ip target image
You are currently browsing our site with content tailored to students in your country

Our cookies

We use cookies to offer you a better browsing experience with personalized content, relevant ads and enhanced functionalities. By allowing all you agree to the use of cookies as per the cookie policy and remember you can manage your preferences anytime.
The basics
New Zealand: Subject Guides

10 most popular undergraduate and postgraduate courses in New Zealand

Interested in New Zealand for your studies? Find out what other international students have chosen to study here.

share image

Finding a course and university can be stressful. Particularly if you’re looking to study abroad, as you also need to think about the type of country you want to study in. To help you decide, we’ve explored the top ten most popular undergraduate and postgraduate courses studied by other international students in New Zealand to help you find what’s right for you.


Why study in New Zealand?

Before we get into the most popular courses, here are a few reasons why New Zealand is such a desirable study destination for international students:

  • Courses are based on the British education system
  • Courses are taught in English
  • Small class sizes allow for an excellent student-teacher ratio
  • Progressive politics and an accepting culture
  • Multicultural and welcoming
  • High quality of life



International students can expect to pay NZD 22,000 to NZD 32,000 per year for undergraduate tuition fees in New Zealand with potentially higher costs for medicine, veterinary science and business courses. If this is not affordable, you can apply for scholarships to help with the cost.


1) Nursing


A popular course for international students all over the world, nursing is equally desirable in New Zealand. This profession is particularly attractive for students who want to travel with work or move to New Zealand permanently. Nursing falls under the skilled migrant category, meaning that those who meet the requirements can stay in the country indefinitely. So, if you decide that you’d like to stay after you graduate, a nursing degree would provide you with the opportunity. If this is a subject you would like to know more about, you can check out our guide on the top ten benefits of becoming a nurse.


2) Medicine


The average salary for a general practitioner in New Zealand is NZD 95,000 with the potential for higher earnings depending on the level of seniority. Consultants for example can earn anywhere between NZD 200,000 to NZD 300,000 per year. Doctors in New Zealand also claim to have a great work life balance with six weeks of holiday allowance each year (Head Medical 2017). A medicine qualification from a university in New Zealand is also internationally recognised and respected. Top institutions for medicine include The University of Auckland and The University of Otago (Times Higher Education 2020).


3) Biology


New Zealand is the perfect setting for a biology degree with its eco-friendly ethos, diverse natural environment and unique wildlife. Known for being a clean and green country, New Zealand offers plenty for biology students and graduates. You might decide that you want to explore marine biology, conservation or fisheries science while you’re there. New Zealand cares about the biodiversity of its environment and therefore values biology students and research into climate change. So how about it? Study an interesting course while enjoying your time off in one of the most scenic countries in the world.


4) Environmental sciences


As with biology, environmental science is a popular degree subject for students in New Zealand. This  could be because the country is known for being environmentally conscious. Surrounded by impressive mountain ranges, farmland, clear blue lakes and native plants, New Zealand offers a unique environment to be studied by students and researchers. If you have a desire to better understand environmental issues, this could be the right choice of programme for you.


5) Business studies


There are several prestigious business schools in New Zealand. For example, Auckland University of Technology Business School (AUT) is internationally renowned and courses are accredited by AACSB international. At AUT, students are expected to complete a work placement in their final year, which is an excellent way of gaining experience before graduating. While New Zealand may not be considered the top destination for business studies in comparison to world-leading colleges in the USA, there is high-quality teaching and globally recognised business qualifications. While your course is one of the most important considerations, there are many other factors to consider when studying abroad such as the lifestyle, climate and proximity to your home country.



1) Medicine


If you’re looking to study medicine at postgraduate level, it’s likely that you’ve studied a related qualification as your undergraduate degree, but you’re now ready to become a doctor. In New Zealand, there are several universities which offer master’s qualifications in medicine or other related disciplines:


If you would like to practice medicine in New Zealand after you graduate, you have the opportunity to apply for a temporary visa of up to 30 months before then applying for resident status later down the line. As with nursing, medicine is on the skills shortage list, enabling doctors from other countries to work and live permanently in New Zealand.


2) Psychology


To work in fields like social work, counseling and psychotherapy your career will benefit from a psychology master’s degree. This course typically takes between two and three years to complete after finishing a bachelor’s degree in a relevant programme. The University of Auckland (1st) and The University Otago (2nd) rank as the top institutions for psychology in New Zealand, followed by Victoria University of Wellington (51-100) and Massey University (201-250). Salaries vary depending on experience and qualifications, but a trainee psychologist in New Zealand can earn NZD 51,000 and NZD 56,000 per year with senior psychologists earning NZD 94,000 to NZD 116,000 per annum (careers.govt.nz).


3) Civil engineering


Students looking to advance their careers in civil engineering are likely to complete a master’s degree in this discipline. In New Zealand, there are plenty of opportunities for professionals with these skills due to a shortage of workers. Starting salaries range from NZD 60,000 to NZD 70,000 per year for graduate roles while more experienced civil engineers can earn NZD 120,000 to NZD 180,000. So civil engineers in New Zealand can enjoy high salaries and low competition for work compared to other industries.


4) Social work


While you can become a social worker with a bachelor’s degree, master’s degrees further reflect your interest and study in the field. This will boost your CV and can help with interviews as you’ll be able to discuss your dissertation or research. In fact, possessing a master’s degree can land you higher paid jobs. Qualified social workers in New Zealand can earn between NZD 47,000 and NZD 79,000 and supervisors can take home NZD 65,000 to NZD 86,000 per year. This qualification usually takes students two years to complete and if you meet the requirements, you could apply for resident visa under the skilled migrant category.


5) Accounting


In New Zealand, there is a high demand for accountants, so you have a good chance of finding work if you decided to stay in the country after graduation. Luckily, New Zealand offers one of the most generous post study work visas. If eligible, you can then work for up to three years. According to the QS World University Rankings 2020, there are several top institutions for accounting in New Zealand:

  • University of Auckland (*1st)
  • Auckland University of Technology (*2nd)
  • University of Canterbury (*3rd)

*Ranking within New Zealand


While accountancy involves analysing other people’s finances, you can expect a high salary for yourself. To become an accountant in New Zealand you’ll need to possess a Chartered Accountant (CA) or Certified Practicing Accountant (CPA) accredited qualification. With this, you can earn between NZD 76,000 and NZD 202,000 per year depending on experience. Make sure you check the course is CA or CPA accredited if you want to stay to work in New Zealand after graduation. 


If you’re still not sure about your study abroad plans, use our course matcher tool to find the right course and university based on your preferences and qualifications. Don’t forget to check our international news bulletin to stay up to date with the latest in international education.