What should I study? 

How to choose the best study programme for you.

There are two ways to approach the question of what to study. You can think about what’s the right thing to study for your chosen career. Or you can think about what you enjoy most.


If you know what career you want, there may be qualifications that you are required to get. For example, in almost every country, you’re not allowed to practice medicine without the proper qualifications. Whatever career you’re heading for, be sure you know the standards you’re required to achieve and even which national or international bodies have the right to accredit study programmes as suitable. Remember, the standards one country expects are rarely the same internationally. Many careers don’t require a degree in a specific subject, but there may be subjects that prepare you better than others. For instance, to land a career in business, you may not be required to have a degree in law, finance, economics or mathemathics, but studying those subjects can certainly help you get the job and be more successful in it.

What you enjoy

When we choose a university, most of us don’t have our whole lives planned out and may not have any career ideas yet. In that case, you can’t go wrong by simply studying a subject you’re good at and enjoy. Not only will you enjoy your studies more and probably get better grades, but, by the end, a qualification in an area you’re passionate about sets you up for a career you’ll enjoy too. Indeed, even if you do know what career you want, ask yourself if you’d enjoy studying the subject. If you don’t think you’ll like studying it for the next three to seven years, you can be confident it’s not the right career for you for the next four or five decades.

How 51 can help

51 can’t help you pick what to study – only you can decide that – but it can help you compare different subjects at different universities, the same subject at different universities, or even different subjects at the same university. In the online tool, you’ll be asked to select a subject you want to study. So far, we’ve collected data for about and we’re adding more each year. That allows you to compare universities on the basis of performance in that subject area rather than looking at the whole institution. That’s important, because all universities have their strengths and weaknesses and the variation between different subjects can be huge. You can also choose to compare universities that specialise in just one subject or a small selection, those with a broader range, or those that cover a comprehensive set of subjects. This makes a difference because specialist institutions tend to be smaller and will often have a particular reputation for their subject area. In comprehensive universities on the other hand, there may be a wider mix of students and greater opportunities for study that spans across disciplines.

For a quick view, explore our . These sets of rankings focus on the study subjects and can be personalised by you, to show the best matching study programme based on your needs and interests.


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