What to study

Plan to keep your course as broad as possible.  Your college years are a time for exploring ideas and possibilities and finding out more about yourself.  Keep in mind the following;

  • It is important that you are interested in and enjoy the subjects you choose
  • Some subjects which are not related strongly to a career may provide a basis for a lifelong interest or hobby
  • Subjects have value in the development of both specific and generic skills, not just knowledge content

You must also take into consideration how the credits from the subject fit into your overall record of learning in terms of:

  • Completing the Level 1, 2 or 3 NCEA qualification
  • Meeting numeracy and literacy requirements
  • Meeting entry requirements for tertiary courses/apprenticeship opportunities

Entry into many careers is not as dependent on course choice as it is on grades. There are many hundreds of careers not on this list, but this guide details areas that are often inquired about. For the career areas listed below the courses are highly recommended, in some cases compulsory. You are advised to see the Careers Advisor (Mr Latch) if you are not sure. Senior students can also enquire about the marks required for entry to specific courses, e.g. Law or Medicine as these can vary from year to year.

What Subjects Do I Need?

When making decisions about what subjects to take it is important to remember that for many courses and job training situations you do not need to have studied particular subjects at school.  It is more important that you can demonstrate your interest in learning through your school grades and teachers’ report comments.  Therefore your college years can be a chance to keep your studies broad rather than specializing at an early age.

It may be helpful to sort subjects into 3 categories – USEFUL, RECOMMENDED and COMPULSORY.


Every subject is useful for developing knowledge and skills.  Useful subjects add value to your overall course of study even though they may not be directly related to your future plans.


These subjects provide a strong background of knowledge and skills needed for further study and training.  Subjects recommended for tertiary study and job training are listed in the following pages.


These subjects provide necessary building blocks of knowledge and skills.  You must have these subjects in order to gain entry into specific courses either at school at tertiary level.  Study at school – many subjects have pre-requisites at each year level, check summaries.

Study at tertiary level

Entering on job training / apprenticeships – e.g. ETCO electrical apprenticeships

 Subject Guide for Apprenticeships & On Job Training

If you are considering entering into an apprenticeship or trainee position, it is important to realize that most employers are looking for young people with a positive attitude, good communication skills, basic literacy, numeracy and information technology skills.

Many of the training programmes in work places are administered by ITO’s (Industry Training Organisations).  Although the minimum entry for many apprenticeships and trainee positions are generally set at Level 1, students are encouraged to continue with Level 2 NCEA studies.  To complete four years secondary schooling increases a student’s opportunities for employment.  A high level of maturity is required to meet the demands of both work and study necessary to complete an apprenticeship.

Subject recommendations and requirements vary but the main focus is on the core subjects of English, Mathematics, Science and Technology.  Remember, in competitive times the “minimum” might not be enough for you to be offered a place.  Aim to be well above the minimum.

Defence Forces (Air Force, Army, Navy)

The Defence Forces provide many opportunities for apprenticeships and on job training.  The minimum age for entry is 17 years and applicants are required to pass a Medical Assessment, Physical Fitness Test and Aptitude Test.  It is important to check Residence / Citizenship requirements. Due to high demand most successful applicants are achieving well above the minimum requirements.

Subject Guide for Tertiary Study

  • This is only a general guide for study areas where a background in certain school subjects is strongly recommended.
  • There are many other study areas that do not require any particular subjects.  Remember all subjects are useful for knowledge and skills.
  • Only a very small number of university courses have compulsory requirements.  These tend to be science related courses.

The website www.careers.govt.nz is a useful resource for exploring and gathering careers information.

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