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Master of Science (Genetics)

Key facts

  • Available at Auckland
  • Available at Manawatū
  • Not all listed subject course options are on offer every year
  • Available for international students studying in NZ

Lead the revolution

With a postgraduate degree in genetics, you will be at the forefront of the revolution in biology that is rapidly changing our knowledge of ourselves and the world around us.

Find out more about the Master of Science parent structure.

What is it like?

Massey’s Master of Science with a major in genetics will allow you to work alongside internationally-recognised researchers, on projects of national and global significance.

World-class facilities

You will have access to world-class facilities including the Manawatu Microscopy and Imaging Centre and the Massey Genome Service (part of New Zealand Genomics Limited). You will also be able to utilise Massey’s broad range of expertise in the sciences, working with other departments and experts as you need to for your research.

Wide range of specialities

Massey offers a very broad range of research areas in genetics, ranging from classical through molecular, biomedical, genomic and computational projects. These utilise a wide range of biological systems including microbial, plant, animal and human species.

Flexibility and industry links

At Massey you have the flexibility to choose from different locations for your study, including both the Manawatu and the Auckland campuses, as well as other research institutes such as AgResearch, Scion, and Plant & Food Research. This flexibility provides a great deal of project choice, as well as providing important industry linkages that enhance job prospects.

Friendly environment - passionate scientists

A critical part of the genetics postgraduate experience at Massey is being part of the vibrant, well-established community of fundamental scientists and students. We have a large active student group - the Fundamental Science Students Association (FUSSTA) - where we work together to share discoveries and research and provide peer support.

Why postgraduate study?

Postgraduate study is hard work but hugely rewarding and empowering. The Master of Science will push you to produce your best creative, strategic and theoretical ideas. The workload replicates the high-pressure environment of senior workplace roles. Our experts are there to guide but if you have come from undergraduate study, you will find that postgraduate study demands more in-depth and independent study.

Not just more of the same

Postgraduate study is not just ‘more of the same’ undergraduate study. It takes you to a new level in knowledge and expertise especially in planning, time management, setting goals and milestones and undertaking research.

A good fit if you:

  • Have an undergraduate degree in genetics or a related science discipline
  • Are interested in how our genes influence our behaviour and our health
  • Have a passion for understanding the ways living things work
  • Want to be at the cutting edge of science, combining genetic expertise with other areas of science
  • Enjoy problem-solving and learning about new technologies
Rebecca Ganley
Scientist, Research Leader - Pathology, Forest Protection at Scion Research

“The skills and scientific rigour I learned in my MSc have served me throughout my science career and in my current job…”

I did my undergrad degree at Massey and really enjoyed the molecular biology component of the course.  I wanted to do something in that area but I also wanted to work on a project that had a ‘real world aspect to it. My MSc (Genetics) project fitted the bill exactly.

I worked on a forestry pathogen, called Dothistroma pini, which reduces growth of Pinus radiata in New Zealand. I characterised a collection of this pathogen using molecular techniques, so we could distinguish the global and New Zealand strains.

My time at Massey University was fantastic, we had a great research group with my supervisor Associate Professor Rosie Bradshaw. I made lots of great friends, and I regularly encounter many of the postgrads I knew and worked with at Massey University in New Zealand’s scientific community - it has made it easier to collaborate and work with them in later years.

I loved the MSc(Genetics).  As part of it I got to spend 6 weeks at Nottingham University in the UK doing research. I learned some academic key skills during my study, such as how to read and critically evaluate journal articles and on how to present my work appropriately to a scientific audience. I left Massey with an extremely strong science foundation (knowledge, scientific rigour, ethics) that has been invaluable for my entire career. After I completed my MSc I went to the USA and completed a PhD in Natural Resources.

I also love my job!  I’m now research leader for the Pathology Team at Scion. I travel widely both in New Zealand and abroad, and manage a research team. My areas of speciality are foliar diseases of commercial tree species; managing diseases; increasing tree resilience using biological agents; forest pathology, specifically foliar disease research; biosecurity and DNA-based methods to identify fungal species and populations. I am sure the excellent reputation of my supervisor in this area had a key part to play in me getting my current role.

If you’re not sure about going into a PhD versus working in a technical or similar role, I’d recommend doing an MSc.  I’d also recommend that you interact with industries and others in the science community while you are studying, as this can open many doors for future employment.


Most genetics postgraduates gain employment as scientists in research institutes and universities both in New Zealand and overseas, in a wide variety of fields. Others have become forensic scientists, genetic counsellors, teachers, sales representatives, laboratory technicians, managers, journalists, ministry advisors, and health and safety advisors.

Sought after by employers

International trends are for employers to reward postgraduate study well, especially in larger enterprises. The skills you learn are increasingly recognised as setting you apart from other potential employees.

Earn more

A 2017 Ministry of Education publication The post-study earnings and destinations of young domestic graduates, found that in New Zealand:

  • Young master’s graduates earn more than one and a half times more than the national median (five years after study)
  • Earnings and employment rates increase with the level of qualification completed
  • Five years after completion, the median earnings of young master’s graduates are 15% higher than for those with a bachelor’s degree.

World-leading lecturers

Massey’s genetics staff are internationally renowned for their research and teaching and learning methods. You will be working with recognised genetics and related discipline specialists, for example:

Professor Barry Scott

Professor Scott is a world-leader in the genetics of plant-fungal interactions.
Early in his career, he made landmark contributions to the understanding of Rhizobium-legume symbiosis, reported in a seminal Nature paper in 1979. 

Professor Scott is a principal investigator in the BioProtection Research Centre, a National Centre of Research Excellence. He was elected a fellow of the Royal Society of New Zealand in 2010 and awarded the prestigious Marsden medal, the New Zealand Association of Scientists’ top honour, in 2013. In 2014 he was awarded the prestigious Humboldt Research Award from the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation (Germany). This international award recognises academics whose fundamental discoveries, new theories, or insights have had a significant impact on their own discipline.

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