“What university discipline would you recommend for a child in secondary school?”

“What university discipline would you recommend for a child in secondary school?”

Parents ask me all the time: what discipline would you recommend for my son/daughter who is a science student in a secondary school?  Disclosing my bias to electrical/electronics engineering, I have always recommended “electrical/electronics/computer engineering” or EECE. After that, I then recommend computer science.  Largely, I consider computer science a subset of EECE  and both are largely in phase.

In EECE, you have the chance to build microprocessors and broad electronic systems and then write the computer codes at the firmware/BIOS levels before any computer scientist can have a job. Without those machine-level or hardware-descriptive coding efforts, the field of computer science will not exist. So, everyone has to code with the addition that EECE professionals  must also design circuits and systems, and then write device drivers – the zenith of coding as you would be controlling electrical signals. If you believe that technologies run our world, you will agree that no industry can advance without those circuits and systems. Largely, EECE guys shape the future of markets through products they architect across industries.

Before Google, Facebook, Amazon, LinkedIn, etc can advance, Intel, Nvidia, Samsung, Analog Devices, etc must advance on electronics since all those codes depend on systems to power them. So, once those circuits guys have done their jobs, the next level comes: the computer science phase.

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The top-layer world is now run by computer scientists. Yes, the software developers. With the firmware from the engineers up and running, getting the systems up, the computer scientists now build the operating systems and the applications on top of them. That translation is eating the world of commerce and industry. Simply, the world cannot have enough people doing that work. African software developers are having great moments. People need them and they’re paid very well.

The demand for African computer software developers reportedly skyrocketed in 2021 due to the global economic crisis, and of course, emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic. This was revealed by a recent Google report.

In the Africa Developer Ecosystem report, data was gathered from Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Algeria, Cameroon, Egypt, Ethiopia, Ghana, Ivory Coast, Kenya, Morocco, Mozambique, Nigeria, Senegal, South Africa and Tunisia.

In an interview with about 1,600 software developers across the continent, Google discovered that about 38% of African developers work for at least one company based outside the continent.

In short, good ones are hired by European companies weekly and relocated to Europe out of Lagos. Great companies like Andela have been built to export their talent globally. As I write, friends in Google are asking me to recommend a great one to lead an African research project (you need a research experience with PhD in a leading global university in machine learning).

So, parents, engineering is a great field; EECE offers the best opportunity for jobs. Yes, he is biased. I am because 100% of my classmates (more than 200 of them!) in FUTO are gainfully and fully employed by themselves or by others. If you miss that EECE, computer science is another call. Of course, both disciplines are the most competitive in many universities in Africa: in FUTO, EECE and CS are always oversubscribed by multiples.

Of course, this does not mean other fields like chemical engineering, mechanical engineering, medicine, etc are not great. They are superb but if you want a career insurance where with a decent skill you will not look for work, EECE and CS deliver those today in Africa. Remember, the deal is not the EECE or CS paper certificates but skills represented by those papers! Good luck.

Comment on LinkedIn Feed

Comment 1: Of course one need to consider the high paying career or high demand profession when choosing a career, but nevertheless they are only means to an end, not really an end in itself.

There are so many professional in medicine and other prominent career, who later abadon them to pursue a lifetime discipline that aligned with what they are naturally wired to do.
The rule is, make what you love doing or what you would grow to love your career.
Career choosing goes beyond economic benefits alone, but also personal intrinsic benefits.
Fulfilment is the golden rule

My Response: In life we look at statistics. We look at averages. That does not mean we do not have outliers. We have people that tore their PhDs and became monks. We have bankers who left and became teachers. But understand one thing: more than 85% of people become career-happier because they earn more money. That is why banks attract more engineers in Nigeria than our local engineering companies.

When the bank pays you N500k per month, that “grow to love your career” is activated over that engineering firm that pays “40k” and you are not sure it will arrive at the end of the month. But of course in the 15%, you can find people who are happy with the 40k but majority will prefer the N500k.

