How to choose electives during study planning

When it's time to pick your elective subjects, where do you even start? We asked student advisors Jayde and Puja for their top tips.  

A smiling young woman writing down notes and looking at a tablet

What are elective subjects—and why are they required as part of a degree?

“Electives are subjects you choose to study, based on what interests you and what will complement your degree,” explains Puja, a student advisor at Open Universities Australia.

Unlike your core subjects and major/minor subjects, which are central to your degree, electives don't have to focus on the specialist knowledge you need to work in your field. They can focus on more diverse topics—and even topics that are outside of your study area. 

“Electives usually fall into two categories,” says Jayde, one of our senior student advisors. “They’re either listed or free choice. When a course has listed electives, the student needs to select from the options provided by the university. When a course has free choice electives, students can pick anything, from fine arts to mathematics.”

Some qualifications require you to complete a certain number of electives before you can graduate.  

So if I’m studying through Open Universities Australia, how many electives am I supposed to pick?

Look up your degree on our website. Information about how many electives you’ll need to study can be found in the ‘Degree structure details’ section under ‘Award requirements.

For example, if you look at the Griffith University’s Bachelor of Business page, you’ll see that students have two options if they want to be awarded with this qualification: 

  1. They can complete one business major and then 11 free choice electives, or;
  2. Two business majors and 5 free choice electives. 

Can I study electives from other universities if I want to?

You can study electives with any of the universities listed on Open Universities Australia—if it’s specified on your degree’s page. You’ll see something like ‘Students can complete electives from any undergraduate program offered by Open Universities Australia’ written under the degree structure details.

“Most of our university partners let you take electives cross institutionally,” Jayde says. “This means if you’re doing a Bachelor of Arts with Macquarie, you can take a criminology elective with Griffith. It gives students more freedom to choose subjects that suit their needs and interests.” 

“You also get access to more subject availability, since some subjects are only offered during one study term a year,” Puja adds. 

Related reading: What is cross-institutional study? 

There are thousands of subjects offered by 27 different universities through Open Universities Australia, so you’re definitely spoilt for choice. The only caveat is that you must meet the subject’s entry requirements before you enrol.

If you’re still not sure whether your degree allows cross-institutional study, reach out to us. A student advisor like Jayde or Puja will help you figure it out.    

How do I choose my electives?

When it’s time to study plan for your degree and choose your electives, Jayde recommends taking these three things into consideration: 

  • Look at what core subjects you need to complete first—and then plan around them. 
    “They generally run at set times throughout the year and have to be completed in a specific order,” she explains. “Electives can then be placed in any gaps within your study plan.”
  • Think about what will help your future career.
    “Are there any skills you want to build on for career development that aren’t covered by the core subjects in your degree?”
  • Remember this is a perfect chance to dip your toes into an unrelated area of interest.
    “Is there anything you’ve always wanted to study for personal interest, such as journalism or geology?” Jayde asks. You never know where a left-field interest will take you. It could even open your eyes to a brand-new direction for your career. 

How can a student advisor guide me on my study planning if I need help?

For a start, our advisors know exactly what electives are available across Open Universities Australia.

“We can help you filter through the thousands of options,” says Jayde. “Most importantly, we can help you interpret the degree structure requirements to ensure the electives you’ve selected are appropriate.” 

Related reading: A student advisor tells us how they get you enrolled 

They can also introduce you to fun or unexpected electives you might not have known about otherwise.

“For example, a psychology student may be looking for an elective that will complement their career path, and after a deep dive into their interests we’ll discover they have an interest in how a child’s development affects their education,” says Jayde. “Shortly after, we’ll have them enrolled in Child Development for Educators.”

5 fun and interesting electives you can study in 2024

Given Jayde and Puja know our subjects inside out, we decided to put their knowledge to the test by asking for their best elective recommendations. 

Here are their standout picks—though as Puja was quick to remind us, “it really depends on your interests and when you want to study. There’s a different set of subjects available during each new study term.” So make sure to book a free phone consultation with a student advisor if you want more tailored recommendations! 

1. Tertiary Learning Strategies – University of South Australia

An ideal elective for those new to uni, you’ll learn how to approach research, write properly referenced essays, and put together a bibliography. Other similar 'uni skills' electives include Developing Research and Analytical Skills with Griffith University and Critical Thinking with Macquarie University. 

Explore this subject here

2. Dinosaurs! – University of New England

That’s right, you can really study the rise and fall of the dinosaurs at uni—while learning about key scientific concepts like biology, geology and evolution in the process.

Explore this subject here

3. Drawing – Curtin University

Exercise the right side of your brain (aka the creative side) with this fine arts elective. You’ll pick up drawing techniques that could support a career in architecture, fashion or graphic design—to name a few. 

Explore this subject here

4. Introduction to Nutrition – La Trobe University

We are what we eat, as the saying goes. Understanding the science behind your diet can help you lead a healthier lifestyle, and encourage your loved ones to do the same.

Explore this subject here

5. Introduction to Social Media – University of South Australia

While most of us know how to use social media, there’s an art and a strategy to doing it well. This elective subject will give you a deeper understanding of your favourite platforms, so you can boost your LinkedIn profile, run your business social accounts, or bookstagram/foodstagram/stagram-in-your-area-of-choice to your heart’s content.     

Explore this subject here


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