The moment when a student and his parents hear – or see – his SSC result is potent and full of mixed feelings – joy and apprehension, freedom mixed with uncertainty, hope and wishfulness mixed with indecision and confusion. On the one hand, it signifies freedom and liberation, while on the other hand it is the stepping-stone towards life as a responsible citizen, and the threshold of their career. It is their first glimpse of adult life and a time for making life-changing decisions.
The biggest decision for a student passing SSC is the choice of the future academic path – which will eventually shape his career and perhaps his life. It is not a decision to be taken lightly.
To help you make the all-important decision about the choice of streams after tenth, we have summarized your options – making it easier to visualize what you can expect from each option available to you.
What are your options?
A student – particularly in India – is faced with three main options – Arts, Science, or Commerce – after clearing his Senior School Certification (SSC). While the process might be different in other countries, we will talk here about choices in India.
Making the Choice
Even as a child approaches grade 8 or 9, teachers and parents alike begin prepping him for making the choice. Specifically, when a child enters grade 8 he is faced with his first choice – that of a third language. A child learns the local – regional – language up until grade 7. As he steps into grade 8 or 9, he has the option to continue learning the regional language or select another language in its place. This may be a foreign language such as French or German – or another regional language of his choice. Many students opt for Sanskrit – the language of the scriptures – with a view to imbibing their culture and tradition. Some select their mother tongue as the choice of third language while others continue with the local regional language with hope that fluency in the local dialect will help them in their career.
There are other changes too, – what was hitherto General Science now breaks up into three branches – Physics, Chemistry, and Biology. Mathematics branches into Algebra and Geometry – in preparation for those who will take up science or commerce later. Other subjects such as Economics, home science, and Accountancy are also introduced at this stage and the focus of learning shifts from a holistic approach to a more directed and targeted one.
Grades 8 and 9 give the child the first taste of his career choices
Picking the Right Stream
The reasoning behind making a choice is somewhat driven by myth and social bias. Traditionally, the choice of science stream was for those hoping to take up medicine or engineering as a career while commerce has always been perceived as the optimal choice for business related careers. Arts were considered the ideal choice for the creative minded or those who failed to gain admission in Science or Commerce.
The traditional – and somewhat narrow – schools of thought have undergone change in the 21st century, and students are now exploring new avenues in each stream. However, the basic choice remains the same – a choice of Arts, Science, or Commerce.
There is also a fourth option of taking up a vocational course – which is usually for a year or two – and jumping straight into your career without having to study degree college.
Let us look at each of the three streams Arts, Science, and Commerce, in some depth –
Traditionally the ideal choice for would be doctors and engineers – and also one that most parents dream and hope their child will take – the study of science opens up the doors for many lucrative careers and professions. Here is a short list –
- Doctorate in any medical field including dentistry, homeopathy, and other alternative medical sciences with a career choice of medical practice in a specialized area of medicine
- Study of Micro-biology which will lead you to become a pathologist, a forensic medical examiner in the medico-legal arena, or a researcher working with the likes of FDA (Food and Drug Administration), CDC (Centre for Disease Control), or the Indian CDSCO (India Central Drugs Standard Control Organization) studying pathogens and their impact
- A career in nursing which may lead to a private freelance career caring for patients at home, a job in a large medical institution, or a palliative care home. Some nurses go on to pursue MBBS and eventually become doctors.
- The study of physiotherapy, which may lead to an independent practice or a job in a hospital or nursing home
- Study of Engineering, Technology or Architecture which may pan out into a career as a civil engineer in the construction industry, a mechanical engineer designing, manufacturing, or maintaining machines for various industries including IT, or designing buildings and other constructions.
- Study of electronics – which may lead you to become an inventor or a job with a large – perhaps multinational – organization
- Study as a para-medical student and a career as a radiology technician, an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician) or other peripheral medial careers – which are just as rewarding as main-stream medicine – perhaps more so.
- Study and practice of alternative medicine such as Homeopathy or Ayurveda
Indeed, your spectrum of opportunities is as wide and varied as your imagination.
The academic course after 10th (SSC) in India is usually two years of foundational study that includes the study of Physics and Chemistry along with either Mathematics (PCM) or Biology (PCB) depending upon which direction you hope to take in future. This is usually followed by three years of specialized study in a selected subject followed – optionally – by a further two to three years of super specialized study – commonly referred to as Post Graduation or PhD. In the medical field, this may be Master of Surgery (MS) in a chosen speciality.
