Select a career, not a job

Long road ahead: Study what you like most.

Long road ahead: Study what you like most.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: K. Murali Kumar


Ponder over selection of subjects at the higher secondary level

Selecting four science subjects — physics, chemistry, mathematics and biology — is advantageous when you join the higher secondary course. If you take computer science instead of mathematics or biology, you lose this great advantage.

“Computer” can be studied even outside the school classes. But it is practically difficult to study biology or mathematics except through regular schools. In any case, everyone will have to develop computer skills for surviving in any profession. This need not necessarily be through regular school classes. If the student has the aptitude to take up both mathematics and biology in the science stream, that choice stands out above others in most cases.

There is a fear that studies will be too heavy if four science subjects are chosen. This has no substance. Several lakhs of students undergo the higher secondary level programmes with such a combination every year.

The curriculum is not tough to an ordinary student who puts in regular work. You should enjoy the laboratory experiments and preparation of laboratory records. The lessons are easy and can be mastered through systematic study.


An advantage of studying mathematics at the Plus Two level is that it helps a lot in facing competitive tests. Almost all written tests, such as those for appointment of clerks and officers in the banking and insurance sectors, and the civil services examination (general studies) have mathematics questions. These may be called numerical ability, quantitative aptitude and so on. The area covered may not be advanced mathematics, but only arithmetic of the secondary school standard and basic statistics.

However, a candidate who stopped studying mathematics in the 10th Standard may shudder at a question involving a fractional number or a square root symbol. But a candidate who has learnt mathematics at the higher secondary level will easily clear such questions. Even if you want to go for pilot training, you should have studied mathematics and physics at the Plus Two level.

Those who select science subjects at the Plus Two level can, if they so desire, change over to humanities when they go for the degree course. But if you choose humanities or commerce in the Plus Two classes, you cannot go for any science subject for the degree course. This is some sort of a one-way street. We shall explain this.

A student who studied mathematics/biology, physics and chemistry in the higher secondary classes will be permitted to pursue the B.A. degree course in history, sociology, economics or political science. But one who has a higher secondary certificate in history, economics and political science can never dream of joining the B.Sc. programmes in chemistry, physics or botany.

Commerce stream

There is a misconception about the commerce group. Many believe that those who go for commerce in the higher secondary course and then do B.Com. receive preferential treatment in the matter of selection as officers or assistants in banks and insurance organisations.

It is true that students learn banking and insurance in the commerce stream both at the higher secondary and the degree levels. However, they seldom get any preferential treatment in the selection to banks or insurance companies in the public sector.

For appointment of bank probationary officers, the competitive test covers reasoning, quantitative aptitude, general awareness, computer literacy and English Language. In the insurance officers selection test, the subjects are current affairs and general knowledge, reasoning ability, English language and insurance knowledge.

The questions on insurance in the test are limited. For the selection of clerks, the test covers general knowledge, general English, quantitative aptitude and numerical ability, reasoning ability, marketing aptitude and computer knowledge.

This shows that opting for the commerce group is no passport to a banking or insurance job. Some of the private banks or new generation banks may offer some preference to commerce graduates. However, those who follow the commerce stream at the higher secondary level will have some initial advantage if they go for programmes in chartered accountancy, company secretaryship or cost and works accountancy.

The prospects for developing a bright career through higher studies should be borne in mind while selecting the optional subjects for the higher secondary course. There is a significant difference between a job and a career. A job fetches you money by way of salary or wages. It is not money alone that makes for a happy life. You would have come across people who say that their job is dull and uninteresting, though they get a fine pay packet. A career offers much more than money. It carries position, status, prestige, opportunities for facing challenges, job satisfaction and a sense of fulfilment. Look at a District Collector who earns much less than many businessmen. The Collector is known to almost everyone in his jurisdiction; he enjoys prestige and status. Selection of course should involve a long-range perspective in career building.

Usually, there are special higher secondary courses with inputs from vocational subjects. The curriculum will have the major components of the regular higher secondary course.

In addition, there will be theoretical and practical classes in select vocational subjects. You may pursue the vocation after the programme. But you may not rise professionally on the strength of this qualification. If you are desirous of further studies, you will be able to do so, since the vocational higher secondary certificate is considered equivalent to the regular higher secondary certificate for admission to programmes in higher education.

Each has its merits

The foregoing discussions do not suggest that any subject group is superior to others, in absolute terms. Every subject and group has its role in society.

All subjects are important. But we find that many students and parents show special preference to certain disciplines because they offer early jobs.

That is why we had listed “potential of the programme for early placement” as one of the key factors in identifying the best course for a student.

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