists. That will make them an asset to the establishment,” he says.

Standing out

Many people are doing professional courses and chances are that in an interview, there may be more than five people who possess them. Thus, in such instances, it takes more than just the course to stand out. The question then is, what more are you doing to be an exceptional dentist, auditor, or journalist?

Larok says the secret lies in personal development to give you a competitive edge.

“The difference maker is the character and attitude and they can be seen during the interview in how one presents themselves. Polishing them will make you more focused, decisive and confident to execute your work,” she says.

Additionally, most professional courses have continuous professional development that enables you to know new trends that help you remain current. 

Tenacity to do the course

Professional courses are often costly yet most candidates are only starting. That creates a strain, even a delay in completion.

When Larok graduated with a Bachelor of Science from Makerere University, she felt that she would not get the job she desired, thus, she enrolled for ACCA. 

Aware that it would require time and resources to reach the finish line, she got a starter job. Midway through the course, she got an accounting job and began applying what she was studying.

“It takes planning and focusing on what you want and how to achieve it. For instance, how will you get the money? Are there teams or people who can support me? There are organisations, and government institutions that sponsor people who do such professional courses. Look out for such opportunities,” she says.

What else?

Larok left formal employment in 2019 with the belief that she could become a job creator. While one may fail to get work easily or even lose their job, she says that when you have a professional course, it is easier to navigate the waters because you have the skills, knowledge, and experience.

True to her dream, Larok started a company where she now employs people and empowers others. 

On the other hand, Kibirige is convinced that there is no disadvantage in doing professional courses. Even if you do not get the job in the next few years, you never know when you have achieved is going to be useful.

“Increased knowledge is never wasted. At some point, you might use it elsewhere because, in education, there is transfer of knowledge or skills. That enables people in different sectors without showing skill deficiency,” he says.

Margaret Kirabo Namale

My experience

Margaret Kirabo Namale is a business executive at Nation Media Group, Uganda and she is at Level 6 of the Chartered Institute of Marketing (CIM) accredited degree. While doing sales, Namale says CIM, a professional course helps her to recalibrate her trade beyond knowing the theory of marketing. 

She benchmarks that on the fact that practical lessons are imparted, such as understanding the economic, and market trends to meet evolving client needs.  

“Marketing is customer-centric, looking at what the customer needs and offering a solution. Picking from the course, more than ever, my drive is to understand client’s needs and prioritise them over getting an advert from them. It is researching about their history, goals, client demographic, and purpose for an advertising campaign then selling to them what works for their brand, in that season,” she says.

As a salesperson, Namale meets many people but the challenge comes in making them understand the essence of working with the NMG brand for their visibility. 

For example, a finance person may not appreciate advertising the same way the managing director will.

“CIM has taught me how to engage them from their point of view, never assuming that I can use the same narrative for different people. That way, I can sell my idea while meeting their need,” she says.