A huge range of study options open up when you leave school

Tertiary study is any form of learning or courses you do after you have finished or left high school (secondary education). It may be study or training at a tertiary education organisation like a university or polytechnic, or it could be formal training in the workplace. 

Tertiary courses range from transition programmes (school to work), practical and academic courses, through to postgraduate study and research. There are also many specific trade, technical and business qualifications you can get through a combination of working and learning.  Industry Training Organisations lead the way in providing these.

In New Zealand there are lots of different ways to learn and places to study at tertiary level. There are eight universities, 18 polytechnics and institutes of technology, three wananga, over 500 private training establishments (PTEs) and a dozen or so Industry Training Organisations (ITOs).

Most courses need to be applied for and you will need to be accepted into them. To do workplace training or an apprenticeship, you’ll need to secure a job first and then apply.

Levels you can study at

There are ten qualification levels for education in NZ and they move up progressively. Many of the courses linked to on SchoolLeaver show what level  the course is. Here is an explanation of these:

Levels 1-3:  are senior secondary education (eg, NCEA) and basic trades training. If you don’t have NCEA Level 2 or 3, you are still able to do courses and get qualified at the right level for you. Make sure you are aware of what level you are able to study at.

Levels 4–6:  mostly cover advanced trades training, technical and business qualifications. These levels cover a range of Certificates and Diplomas, usually in a specific field. These are offered mainly by polytechnics, institutes of technology, wananga, or private training establishments, or in conjunction with Industry Training Organisatons.

Level 7:  This is the level of Bachelor’s degrees at universities and some polytechnics which also provide and award these. Degrees are usually based around 3-4 years of study with a focus on one subject (your ‘major’).

Level 8 - Postgraduate Diplomas and Certificates after a Bachelor’s Degree or Bachelor’s Honours Degrees. These usually mean one more year of study than a Bachelor’s Degree.    

Master’s Degrees are Level 9 while Level 10 is the equivalent of a Doctoral Degree (PhD).

The NZQA website spells out in more detail what each level represents.


Find out more about tertiary study in New Zealand