What formal study should I undertake?

Are you interested in some formal study, but not really sure where to start looking?

There are a plethora of study options out there, offered by a wide range of providers in various subjects. Whilst it would be impossible to review all of them, this post aims to outline a few that have been useful to people working within The Salvation Army, as well some of the factors you’ll want to consider when choosing, in order to give you somewhere to start the process.

Understanding the NZ education system

But before we start looking at specifics, it’s probably helpful to explain how the education system works.

Levels of Study- Basically qualifications are awarded at a certain level, as shown below:

  • Levels 1-3 are lower certificates e.g. NCEA which is taught in high schools
  • Level 4 is generally for trade or more practical certificates and tertiary preparation (e.g. study skills)
  • Levels 5-6 are for higher certificates & diplomas
  • Level 7  is for degrees or graduate diplomas (see below)
  • Levels 8-10 are postgraduate study


For more detailed info on what is required at each level see here.

What’s a graduate diploma? – If you have already previously completed a degree, rather than complete another whole degree in a new subject, you can complete a smaller graduate diploma/certificate to get you quickly up to speed in that subject and ready to move into post-graduate study. Generally you will need a full degree or graduate diploma in a subject before moving into post-graduate study (though sometimes you can have this waived based on work experience and other relevant learning).

How long will it take? – Degrees generally take 3 years of EFTS* (360 credits) and are made up of a mixture of level 5-7 papers. Diplomas will generally take 1-2 years EFTS (120-240 credits) and certificates up to one year (120 credits or less). Of course if you study part time it will take longer than this. People in work will often only do 15-30 credits per semester with a single paper usually being worth 10-15 credits.

*Equivalent Full Time Study refers to the number of credits it is expected that a normal student studying full time would complete in a year (120 credits). If someone is completing less than this per year they are considered a part-time student. One credit is equivalent to approximately 10 hours of work.

What level to choose – Your choice as to whether you want to complete a certificate, diploma, or degree will largely be based on:

  • How long you want to study
  • To what level you want to study (both in terms of qualification recognition, depth of understanding, and the amount of academic skill required e.g. report writing)
  • What is available in the subject and being offered by the provider

Some providers will offer transitional approaches where you can start with a certificate, and then work further to get a diploma and/or degree, however this is not overly common.

Key considerations?

The choice of what you study is really up to you, but some factors that you should take into consideration before deciding are:

  • Passions & Interests – Study takes a lot of time and effort, so it’s always best to be working in an area that you are naturally motivated to learn more about.
  • Job factors – If you have a field that you want to move in, talk to prospective employers or people in that field about what qualifications and/or providers they would be looking for. Some fields (such as social work and counselling) have minimum qualifications required for professional registration and practice.
  • Lifestyle factors – Some subjects are more intense than others and may not fit around your work/family, and if you are only studying part time towards a degree you need to be aware that this will be a long term commitment over a number of years. You should also check how the papers are delivered (as detailed below) as this can be a significant factor in student’s ability to engage with study.
  • Time – Programmes such as counselling and social work often have restricted time allowances for completing the qualification and may require practical placements which involve full-time work for short periods. Discuss this with the provider to check that you are able to meet all of these requirements.

Mode of Study

As mentioned above, there are a number of different modes of study, and each has their own advantages and disadvantages;

  • Face to Face – The traditional lecture format with a set number of lecture hours per week, it has an advantage in that it is regular and interactive. It is however problematic if you don’t live near the study provider, and lacks the timetable flexibility of other options.
  • Block Courses  – In a similar traditional lecture format but held over blocks of 2-5 days, at defined points over  the year. This method can be really good for those working (it’s often easier to manage work around one defined block of absence than regular hours in every week) and those needing to travel, whilst still retaining the interactive nature of lectures.
  • Distance Learning – Lecture content is sent to you via post or online, for you to access in your own time. This is often accompanied by interaction via online forums or audio conferences. This has a lot of time and lifestyle flexibility (study at 3am in your pyjamas!) but requires a level of self-motivation, and can be a struggle for those who thrive on face to face social interaction
  • Blended – A mixture of the above e.g. you receive material to read via post / email, but meet for a shorter block course at some point to discuss and break down this material.

So what do people in The Salvation Army study?

The following is by no means a comprehensive list, but is provided to give you some places to start your search, that have been used by a number of Salvationists (Officers, employees and soldiers). Note that there may also be a local provider close to you that offers additional options not listed here, so it really pays to have a look at what’s around!

Theology & Biblical Studies

Counselling and Pastoral

Social Work

There are a number of providers offering diplomas and degrees in Social Work, so it would be worthwhile for you to explore the options around your local area. Some providers that have been used by the Salvation Army are:

Leadership & Management

Similar to above, there are a number of providers offering training in this area, but due to this area being extensively used by the corporate market, they can often be quite expensive. Some providers which have been used successfully used by people in the Salvation Army are:

Youth Work

What about Non-Formal study options?

It is important to acknowledge that valuable learning can also occur outside of a diploma or degree programme. A subsequent blog will attempt to address what this informal learning can look like.

Questions, or do you want to talk about this further?

If this has started a train of thought for you (or perhaps just confused you further) we would love to have a chat with you, to help you clarify what it is you are looking for, or give you some more options to think about. Feel free to leave a comment below, or contact us:

About bcmnz

Official blog of The Salvation Army Booth College of Mission, in Upper Hutt, New Zealand.
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