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What are the main options?

Tertiary or further education isn’t just attending a university or polytechnic. It covers all education after school, whether that’s studying, apprenticeships or industry training.

None of the options are necessarily "better" than the others, and what you choose should depend on the job and experiences that you want.

Links to help you choose:

What kind of job do you want?

Although it isn’t the only reason, a lot of people start further education to help them get a job they find interesting. Thinking about what kind of career and experiences you're looking for should always come first when you’re making decisions about developing your skills.

If you’re not sure about the kind of career you’re best suited for, read our post on this topic:

If you are sure, there are several tools to help you understand what kind of courses you’ll need.

These include:

You should also try and speak to people you know that have a job similar to the one you're interested in to get more information, They might be able to help you work out what’s needed for different career options. You can also visit the careers section of company websites in the field you'd like to work in.

What else do you want from your further education?

There are several benefits to further study, other than just helping you get a job. How you want to balance your time should be important when you're thinking about what's best for you.

For example, you might want to:

  • experience student life
  • learn some new skills
  • live somewhere different
  • find out if you're suited to certain areas of work
  • simply enjoy studying a subject you like.

You might also want to consider the communities and groups you can join and be a part of while completing tertiary education. For example, a Māori students’ association might be particularly important to you, or you might be on the lookout for some specific support services. Whatever it is, you'll need to do your research before you make your final choice.

One quick tip: If you’ve decided that you want to start tertiary study and you’ve sorted yourself a place to learn, keep yourself busy over the summer while you’re waiting to start. Getting a job or starting on a reading list for your study is a good way to keep the momentum going.

For some idea of what it's like to become a student, check out the video below:

Student life in New Zealand

Is tertiary education definitely for you?

Now you’ve had a chance to think a bit more about continuing your learning journey, it’s a good opportunity to check if it’s still the right choice. If you decide that, actually, you’d rather do something else, then that’s fine. Not everyone enjoys or benefits from further education, and it has to work for you.

Some people prefer to get a job or take a ‘gap year’ before they even think about studying. Remember, you can always study in the future. Mature students are often very successful, after enjoying other work and life experiences and deciding it’s now time to get that qualification. Mature students can also apply to attend a university or polytechnic using life experience (not just academic results) to support the application.

There’s often also the option to put your studies on hold if you start and then change your mind. While it isn’t the case for every course, for many there’s no pressure to get it all done in one go.

This is the same with any training; if you realise it isn’t for you, then you shouldn’t feel under pressure to continue.

Talk to people you know in different types of work and do some research, as you might find out tertiary education isn’t something you need to do after all.

Key websites

  • has information on everything from how to apply for scholarships to writing CVs, helping you decide what career is right for you.
  • No Major Drama: A website that provides a list of different subjects and lets you see which Universities offer what courses. It also shows you the careers you can get into after completing a certain course.
  • NZQA: NZQA, or the New Zealand Qualifications Authority, looks after our qualifications and runs assessments at school.
  • StudyLink: StudyLink provides lots of information about studying – how much it’s going to cost, how to pay for it, and when to apply.
  • Tertiary Education Commission: The Tertiary Education Commission is the link between the Government and tertiary education. Although it isn’t aimed specifically at students, it’s a good website for anyone looking for up-to-date news and resources to help with tertiary education.