What to Study in New Zealand

student_loan_default_debt-300x300 Let’s be honest. Most if not all Filipinos who come to New Zealand to study do so in the hopes of landing a job and eventually securing permanent residence. I hate to rain on their parade, but unless you plan strategically, the chances of this happening is slim to none, not to mention a financially draining exercise of spending more than 1 million pesos. As the old adage goes “those who fail to plan, plan to fail” and I’ve seen too many sob stories of pinoy students who come here and let their entire life savings (or somebody else) go down the drain. So hear me out and don’t be one of those “casualties of war”.

The most crucial step is choosing the course you want to take. For starters, it has to be Bachelor’s level or above. New Zealand Qualifications Authority refers to this as Level 7. When you apply for permanent residency down the road, you will more likely gain the required points if you have a qualification rated Level 7 or above.


Secondly, carefully choose the right area of study that will lead to possible permanent employment. Having said that, take Immigration NZ’s so-called “skill shortage” list with a grain of salt. This list is more in-line with areas where the government project future growth. However, real employer demand does not necessarily jive with this forecast.

Take for example the nominated occupation of “multimedia designer”, which is in the government’s skill shortage list. But searching this job on Seek (NZ’s biggest job site) reveals very few part time, fixed-term roles that will not lead to permanent residency. After living here for quite a while, I learned that the following areas of study would be good choices for international students:

  • Information Technology (networking, programming)
  • Civil Engineering
  • Electrical Engineering
  • Mechanical Engineering
  • Culinary Arts
  • Early Childhood Education
  • Health Sciences (Medicine, Dentistry, Radiology)
  • Pharmacy
  • Agricultural and Forestry Science
  • Farming
  • Food Technology
  • Nursing
  • Social Work

Conversely, some of the worst degrees to take would be:

  • Business / Management
  • Accounting
  • Finance
  • Tourism and Hospitality
  • Graphic Design
  • Communications
  • Arts and Humanities
  • Human Resources
  • Psychology
  • Law
  • Architecture

These are the sort of courses that schools and student agents like to push because they have low overhead costs so there are big profits to be made for enrollment in these areas despite a limited job market waiting for its students. They want your money (you pay 3 times what an average kiwi would pay) but they would not be held accountable if students get jobs or not. The international education market is currently a $2.5 billion industry so you can just imagine the lies being peddled to get people to sign up.

It does not guarantee success but choosing the right degree is half the battle. The other half is looking for a job within that field of expertise that I will discuss in the separate article.


8 thoughts on “What to Study in New Zealand

  1. Hi Ramil, how are you?
    I want to migrate to NZ and I’m currently deciding what’s the best path for me take. I work as an accountant in Manila but I’ve been wanting to shift to IT. Now I’m thinking if it’s better for me to take a certificate course in UP ITDC and get some experience here or to take a Diploma course in NZ already. The cost and duration of study would be half if I take it in UP ITDC but I’m afraid that NZ employers would prefer someone who completed a study there. Hope to hear from you. Thanks!


    1. Hi Marvin

      IT is a big field. You have to find your specialist niche where there is employer demand – browsing through seek.co.nz will give you a good idea.

      Although costly, taking a NZ degree (level 7 and above) would be the most sensible way to go coupled with “real world” experience. However, you have to understand that after you graduate you will be competing with thousands of unemployed locals for IT roles, and other migrants from all over the world hoping to get immigration points like you. Your success will depend on your competitiveness in the global job market. Good luck!


  2. Hi there. My name is joel. Im planning to take retail buss. course. Ive been in retail industry for more than 10 yrs. Im planni g to take level 7. Is there a chance to get a job in new zealand or even to get pr in future.


    1. Hi Joel. Thank you for your message. I would recommend going into a more specialised area like procurement which is currently in the long term skill shortage list. Check it out.


  3. Hello! Quite surprise that Culinary Arts is included in the list of good courses though with the recent immigration law baka hinde umabot sa required annual salary? I thought of studying Culinary pero baka sumablay kaya I didn’t push through with the plan. Anyways, sa ngayon I’m considering taking a either Graduate Diploma in Environmental Science or Graduate Diploma in Procurement and Supply. Any advice?

    Thank you.


    1. This article is actually dated but I still wouldn’t count chefs out as it is one of the backbones of tourism, especially in the regions. If you have competitive skills (remember immigration is a competition of the best of the best) and can get an above average salary, it is a PROBABLE pathway. More details here: https://www.immigration.govt.nz/about-us/media-centre/news-notifications/smc-and-essential-skills-policy-details/skilled-migrant-details. Don’t take Environment Science unless it’s masters or PhD level. I know of people who studied Procurement and Supply that ended up as security guards (not to knock them). At the end of the day, it is best to stick with what you’re good at, and then compare this at seek.co.nz to gauge employer demand.


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