Left school without qualifications?

Learn how to improve your job chances and consider training.

Manutai Leaupepe left school at 16 without qualifications and settled down with her husband Aukuso to raise a family. Ten years later, she decided she wanted to train as a teacher.

I applied thinking I wouldn’t get in because I had no qualifications, but tertiary education gives you a second chance to get back in and do what you want.

Manutai Leaupepe

Tertiary Lecturer

What are your work options?

Work without qualifications

You can still get jobs that take you based on your experience or readiness to work. To increase your chances of getting a job without qualifications, consider offering to work on trial or do work experience.

Earn qualifications while working

Some jobs don't require any specific skills, because you learn skills on the job. In many industries you can also earn qualifications while you're working.

Start your own business

Many businesses start out in people's kitchens or garages. Starting a business doesn't require qualifications.

You can get NCEA outside of school

Considering a career or study path that needs NCEA? There are still study options available if you didn't complete NCEA at school.

Assess your existing qualifications

Have you done some study or training at work since you left school? Any training you do through an academy or polytechnic or at work could earn credits. These credits can be changed into NCEA credits.

Studying NCEA outside of school

You can earn some NCEA credits by distance learning at Te Kura –The Correspondence School.

Youth Guarantee

If you are 16- to 19-years-old you can learn a trade and study fees-free toward NCEA Level 2 at a polytechnic or academy.

You can study without NCEA

You can still study for the career you want, around your life and work needs, without having NCEA credits.

Foundation courses

Foundation courses allow you to get credits so you can enter a university degree or apprenticeship training.

Certificate courses

Certificate courses can give you the qualifications you need for a trade or give you credits to enter a university degree or apprenticeship training. 

For example, the Certificate in Health Sciences may help you find work as a Health Care Assistant or Carer, and also give you entry credits for the Bachelor of Nursing degree.

Course entrance as a mature student

Universities or polytechnics often give exceptions to students with limited NCEA credits if you are over twenty years of age.

Get in touch with the student liaison officers at your nearest university or polytechnic to see if you qualify as a mature student.


Apprenticeship training organisations may allow you to study without NCEA Level 1 or 2, however you usually need to have numeracy and literacy credits.

Fees-free courses

Fees-free courses are a good way to get the basic skills in literacy, numeracy and computing necessary for working life.

Check out your local polytechnic, training academy or library for information on fees-free courses.

Recognition of prior learning

You can earn credits or qualifications for the skills and knowledge you have already gained through your work.

Find support people and build your networks

Decisions about finding work or deciding to train are easier with support.

  • If you are registered as unemployed, work with your Work and Income case manager or the Youth Transition Service to find opportunities.
  • Ask for some free career planning help from Careers New Zealand.
  • If you know youth workers or social workers, talk to them about your interests and job ideas so they can support you.
  • Parents, friends and family/whānau can help if you tell them about your goals.

Updated 19 Dec 2018