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What after 10th- How to Choose?

Ravi’s 10th examination results were just out, and he had passed with distinction. “What next”? was on everyone’s mind in his family. He got plenty of suggestions regarding the future choice to be made. Some suggested Science is a risk-free and the best option as it offers broad scope, multiple career options, and allows one to shift to other streams going forward. Others suggested Commerce as its relatively more comfortable to study and also offers a lot of career options. But very few suggested Arts/ Humanities as it was considered to have a minimal scope in the job market and hence not a good choice. And there were hardly any suggestions regarding exploring any options other than these conventional but popular choices. 

Importance of making the right choice

What to choose next? Can your kid take the road less traveled or go for the one trodden by many? Deciding ‘what to do after Class 10’ often turns out to be one of the most vital decisions of a student’s life.  For the first time, a student is standing at a crossroads where the choice made will have a significant impact on their future. Many students find this question intimidating if they are not clear about their career ambitions and the ways to accomplish it. It is crucial to have clarity regarding the future career path for a smooth transition from a student’s life to a successful professional career.  If the student cannot make an informed decision, then he might end up in a job that is not suitable for him. Quite often, I see students going through this transition phase, getting influenced by misinformation and end up making the wrong choice detrimental to their future. And if the kid makes an inappropriate choice after Class 10, then he will have to put up with the repercussions for the rest of his life.

Fixing of the North Star (Direction) is very important if not the North Pole (Destination) itself.

The secondary school students, when in their 8th & 9th standards, should be encouraged to explore and consider their future options, which is critical for them in finding their best career choice. By the time they are in their 10th standard, they need to be aware of their career direction. They should at least be sure of their North Star, which is a broad direction of their future career path if not the North Pole (Destination) of their career. This fixing of direction shall give them an advantage in choosing a particular job according to their strengths, personality, interests, & aspirations. Let us consider some examples of what could be a broad direction of potential career and its possible career destination.

North Star (Direction)North Pole (Destination)
Technology/ EngineeringMachine Learning Engineer
MedicineAyurveda Doctor
EconomicsRisk Analyst
CommerceBusiness Manager
Performing ArtsTheatre Director
Passionate about petsPet Groomer
Love to help elderly peopleGerontologist

How to fix the North Star?

Let us understand how can we help students to make an appropriate choice with various compelling and competing options available to them. Several factors need to be considered carefully before choosing a particular stream and subject combination after Class 10. Since the selected subject combination would determine the path of a student’s career, no decision should be made without judiciously considering the career goals and aspirations of the student. 

Let us be aware of three crucial factors to be considered before making a choice.  

  1. Know Thyself

’Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom” – Aristotle

The primary factors that should be considered while understanding yourself are your:

  • Aptitude/ Strengths & Weaknesses,
  • Personality/ Lifestyle preferences and 
  • Interests/ Passion
  1. Aptitude – An aptitude can be defined as an innate, acquired, learned, or developed component of a competency to perform a specific kind of work at a specific level. Aptitudes can either be physical or mental. To choose a stream and subject combination after Class 10 that is right for students, students should take an aptitude test that will allow them to know their strengths, weaknesses, skills, and intelligence in diverse areas.  An aptitude test is a systematized test that is designed to measure the ability of an individual to develop skills and acquire knowledge in a particular area. Aptitude tests help in calibrating the chances of an individual’s success in an activity in which they are yet to get trained. While choosing an option after Class 10, an aptitude test can be quite useful for students, as it creates awareness about opportunities that probably they had not known before. And they can also corroborate if a particular career path that they are willing to explore is suitable for them. Aptitude tests also help students in understanding their natural preferences when it comes to doing a job. They can be quite a handy tool in tapering down a student’s viable career choices.
  1. Personality– Personality is usually understood as a combination of an individual’s thoughts, feelings, emotions, and behavior based on one’s attitude. Understanding oneself by being aware of one’s personality is very critical as each individual will have a unique personality and is one of the vital factors in deciding the long-term success of the chosen career. Some aspects of an individual’s personality, like willing to be a leader or a follower, comfortable working in a team, or prefer to work alone, go a long way in the choice of the right career. Personality tests give people an idea of their psychological makeup and can be a great tool when looking for a career. Knowing what personality type an individual is, can help in choosing the ideal job and work environment suitable for their kind, and ensuring that the work environment is a happy and productive place. As a young adult trying to find out if you’re moving in the right direction, it’s critical to understand yourself and the personality traits which will impact your likeliness to succeed or fail at various careers. With the awareness of your strengths and weaknesses and value system, you are in a prominent position to choose a profession that you will find rewarding.  
  1. Interests – Choosing a stream based on an individual’s interest is vital from a long-term career success perspective. Have you seen a working professional complaining and unhappy about their job or the daily drudgery? It doesn’t make a pleasant sight, isn’t it? Want to avoid this?  Just follow your interests and passions. And the primary step in this process is identifying which subjects and career options are interesting to you. In your long term career, you can be happy and satisfied; only if you love your job. Do not choose a subject combination based solely on interests, unless it is backed by the necessary aptitude.

For this reason, a student must be aware of their aptitude before exploring their interests in a particular subject stream or a career field. It is not advisable to aspire for being a doctor when the student knows that he/she is no good at life sciences. Even though some subjects may appeal to students more than others, they can consider them provided they have an aptitude for those subjects. If the interest in those subjects is so overriding and intense, then the student must be mentally prepared to work exponentially harder than his peers to perform well. A student should choose a stream of subject combinations that will support and enable them to have a career of their choice. Students need to pursue a stream in which their interest lies so that they can pick a related career later, enjoying their job besides being successful. 

  1. Find answers to the following questions:
  1. What subject/s do I like the most and why? Before choosing a particular stream of study in Class 11, students must keep in mind the subjects they have always enjoyed studying and in which they have excelled earlier (not necessarily based on the marks scored in the subjects). Every student has a favorite subject at which they excel. They should choose a stream for themselves that includes their ‘favorite subject’ as well. 
  2. Which subject/s do I feel is the most difficult, and why? No subject is either easy or tough on its own; it’s the level of interest and aptitude in a subject which makes it one. Students must know the topics that they do not wish to study at all and also do not excel in. Making a list of subjects that a student does not like or cannot perform well will help in tapering down the subject combinations that will be most suited for them.
  3. Identify the right career choice with the help of a Professional Career counselor

To identify a career choice is very critical as it gives an appropriate direction to your career path. A career counselor with the help of a scientific assessment tool like a psychometric test shall help students to objectively understand themselves in terms of their aptitude, personality, and interests. Based on the assessment done, a counselor will be able to guide a student in the right direction and help him solve his career puzzle. 

Based on career direction, it becomes smoother for making the most appropriate choice of subject streams. Let’s look at some examples.

North Star- Career DirectionSubject stream
Engineering/TechnologyScience- PCM
Life Science/ ResearchScience- PCB
Pure Science/ ResearchScience-PCM
Medical/ Para-medical ScienceScience-PCB
Performing ArtsArts
Business Commerce

     Some common pitfalls to be avoided while making a choice are: 

  1. Parental Aspirations / Pressure: Parents should not coerce their kids into something that they believe is the right choice. We need to understand that our kids are unique, distinct from us, and would be aspiring to live their dreams. Our role is to equip and support them to make decisions regarding their future careers. Parents in India mostly tend to enforce their unfulfilled aspirations on their kids and nudge them to accept the choice made by them. This biased behavior of parents can lead to a lot of pressure on kids, culminating in the wrong choice for kids. 
  2. Academic performance/ Marks scored– Marks scored of a subject in the exams should not be the only criteria for making a choice. Many a time, other than the student’s aptitude and interests in the subject, factors like an inspirational teacher, intense efforts, rote learning and an easy question paper on expected lines, would play a prominent role in deciding the outcome of exams. High marks scored in a subject need not necessarily mean that the student is interested in pursuing that subject any further.
  3. Peer Pressure: According to Psychology, peer pressure is commonly ascribed to the control exercised by a peer group in encouraging an individual to alter his or her attitudes, values, or behavior to conform to group norms. 

The moment children get into high school, a sense of freedom sneaks into their minds, and friends group becomes an extended family. Peer pressure, at times, leads to the herd mentality, wherein one follows the group blindly, without having a clear understanding of the path followed and the consequences thereof.

  1. What other people think or say shouldn’t matter -The thought of social acceptance finds a way into their minds. And the decisions made will be impacted by the external environment and societal norms. The student needs to understand that it’s his life, and has to be his story. And his life should never be dictated or directed by others for any reason. In short, the student needs to hold his life’s remote with himself. The need for group acceptance is quite prominent at adolescence than at any point in a youngster’s life. Yet when group influence collides with an individual’s career choice, it becomes all the more critical to understand the role of this adverse influence in swaying a student’s career beliefs and decisions, and to control it before it leads to undesirable results.
  2. Mob Mentality of following a prevailing trend: At any given point in time, there will always be a trend, popular with the student community. There could be any number of factors like availability of jobs, the hype in media about a particular course and a career, and earning potential of a job, contributing to this trend. But one has to remember that the life and popularity of any trend are very fickle and could die down in a short time or be replaced by a new trend. So never make your choice based on a prevailing trend.
  3. Choose science, you can change to other streams later. Science at the +2 stage is a risk-free option as you can change to any other stream of your choice at the undergraduate level if you don’t want to pursue science any further. This mindset sometimes becomes a trap that a student needs to avoid.  Because a student not keen to study science but forced to take it up will usually end up not performing well. Their self-confidence may be impacted and lose interest in studies, thus adversely impacting their future.
  4. Perceived Scope of the course. The perceived scope of a course is a myth, course alone is unable to create scope for the students. It’s the responsibility of the students to work hard and extract the required scope from the course. I want to illustrate my point by considering the campus recruitment scenario of any reputed Engineering college.  With the onset of the campus recruitment season in India, we can anticipate seasonal news of a few students bagging an exceptional salary package from the recruiters. This package could at least be 4 to 5 times the average package offered in the market for freshers. Now come to think of it. Why only a few students out of the 1000+ engineering graduate outputs get this kind of valuation from the corporates. We all know that corporates neither hire nor pay for charity. This kind of a premium valuation of freshers would be for obvious reasons. But the moot point here is, if a particular course had the scope, then all students of a college studying the same course should get the same outcome, which is not the case. Then how were they able to differentiate themselves from the rest.  I believe it is the interests and the efforts put by them in learning and enhancing their knowledge, and acquiring relevant skills, that have created the course’s scope for them and not otherwise.

