Ms Mapisa-Nqakula Taught at Bensonvale Junior Secondary School in 1978; and at St Matthews Teachers' Training College in 1979.
She served as Youth Worker with Target Timothy (A project of SANSSA) from 1981 to 1982 and worked with open schools to help students from disadvantaged communities who were matric drop-outs.
She was a founder member of the East London Domestic Workers Association (ELDWA) in 1982, and served as Assistant Director of Masazane Open School (a project of the South African Institute of Race Relation-SAIRR)from 1982 to 1984. She also served as Head of Commission set up to investigate desertions of ANC MK members to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Angola in 1984.
Ms Mapisa-Nqakula Left the country and underwent military training in Angola and the Soviet Union respectively in 1984 and she served as a member of political and military structures in Soviet Union in 1985. She also attended Equality Development and Peace seminar in Nairobi in 1985 and worked with the political military structures of ANC from 1986 to 1988.
She represented the ANC Women's section to Pan African Women's Organisation (PAWO) from 1988 to 1990, during that time she also attended PAWO Regional seminar on the emancipation of women in Lusaka in 1989.
In 1990 she was deployed within the country to help rebuild ANC structures in 1990 during that period she attended Malibongwe Conference in Amsterdam. She also served as National organiser of the ANC Women's League and member of its National Executive between 1990 and 1993.
Ms Mapisa-Nqakula was a member of the Theme 3 Core Group of the Constitution Making Process since 1994; and served as a Secretary-General of the ANC Women's League and member of the ANC National Executive Committee (NEC) respectively from 1993 to 1997. She served as Deputy Chairperson of ANC Political Committee and Chief Whip of majority party in 2001 and she has also served as the President of African National Congress Women League (ANCWL) from 2003 to 2008.
She has represented the ANC Women's section to the People's Republic of Angola for two years and in 1985 she attended 2nd ANC Consultative seminar in Kabwe. She has worked closely with women's organisations inside and outside the country.
Before her appointment as the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Ms Mapisa-Nqakula had served as Deputy Minister of Home Affairs from 6 May 2002 to 28 April 2004, and then as Minister of Home Affairs from 29 April 2004 to 10 May 2009; and as Minister of Correctional Services of the Republic of South Africa from 11 May 2009 to 12 June 2012.