26 February 2016

East Africa: 5 Promising Career Paths for Recent Graduates in Rwanda

You've collected your diploma, tossed your cap in the air, and snapped photos with your family. You're ready to take on the real world!

But you can't celebrate for long. Now you've got to find a job, pay off your loans, and put that freshly minted degree to good use. Finding employment straight out of university can be tough. You're competing against people with years of experience and deep professional networks. But there are a handful of industries hungry for fresh talent and youthful ambition.

So we asked the question, "What are the hottest jobs for recent grads?" After talking to the experts, here's what we found:

1. Computer Programmers/Software Developers

Governments, private industry players, and NGOs are increasingly moving online. They're building apps, portals, and programs for their clients and donors. They need computer programmers and software developers to help them build effective applications across a wide range of industries, from communications and education to agriculture and banking.

Computer programmers write programs to accomplish specified tasks using computer languages. Software developers look at the bigger picture and use code to develop a product or service.

These jobs are particularly suited for computer science graduates who are familiar with the latest technology and don't mind putting in the long hours required to perfect a new program.

What you'll be doing: Common job activities entail reviewing existing software systems and suggesting improvements, designing and coding new systems, and maintaining systems once they're online.

What's needed: To land one of these jobs, you'll need a bachelor's degree in computer science or software engineering in addition to strong programming skills.

2. Accountants and Auditors

International firms are opening new offices across East Africa, and these branches must meet the standards of their parent companies as well as their investors. Governments too are demanding more rigorous financial documentation. Navigating the maze of financial rules and regulations can be daunting for any business, no matter how established they are. This is where accountants come it. They make sure that a business' financial records are in order and that taxes and fees are paid properly.

Academic institutions, such as the University of Rwanda and the Kigali Institute of Management, often offer degree programs in accounting that will set graduates up for entry-level positions.

What you'll be doing: Accountants are primarily responsible for an organization's financial information. They make sure the business keeps good records, meets its financial obligations, and follows sound fiscal practices. On a day-to-day basis, accountants perform a wide variety of roles, including paying taxes, performing audits, inspecting the books, and suggesting budgetary improvements.

What's needed: Graduates can enter the field with an associate's degree in accounting, but many companies prefer a bachelor's or master's degree in the field. Many employers also expect their hires to either hold or be working toward professional certification through an internationally accredited organization, such as ACCA.

3. Customer Service Specialists

With the government's focus on building an information economy and flourishing tourism industry, customer service is in the spotlight. Startups such as hellofood and Off Grid Electric are committed to delivering the best possible experience to their clients. Telcoms, banks, airlines, and hotels also require experienced service personnel to ensure their customers' needs are met.

Customer service can be an excellent entry point into the job market for recent graduates with a passion for helping others and strong communication skills. While most grads start as associates or agents, the field offers plenty of opportunities to rise quickly to mid-level or management roles.

What you'll be doing: Customer service agents act as the primary point of contact for customers. They field phone calls and emails, address customer complaints, and provide information about a company's products or services.

What's needed: Most employers expect at least a two-year diploma or certificate in hospitality management, public relations, marketing, communications, or a related field. A bachelor's or master's degree would give you an advantage.

4. Sales and Business Development Agents

For any business to survive, it needs customers. Sales and business development agents are key to bringing new clients in the door. There's a perpetual demand for people who can close a deal and convince consumers to try a product or service.

Employers are often hire young graduates for the energy and enthusiasm they bring to the roles. Entry-level roles are often an excellent proving ground, where your efforts can be rewarded with commission-based pay and promotions.

What you'll be doing: This is not a role for shy people. You'll need to have a knack for closing a deal and convincing people to see your point of view. Many sales jobs involve building relationships, meeting sales and revenue targets, and interacting with existing customers. The pressure to meet quotas can be high, but if you thrive in fast-paced work environments, this could be your calling.

What's needed: Most employers expect at least a two-year diploma in business administration, sales, marketing, or communications, though a degree is preferred.

5. School Teachers

Africa's population is expected to double to 2.4 billion by 2050. This influx of young people combined with government efforts to put all children through primary school is sure to put a heavy demand on East Africa's and Rwanda's education systems. That demand spells good news for teachers and educators.

As you might expect, this career path offers long-term stability comparatively rare in other career fields. While public schools aren't known for their perks and pay, private schools often offer more lucrative remuneration packages.

What you'll be doing: As a teacher, your main tasks will include helping pupils attain prescribed scores on national and district-level standards in addition to introducing social concepts and life skills in the classroom.

What's needed: Public school teachers are typically required to have a teaching diploma or a bachelor's degree in education. You'll need to complete a teacher preparation program and demonstrate classroom competence through student-teaching or a probationary period.

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