Options available after completing 10th standard

Now let’s look at the choice of courses/ streams available after the 10th.

The three most popular and conventional choices are :

  1. Science: Students interested in pursuing  Under-Graduate courses in Pure Science/ Technology/ Engineering/Medical/Dental or Para-Medical fields/ Commercial Pilot/ NDA
  2. Commerce: Students interested in pursuing UG courses in Commerce, Business Management, or Law
  3. Arts/Humanities: Students interested in pursuing UG courses in Law, Economics, Literature, Arts or Humanities field.

Other than these, we have a couple of offbeat but preferred courses by a section of students, which can be pursued after completing the 10th.

  1. Polytechnic Diploma Courses: Students who want to begin their career early can opt for Polytechnic Diploma Courses, which helps in developing industry-specific skills and knowledge in their interested domain. Moreover, for students who cannot pursue their formal education under 10+2 pattern for whatever reason, this can be an excellent option to kickstart their career. These courses are technical and usually will be for three years. 

Let me give some of the Polytechnic diploma course options which a student can consider after completing his 10th.

• Diploma in Mechanical Engineering

• Diploma in Electrical Engineering

• Diploma in Civil Engineering

• Diploma in Electronics Engineering

• Diploma in Computer Science Engineering

• Diploma in Industrial Production Engineering

• Diploma in Instrumentation Engineering

• Diploma in Marine Engineering

• Diploma in Textile Engineering

• Diploma in Automobile Engineering

• Diploma in Chemical Engineering

The major limitation of taking up any of these courses is that the student has to either continue higher education in the same stream or find a job in the chosen domain. For example, if a student decides to pursue a polytechnic diploma in Mechanical engineering, then he has to either do his higher education in the same discipline or find a job in his core domain. This limitation shall not allow the student to take up a different course in higher education and study other subjects after completing his diploma program in Mechanical engineering, even if he is not inclined or interested in continuing in the same domain. Since this is a dominant limiting factor, a student should be sure of his choice of career before deciding to take up a particular diploma course immediately after completing the 10th. Else I don’t recommend pursuing this course after the 10th.

  1. Vocational Courses: These are industry-specific courses aimed at training and preparing the students with the technical skills required for a particular profession. It provides necessary skills, hands-on training in the respective field so that seeking jobs become more comfortable. Vocational courses after 10th in India are highly relevant in terms of curriculum, structure, and scope. In India, it usually will be for a duration of 6 months to 3 years. 

Now let us consider some of the advantages of the above two courses.

  1. Industry-specific – The vocational courses are focused on training students with skills that are suitable for particular Industries such as Hospitality Management, Health Care, Auto-Mobiles, Animation, Fashion, and Textile. 
  2. Career Growth – The students who acquire skills in a particular profession are poised for higher career growth as they get employed once they complete their course and hence start early. 
  3. Learning professional skills – Students will have the opportunity to gain professional ethics and skills as they are provided industrial training during vocational education and training.    
  4. The demand for Skilled Employees – There is a constant demand for skilled employees in the Industrial sector as they are potential and trained youngsters who can contribute to the industry in the long term. Also, employers prefer skilled people over highly educated as they do not require training them specifically for any task.  
  5. Experience –Students develop skills through vocational courses and are employed in their specific industry, so they add knowledge and move towards better career options.
  6. Economic Scenario– Financially unstable Students can opt for vocational courses after class 10 as there are various Vocational Training Institutes that are recognized, owned, and funded by Government.
  7. Short Term Skill development – Vocational Education Courses are generally Certificate and Diploma courses, which are of six months to 3 years duration. 

Choose wisely, live well.

By broadly identifying the direction of a prospective career, it helps in choosing an apt subject stream to study after the 10th, in alignment with the broader goal. It always pays to make a well-informed and rational choice. Going to a career counselor will certainly help. Remember, all are equally competent in their areas. But if you make the mistake of judging an elephant by its capacity to climb a tree, then it will live its whole life believing that its a failure. The strength of an elephant lies in bringing down the tree and not climbing it.

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117 Replies to “What after 10th- How to Choose?

  1. Need of the hour, very good article,must for students, parents and teachers, beautifully structured and written

  2. Well presented. Such write ups will definitely help children choose the right path. Looking forward for more such articles 👍

  3. This article brings forth the importance in making the right choice not just for the students but also for their parents.It’s a must read for everyone and kudos to the writer.

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