How to choose school subjects

This guide will help you choose which subjects to take in your next school year.

Step 1: Work out what subjects you enjoy

A young man helps a farmer inoculate sheep

What you enjoy doing outside of school can help you choose which subjects you take

Ask yourself:

  • Which subjects do I like doing now?
  • Which subjects am I interested in doing next year, that I haven’t already studied?
  • What do I like doing outside school (eg playing music, helping people, thinking creatively)? Do any subjects include these activities?

Step 2: Work out what subjects you are good at

Ask yourself:

  • Which subjects am I strongest in?
  • What subjects do others say I am good at?

Step 3: Find out what subjects you need for your future career ideas

Already have some career ideas?

Find out the must-have or most useful subjects for each of your career ideas. Go to ‘Secondary education’ in the ‘How to get into this job’ section of any job you are interested in.

Need some career ideas?

 Use these tools to get career ideas:

Still unsure what career would suit you?

Remember, it’s OK if you're unsure what you want to do in future, but studying a broad range of subjects will keep your career options open.

Keeping up with English, maths and at least one science subject is a good place to start.

I chose science and computer studies because I’m hoping to become an information systems officer in the Army. But if I don’t do that, I know computing will help with lots of other jobs. That’s why you pick subjects – to help enhance your future, not just because your friends are taking them.

Andrew Purvis

Andrew Purvis


Step 4: Check you have the right subjects for NCEA

Have you the right subjects for the next NCEA level?

You may need to study a subject at NCEA Level 1 to study NCEA Level 2 in that subject. 

Some subjects at NCEA Level 2 or 3 may need you to have studied a combination of NCEA Level 1 or Level 2 subjects. An example could be physics. You might need to study mathematics and science at NCEA Level 1 to study NCEA Level 2 physics.

If you're not sure, check your school handbook or ask a teacher.

Have you the right subjects to do tertiary study?

If you wish to go to a polytechnic, technical institute, university or wānanga, you need to have a certain number of NCEA credits. If you have a course in mind when you leave school, ensure the subjects you study will earn you the credits you need to enter that course.



A mother and daughter sitting on a sofa talking

Talking to family can help you work out your subject choices

Have you:

  • checked your subjects are approved for University Entrance, if you plan to go to university – (NZQA website - approved subjects)?
  • talked over your choices with your parents and whānau?
  • talked to your teachers and careers advisers?
  • talked to Careers New Zealand advisers if you need more help? Call 0800 222 733 or chat online.

Updated 26 Jan 2018