How to choose NCEA subjects

Teacher leans over a laptop two male students are looking at

Find out how to choose NCEA subjects.

1: Work out what subjects you enjoy

Ask yourself:

  • Which subjects do I like doing ?
  • Are there other subjects I’m interested in?
  • What do I like doing outside of school – such as playing music, helping people, thinking creatively? Do any subjects include these activities?

2: Work out what subjects you’re good at

Ask yourself:

  • Which are my strongest subjects ?
  • What subjects do other people say I’m good at?

3: Find out what subjects you need for your career goal

Do you already have career ideas?

Search for jobs that interest you in our job profiles. You can find the most useful subjects for each job in 'How to enter the job', under 'Secondary education'.

Do you need career ideas?

Use our tools to get career ideas:

Still unsure about your career?

If you're unsure what you want to do in the future, don't worry. Keep your options open by studying a broad range of subjects.

Science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects are useful because you need them for many courses and jobs.

STEM subjects can lead to a wide variety of career including medicine, engineering, animation, game design and aviation.

4: Check you have the right subjects for your study plans

Have you got the right subjects for the next NCEA level?

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

  • For example – to study NCEA Level 2 maths, you may need to have studied NCEA Level 1 maths.

For some subjects at NCEA Level 2 or 3 you may need to have studied a combination of Level 1 or Level 2 subjects.

  • For example – to study Level 2 physics, you may need to have studied maths and science at NCEA Level 1.

If you're not sure which subjects you'll need, check your school’s courses handbook or website or ask your teacher.

Have you got the right subjects to do tertiary study?

If you want to do tertiary study, you may need a certain number of NCEA credits, or a tertiary entrance qualification such as University Entrance.

If there's a course you'd like to do when you leave school, make sure the subjects you study will earn the credits you'll need.

Are you thinking about an apprenticeship or trade?

If you want to get an apprenticeship or a job in a particular industry, you could study subjects with skills that will help you get a Vocational Pathway Award.

Vocational Pathways show you how  NCEA credits relate to the skills employers value. They can help you pick a tertiary or trade course that's right for you.

If you need help planning a vocational pathway, talk to a career adviser or teacher.

NCEA subject checklist

Have you:

  • checked your subjects are approved for University Entrance if you plan to go to university?
  • checked your subjects could help you get a Vocational Pathway Award if you want to do an apprenticeship or have a trades career?
  • talked over your subject choices with your parents and whānau?
  • talked to your teachers and school career advisers?

Updated 8 Dec 2023