More so, as I have noted, as a young man, I chose HIGHER pay to help me finance my passion and interest at a higher level. As a mechanical engineering grad, if a bank offers you N500k/month, take it, over an engineering firm that offers N40k. You can use that N500k to finance your MSc and return back to mech engine later. Passion is not food, higher pay can activate latent passion for a job!

Comment 2: It appears parents are changing. When i was growing up and in sec. sch in the 1990s, most parents always wanted their kids who were doing science in sec. school to study Medicine or Pharmacy. Some people, who become medical doctors were forced to study medicine by their parents.. Prof, is EECE now higher that medicine?

My Response: “Prof, is EECE now higher that medicine?” – Medicine is peerless and cannot be compared to any profession. Doctors do miracles in hospitals. I am not doing comparison here. I am biased as I have disclosed.

Comment 3: From human development standpoint, telling children in secondary school to go for a particular course or parents choosing a career path for them is not a good idea. Nobody knows enough to predict the future of these children.

We keep pushing young people into certain career path because we assume is the ‘best’ thing for them going into the future. But the problem is, the future doesn’t follow a straight line. Many parents forced their children into accounting, Law Medicine etc many years ago. And many of them are very miserable now and confused because no one cared about their interests and abilities…

Children should be guided to make future career decisions not parents and ‘experts’ making future career choices for them… They should be guided on making career choices that solve real problems in their societies not based on our narrow view of future realities.

We already have many young EECE and Computer Science professionals moving into other career domains where they can find purpose and fulfillment. Yes… ‘money answereth all things’ but money isn’t everything.

My Response: “Many parents forced their children into accounting, Law Medicine etc many years ago. And many of them are very miserable now and confused” – not possible. Tell me a person who is miserable for studying medicine. Life is about statistics and averages: you stand a better career chance if you study medicine, EECE, CS, etc than Igbo language even if Igbo is your passion. Telling me that someone who studied medicine is miserable does not mean studying Hausa language would have helped.

This thing called Passion is overrated. Not a believer. I believe that you can unlock new passions in life. That means, you cannot experience a passion you do not know that exists.

The day a VC paid $$ for a day’s work opened another passion in me. That day, I decided for a passion to speak before the 1% I never knew that existed. You are in secondary school and magically you have a passion. Sure, you knew of 2% of possible “passions”. I believe in guiding people based on their capabilities and interests but I do not believe in allowing people to use just passion. Why? You may not know all passions out there.


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4 thoughts on ““What university discipline would you recommend for a child in secondary school?”

  1. How about framing the question to kids in this way: looking at the problems you have seen and experienced, which of them would you like to tackle? This will help us groom a generation that can actually solve societal problems.

    We have already done a lot of damage to the present generation with the way we framed career prospects, it’s always about where you can earn more money. Who has solved big problem that failed to make money? And how does training software engineers for European companies advance Africa?

    We have a lot of things to re-educate our educated elites on, else in another 100 years, we will continue to question why Africa is not advancing, without ever admitting that we caused it anyway. Yeah, we will go to where top dollars are paid and announce ourselves as accomplished individuals, but our countries, the continent? We have been repeating the same mistake for decades, yet we still think politicians are the problem.

    It’s the same miseducated professionals that will transition into political leadership, with that transactional leadership mindset, and we are still dazed as to why we can’t fix leadership issues? The problem is within, but no culprit ever indicts himself.

    We joke a lot in this continent.

    1. I pray that our teenagers will not see so many problems to be in positions to make those calls. If you checked, secondary school was one of your happiest phases because you had no responsibility for anything other than going to school, coming back and playing (assuming you lived in the village). I would not have seen any “problem”.

  2. Richard Owusu Ansah · Edit

    Africa need technical knowledge and all our toil will not be in vain.it will be of a higher mental slavery to diagnose the root of making one self well to do in a carrier someone has advocated,the pronosis may be fatal sometimes.

  3. Getting a Skill especially in Tech is more important than having a degree. But that doesn’t mean one should dislike the latter..
    I am happy about this writeup because I recently advised my brother to study Electrical Engineering…He wanted to go in for Medicine. But I knew he was not good in Biology…so I just told him to put in for Electrical Engineering.
    I believe it was a good advice.


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