How to decide what to study

Te whakatau i tō ara mātauranga

Deciding what to study is a big decision. It needs to work for you and your goals, as well as your whānau and any other commitments in your life.

This page has some tips, ideas and useful links to help you take the first or next step on your study journey.

Not sure where you want study to take you?

Not everyone knows what they want to do with their career.

Maybe you haven’t been in the workforce for a while or are in work and want to change career. Either way, study is a huge commitment, so it’s important to take the time to work out where you want to end up.

To do this you need to think about who you are, what interests you and what sorts of jobs are available.

Who are you?

  • What are your skills and talents? What are you good at? What do you enjoy doing? What sorts of things are important to you (in your life and in the wider world)?
  • What are your interests? What motivates you? What kind of work would be interesting for you?
  • What sort of lifestyle do you want? Will the job or area of study that might interest you let you achieve that?

Diagram asking 'Who are you' that illustrates that interests, skills and lifestyle can overlap.

What options are there?

  • What types of jobs are there that match your skills and interests? Or that need skills that you would be keen to learn? Do those jobs interest you?
  • Do those jobs align with your values?
  • Will they let you lead the life you want to live? Do they work with your family, whanau and other commitments?

You might be able to think through those things yourself, but if you need help you could:

  • Talk to a career expert. They can help you to set career goals and think about what training you’ll need to get there. Contact Careers NZ Get to get free career advice 
  • Talk to people in jobs you’re interested in about what they do, the skills needed for the job and what study they did.
  • Ask your manager what they think your strengths are and how you could progress in your career.
  • Talk to friends and whanau about what they think you could do. They might have ideas or see skills and strengths you haven’t thought about before.

Remember you don’t have to take their advice if what they suggest doesn’t feel right for you!

For more ideas on planning your career go the Careers NZ website:

Careers NZ also has several free online tools to help you figure out what jobs might interest you:

Choosing what to study

If you know where you want your career to go, the next step is to choose the qualification to help you get there. Think about:

  • What qualification you need to get the job you want. If you aren’t sure check the job’s training requirements on the Careers NZ jobs database. You could also check the job ads on Seek or Trademe Jobs.
  • If there isn’t a specific qualification needed for the job you want, think about what qualifications line up with your career goals, skills and interests.
  • What level of qualifications you need – certificate, diploma, degree?

Get more ideas from Careers NZ:

How to choose what to study 

Get help to plan your study

If you need help our Student Advisors can give you advice on choosing the right qualification to suit your study and career goals.

They can also help you:

  • decide what course to start with
  • plan your study load to make sure it suits how much time you have available – with a focus on keeping the balance of all aspects of your life – work, whanau, study and any other commitments you may have
  • understand how to structure your qualification so you know what course(s) to do next
  • plan your studies so you can staircase from certificate to diploma then onto a degree
  • work out if your previous tertiary study can be cross credited to one of our qualifications.

Contact a Student Advisor: