Four vocational qualifications are growing more and more in popularity as the top courses for distance learning students this year. The emerging courses for 2020 are Hospitality and Catering Services, Educare, Health and Safety, and Farming Management.

“It’s no surprise that these courses are getting so much interest, because they are all substantial vocational qualifications that enable students to get a foot in the door in growing sectors,” said Elbie Liebenberg the Managing Director of Oxbridge Academy, which serves more than 20 000 South African distance learning students every year.

She said although the numbers continuously fluctuate, because distance learning students can enroll throughout the year, it is clear that the aforementioned courses are high in demand this year among young people who want to be earning while they are learning.


“In our highly competitive job market, people are starting to realise the value of earning a qualification which can either strengthen their existing position in the workplace, or that can get them a foot in the door in their field of interest rather than attempting to do so without a relevant qualification,” she said. 

“Many students have also realised the value of vocational qualifications geared toward giving you the necessary theoretical and technical skills, for jobs where there is still a high demand for people who can walk in and do the work from day one,” said Liebenberg.

She says the 4 most popular courses as determined by enrollment figures at the time of writing are:

Health and safety skills certificate 

Apart from legal and regulatory requirements, employers are increasingly appointing safety officers in an effort to avoid the financial impact of employees or members of the public getting hurt and the company being held liable, as well as the damage to their reputation as a result of accidents or negligence. 

Liebenberg says the increasing demand has led to more and more employers seeking qualified professionals to fill these roles – which shows up clearly on positions offered on local and international job search sites.  This, in turn, has led to an increase in prospective students who seek to acquire a qualification to prove their competency in the field.

Hospitality and catering services certificate 

With tourism one of South Africa’s strongest sectors, and accessible international job opportunities in this sector, students are jumping at the chance to gain a qualification which provides them with the foundational knowledge and skills they need to start a successful career in the hospitality and catering services industry. 

In addition to learning about essential elements such as catering, nutrition and safety, students also develop valuable management and communication skills, which give them a broad skills base which they can apply in other branches of the hospitality industry.


A perennial favourite, an Educare qualification gives access to positions in childcare fields such as early childhood development, teaching assistance, as well as au pairing, to name a few.

“Although there are many opportunities in this industry, we urge prospective students to pursue this career path for the right reasons, and not simply because of the availability of jobs,” says Liebenberg.


“You must be passionate about what you do, because caring for young children is a big responsibility, and it can be a tiring task! If you’re only thinking about earning a salary, then this career path isn’t for you. 

“You need to be truly invested in caring for children, in helping them develop essential skills, and in laying the platform for their future education. Parents will depend on you to care for their children and to help them through the most important stages of their life,” she says.

Farming Management 

A new entrant to the hottest qualifications list this year, is Farming Management. Opportunities available after successful completion of a registered and accredited Farming Management Certificate or Diploma, include that of farm manager or supervisor, food processing manager, agricultural product representative, packhouse manager, and farming consultant.

“Farming Management introduces students to the exciting world of agriculture, and teach them essential skills such as business management, financial and date management, maintenance management and other skills specific to this sector,” says Liebenberg.

She says vocational training via distance learning is a great option for young people and those already in the workplace, who would like to further their studies but who may not want to or be able to commit to full-time study.

“In addition to getting you ready for a specific career, vocational training is often shorter in duration, can be done via distance or part-time study, and fees are more affordable. So before you commit to a course or institution, make sure that you have investigated future career opportunities, the current demand for professionals in your chosen field, and the potential new offerings at institutions that may not have existed even last year.


“It is important to find the right fit for you and your life, both in terms of what to study, and also the mode of study, if you are to be successful.”