Planning your courses , Te whakarite i āu marau

Use this guide to find out what you need to think about and do when planning the courses in your qualification.

A qualification is what you are studying towards overall (for example a degree, diploma or certificate). Courses are part of that qualification.

For example, the "Bachelor of Business" is a qualification, but "115111 Strategic Workplace Communication" is a course.

Step 1: Understand your qualification structure

Each qualification has its own structure which details:

  • what courses you will need to pass to complete the qualification
  • the order you need to complete the courses
  • whether the qualification has specialisations (majors, minors, endorsements or subjects).

You can view the structure of qualifications, and any specialisations, on our qualification pages. A qualification's structure is also referred to as its regulations.

Find a qualification

Qualification and courses terms

The following definitions will help you understand the qualification regulations.

Majors, minors, endorsements and subjects

Some qualifications have specialisations (majors, minors, subjects and endorsements) you'll need to include in your study plan.


Your major is the main part of an undergraduate qualification. It includes compulsory courses you must take to be able to graduate. A major is generally one third of a bachelor's degree.

For example, someone studying towards a Bachelor of Business can choose a major in International Business. The major will be displayed on their graduation certificate as: Bachelor of Business with a major in International Business.

Double major

Some bachelor's degrees will let you study two majors at the same time. This option, and the courses you can choose from, will be outlined in the regulations for your qualification. Both majors will be displayed on your graduation certificate.


A minor is made up of fewer courses (and therefore credits) than your major in a degree.

For example, a Bachelor of Business student majoring in International Business may add a minor of Business Law. They will take fewer courses and credits in Business Law than in their major, International Business.

For some qualifications, adding a minor is compulsory. Some will also let you choose a minor from any other subject area, not just from within the qualification you're already studying.

When you successfully complete the courses you need for your minor, this will appear on your academic record. Unlike your major, your minor does not appear on your graduation certificate.

Adding a minor to a double major

If you are doing a double major, you may still be able to add a minor, depending on your qualification's specific requirements.

Find out what minor subjects we offer


An endorsement is a specialised subject area within your undergraduate, graduate or postgraduate diploma or certificate that you can choose to concentrate on.

Not all certificates and diplomas have endorsements. The endorsement usually makes up most of the courses in the qualification.

For example, a Postgraduate Diploma in Veterinary Science student may choose an endorsement in Veterinary Epidemiology. The endorsement will be displayed on their graduation certificate as: Postgraduate Diploma in Veterinary Science with honours in Veterinary Epidemiology.

Subjects within master's degrees

A subject is a specialisation within a master's degree. This is set out in the regulations of your chosen master's qualification.

For example, someone studying towards a Master of Arts can choose the subject Geography. This will be displayed on their graduation certificate as: Master of Arts in Geography.

Course code and level

Each course is numbered using six digits. The fourth number represents the level of the course.

For example, in course 219206 Communication and Technological Change, the fourth number is a 2, so it is a 200-level course.

In general, first-year undergraduate students study at 100-level, second-year students at 200-level and so on.


Each course is worth a certain number of credits. For example, most undergraduate courses are worth 15 credits each, and most postgraduate courses are 30 credits.

You add these together to make up the total number of credits you need to complete your qualification. For example, most undergraduate degrees are made up of 360 credits, spread out over three years if you're studying full-time. Most certificates are 60 credits, spread out over six months if studying full-time.

Core courses

A set of compulsory courses that are common for every student in a qualification. They provide the core knowledge considered essential to the qualification.


Electives are courses you can take as part of your qualification, but which are not compulsory. Certain guidelines are usually provided on courses you may take, which are outlined in the course description.

You need to have completed a prerequisite course to take some elective courses. Elective courses contribute to the overall qualification, but not to your major or specialisation.


Some courses need to be completed before moving onto the next one. For example, a lot of 200-level courses have 100-level prerequisite courses.


These are courses that must be completed at the same time as another course.


Some courses are restricted against each other because their content is similar. This means you can only choose one of the offered courses to study and credit to your qualification.

Step 2: Create a list of possible courses

Use the qualification structure to create a list of possible courses. The list should include:

  • the compulsory courses for your qualification
  • the courses you need for your major, minor, endorsement or subject
  • elective courses – if your qualification allows them.

Step 3: Check recognition of prior learning

You may be able to use credits or knowledge earned in previous study or experience towards your future study.

Credit may be awarded for:

  • completed tertiary qualifications
  • incomplete tertiary qualifications
  • informal learning (skills, knowledge and other attributes obtained through training, work experience or life experience).

Recognition of prior learning information

Step 4: Plan your workload

Decide the number of courses you can realistically manage. Study will need to fit in with the rest of your life.

If work, family or other commitments need your full attention at a certain time of year, plan your workload for the semester to suit.

Find out about recommended and maximum student workloads

Step 5: Know when you'll study

Before you choose your courses, you'll need to think about when your courses are offered. They could be in Semester One, Semester Two, Double Semester or Summer School. You can find out which courses are offered each semester using our course search.

Search for courses

Semester start and end dates

Step 6: Consider the balance between courses

When choosing your courses you should also consider:

  • If any of your courses need to be completed in a certain order. For example, if a course has a prerequisite.
  • The number of assessments or exams the courses have. For example, you may not want to do four courses in a semester that all have exams.
  • Whether the courses would complement or be different to each other. You may want to study similar subjects altogether or have a variety each semester.
  • Courses that you have a high or lower interest in. You may find it difficult to keep motivated if you take a set of low-interest courses in one semester.
  • If your distance course has an in-person contact workshop, which may involve travel time and accommodation costs. Find out more about contact workshops.

You can view details for courses by using our course search.

Search for courses

Step 7: Calculate your costs

Knowing what tuition fees and other non-tuition costs you will face during the year is an important part of the planning process.

International students also need to allow for other costs, such as living costs, insurance and travel between New Zealand and their home countries.

Fees for domestic and international students

Step 8: Finalise your list of courses

Now that you have worked through these steps you should have a clearer idea of what courses you want and need to study and when.

To apply for enrolment in courses go to the Qualification and courses tab in the student portal. You will need to apply for admission into your qualification before you can apply for courses.

Apply for admission into a qualification

Log in to the student portal

Step 9: Check for timetable clashes

On-campus students need to make sure there aren't any timetable clashes when selecting courses. You'll be able to view timetable information when you enrol in courses.

If you have a clash you will need to choose an alternative course or offering. You should also check that the weekly requirements will fit into the time you have available.

If you are having trouble fitting in your courses and you need some help, contact our Academic Advisers.

Where to get help

Academic Advisers are the people who can give more in-depth advice about course selection to help you plan your qualification.

Meet an Academic Adviser to help select and plan your study

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