In Grade 11, you can also opt to study both Mathematics and Biology along with Physics and Chemistry (PCMB) if you so wish and keep your options open. Most educational boards and their affiliated schools, colleges, and institutions, have these three or four subjects – depending upon your choice – as mandatory, along with one language and an additional optional subject. Generally, the choices for the optional subject include –
For the medical stream (PCB) – Psychology, Economics, Physical Education, Biotechnology, Economics, or Home Science, English
For the non-medical stream (PCM) – Computer Science, Drawing (Engineering), Psychology, Fine Arts, Physical Education, English
This would depend of course, in the curriculum being followed and the subjects offered by your chosen school, college, or institution.
The commerce stream – B.Com or Bachelor of Commerce – may be described as the study of trade and business. The traditional perspective about this stream is that of a median of sorts – based on two prevalent schools of thoughts – or myths –
- Commerce is for those who fail to gain admittance into science
- Commerce is for children of business persons
These myths cannot be farther from the truth. Commerce is the study of the economy and the businesses that run the economy.
If you opt for commerce, you have an even wider spectrum of career options than a science student does, – ranging from being an economist who advises the government on how to manage the economy to being a chartered accountant running your own firm to working with multi-nationals and implementing mergers and alliances.
The main subjects of study in the commerce stream – particularly until K12 – include –
- Book-keeping and accountancy – a study of recording the income and expenditure of your business or organization
- Business Studies – the study of different types of businesses and how they operate
- Economics – the study of fiscal principals and policies and how they impact business and trade
- English – a necessary language if you want to enter the world of international business
The fifth is an elective subject that you may opt for if you choose to drop mathematics. In general, your choices include – but are not limited to –
- Informatics Practices
- Physical Education
- Computer Science
- Multimedia and Web Technology
- Legal Studies
- Psychology and Fine Arts
If you do take up Mathematics, you have the option to pursue statistics or Actuarial Science and move on to research and analytics – which opens up even more career opportunities for you.
Arts – Now called Humanities
Shrouded in the myth of being the only option for weak students – the Arts stream has been reborn as Humanities in the 21st century – and is the first choice for many students interested in subjects such as literature, history, politics, psychology, and sociology to name a few. In fact, there are no mandatory subjects in this stream – except perhaps a language – and you are free to pursue your passion and follow your star. So if your favourite subject in school were Geography for instance, you could choose to continue studying this subject by opting for Humanities after completing your SSC and taking up Geography as your main subject.
Bear in mind though, that you would be required to make a choice of at least five subjects to study until Grade 12 following which, you may pick your speciality.
In fact, if you pick the Humanities stream to follow your passion, it would be advisable to seek out an appropriate curriculum – or education board – and an institution that offers your selected subject.
Some students prefer to pursue vocational courses after completing their SSC. There are many reasons for this ranging from financial constraints to outright disabilities. These courses are offered as certificate, diploma, or shorter degree courses – usually for a duration of 6 months, 1 year, or 2 years. The courses are designed to provide the student with industry based knowledge and skills enabling him to secure a job in his chosen industry.
Once again, there is a wide spectrum of vocational courses you can choose from, after passing SSC. Some of the more popular ones include –
- Beauty care
- Catering management
- Computer science
- Computerised accounting and financial decision making
- Cosmetology Food preservation/ production and many others
- Electrical Engineering
- English Communication & Presentation skills
- Event management
- Fashion designing
- Film Making
- Graphic Designing
- Hotel Management
- International trade management
- Lifestyle products
Colleges around India that offer vocational courses include –
- Andhra Pradesh AECS Pavan Industrial Training Institute
- Dehradun The ICFAI University
- Dehradun Vivekanand Institute of Hotel & Tourism Management
- Gujarat Dr. B. R. Ambedkar Govt. Polytechnic Chamber of Commerce Manali Ramakrishna Polytechnic College
- Haryana City Group of Colleges
- Karnataka Agarpara College
- Kolar Jagadguru Sree Renukacharya Vidya Peeta
- Mangalmay Institute Of Management and Technology
- New Delhi Rajeev Gandhi Ayurved College
- Orissa Abdul Kalam Institute of Technological Sciences Academy for Aeronautics and Computer Science
- TN R.C. Institute of Technology
- UP Institute of Technology And Management (ITM)
- UP Jagan Nath University
On a closing note, the choice of area of study after completing secondary education is not an easy one to make – not the least because there is a plethora of options. It doesn’t help that parents are nearly as confused as the students are, and under considerable social pressure.
Remember the choice must be made wisely with your feet on the ground, your head on your shoulders, and a clear vision. Most importantly, remember the choice is yours to make.
So here’s wishing you all the best in your performance, career, and life.