What to study: Tips for finding the right degree

Written by: Kerstin Lakits, Dec 01, 2022

In total, there are about 3,600 study programmes in Austria. This high number of options can make finding the right university programme quite difficult. And immediately after graduating from high school, this decision feels even bigger and more important because who knows what the future holds?! Therefore, we will help you answer the question “What should I study?” with the following 10 tips.

10 tips to find the right study programme

After high school, you have to make a big decision because you need to find the right study programme. While some have always known what they want to be when they’re grown up, others find it harder to find their path. But don’t worry! That’s exactly why we have these 10 tips for your decision-making.

1. Your interests

The most important criterion for your choice of degree is your interests! Because only if you like the course contents, will you enjoy studying and feel motivated. Therefore, you should think about what you like and enjoy doing. Are you interested in history, languages, mathematics, engineering, economics, politics, communication, cultures, archaeology, sport, art, design, physics, religion or IT?

2. Your strengths and weaknesses

The right study programme should be challenging, but not overwhelming. Therefore, you should inspect your strengths and weaknesses beforehand. Do you have a talent for mathematics and logical thinking or languages and creativity? Do you lean more towards sciences or humanities? Which subjects were really easy or very hard in school? Do you prefer to work practically or do you prefer to philosophize and do research?

3. Career Compass

If you don’t know which profession you want to pursue in the future, you can test your interests, strengths and preferences with the Berufskompass (only available in German). The result of the twenty-minute online test can give you a good idea about future professional options. If you have a rough idea about what you want to do in the future, you can search for the right study programme or formation that is required for this profession.

4. BeSt³ – Austria’s biggest education fair

BeSt³ is Austria’s biggest education fair and takes place in all federal capitals. Numerous universities, Universities of Applied Sciences, colleges, vocational schools, study programmes and suppliers for internships present themselves. You can ask targeted questions and get advice in panel discussions and workshops. The entrance is free.

5. Try out different degrees for a day

Each semester, the Austrian Student’s Representation (ÖH) organises StudierenProbieren, a programme that allows you to sample different study programmes. Students will show you the building, a lecture and answer your questions about the degree. How are the teachers? What is the best or worst thing about the programme? How difficult is it? Which prerequisites are needed? This will give you a great insight and idea whether this is the perfect degree for you.

6. Lexicon for professions

For your choice of study programme, you should consider future job and career opportunities. Therefore, you should inform yourself about the job market and career opportunities. The Berufslexikon of the Public Employment Service Austria (AMS) gives you all the information about your future job, for example starting salary, career opportunities, further education and more. Your choice should include your interests as well as practical aspects such as finances and career opportunities.

7. Curriculum & syllabus

If you are torn between two study programmes, you should look at and compare the two curricula. Usually, you can find them on the website of the university. Which courses, lectures, contents and topics are more interesting to you? Do the course contents fulfil your expectations?

8. Open University courses, full-time studies or extra-occupational formations

The type of programme can also influence your choice. Open University courses allow you to study at a distant university. If you study full-time, you can only fit a mini job into your schedule because you will spend most of your time at university. You will therefore need financial support. If you are already working, an extra-occupational formation is perfect for you.

9. Open house day & information events

Many universities and universities of Applied Sciences offer open house days and information events, where students and teachers present the building and available study programmes. That is the perfect opportunity to get a feel for the programme and ask questions. Use this opportunity to find out whether the programme interests you and meets your expectations. You can find an overview of all events at studienplattform.at.

10. Database of all study programmes

studium.at is a database with all study programmes in Austria. There you can search by language, type of programme, federal state, facility of higher education and more. This is perfect for narrowing down your choices and getting a better overview of your options. Then you can also strategically search study programmes that you like.

Where to study?

When you ask yourself “What should I study?”, you’ll also ask yourself “Where should I study?”. That’s why we have collected some factors that can help you make this decision. If you cannot decide between two universities, the university ranking of the best universities in Austria can be helpful.

1. Transport connections

An important factor for choosing your educational facility are transport connections because you will have to commute to university multiple times a week. Of course, it’s super practical if you live close to university and if the infrastructure around the university is good. Keep in mind:

  • How long does it take to go to university from your home?
  • How central is the university located?
  • Are there cafés, restaurants, libraries, supermarkets, gyms, etc. around the university?

2. Housing options

The decision where to study obviously depends as well on your place of residence. Therefore, you should answer these questions beforehand:

  • Are you going to live at home? Do you have to commute to university?
  • Will you look for a shared flat close to university?
  • Will you move to a student dormitory close to university?

To help you with finding a new home, we have put together the advantages and disadvantages of a student dormitory!

3. Compare universities

Many study programmes are offered at different universities. The curricula, services and student unions are oftentimes different. Some universities, for example those in Vienna, are more popular, which procures admission procedures harder. Universities with fewer students or smaller departments offer better collaboration among students and communication with teachers.

Maybe you want to study in another country? Then you’ll find an article on studying abroad here!

4. University or University of Applied Sciences

Some study programmes are available at universities and Universities of Applied Sciences. The difference is tied to the working method. Universities tend to focus on academic work and a theoretical formation while universities of Applied Sciences focus on a practical formation. Universities of Applied Sciences are similar to high school with a fixed timetable and classrooms. At university, you have to create your own schedule.

Here is an article on the differences between universities and universities of Applied Sciences!

More tips

If you were already able to narrow down your options, we have more tips that you should take into consideration.

Admission procedure

Many degrees, especially very popular and crowded programmes such as medicine and psychology, have admission tests. Universities of Applied Sciences also have an admission procedure, which consists of an aptitude test and interview because of the limited spots available. So inform yourself in due time about requirements and deadlines.

Quizzes for finding a study programme

In addition to the online quiz in tip 3 “Berufskompass”, there are many quizzes that are designed to help you find the perfect study programme by testing your interests, strengths and weaknesses. Based on your results, the quizzes give you recommendations. Then you can compare and find the right one for you. Here are some quizzes:

  • Online-Self-Assesments (OSA) by the University of Vienna: ~60min (only in German)
  • Free online career test by educations.com: ~10min (available in English)
  • Free program quiz by edu: ~5-10min (available in English)
  • Free personality test for students by masterportal.com: ~5min (available in English)

Laborious study programmes

In principle, there are two types of degrees in Austria: bachelor’s degrees (6 semesters) and master’s degrees (4 semesters). However, some study programmes are very time-consuming and laborious. For example, studying medicine usually takes 12 semesters. A formation in veterinarian medicine also takes 12 months. Students in a law degree study at least 8 months, but the average are 12 months. The minimum study duration for teachers is 12 semester.

Deciding what you want to study is a big deal. Therefore, you should take a lot of time to think about it. You are the only person who can make this decision because you know yourself, your interests, strengths and weaknesses best. So stick to your gut! For some inspiration, take a look at this overview of all the different study programmes!

When you have found the right programme for you, check out this checklist for the perfect start into life at university!

Good luck with your search!


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