Microbiology – Bachelor of Science

Join Massey’s unique Bachelor of Science (Microbiology) to explore and understand microbes in the environment, from the soil to the air, and in the human body.

Where you can study

Manawatū campus (Palmerston North)

International students

International students are not New Zealand citizens or residents.

Definition of New Zealand citizens and residents

Open to international students on campus in New Zealand

Specialise in Microbiology for your Bachelor of Science at Massey

Microbiology is an essential science that helps us understand the microbes in the environment, including microbes that dwell in the soil, air and water, in our food and inside people, animals and plants. Microbiology can impact on many different areas, such as:

  • agriculture, where rumen microbes are both essential to dairy and good industries, but also responsible for much of New Zealand’s carbon emission;
  • bioprotection, where efforts to preserve native birds (kiwi) and plants (kauri trees) depend on expert control of microbial pathogens
  • microbes have applications as model systems to answer questions beyond the immediate range of microbiology, such as the causes of cancer or birth defects;
  • green and bio-based technologies, where microbes help preserve our environment by producing bio-based materials for use in diagnostics and vaccines or by harnessing solar energy for fuel production.


In the Massey Bachelor of Science (Microbiology) you will learn about microbiology hand-in-hand with other science areas such as veterinary, animal, and environmental science. This allows you to explore microbiological disciplines, including environment/ecology, medical, veterinary and food microbiology, and biotechnology.

Some of the topics taught in microbiology courses include:

  • bioinformatics and genomics
  • biotechnology
  • DNA technology
  • environmental microbiology
  • immunology
  • medical microbiology
  • developing diagnostic tests for infectious diseases (including SARS-CoV2)
  • microbial diversity
  • applied and industrial microbiology
  • food microbiology.

Heaps of laboratory experience

Exposure and time in labs is a large component of our course and on par with what is usually only seen in employment. For example, you’ll get to do a lab-based simulated research project, such as identification of microbes in environment or food, or producing useful proteins in bacterial culture. As a graduate, you’ll have lab confidence and the unique ability to show potential employers that you are skilled in lab-based experiments.

Real-world experience

You will complete research projects as part of a summer studentship with the Massey University researchers. You’ll gain a real-world insight into the area and connections with potential future employers.

World-leading facilities

Facilities available to you include our Microscopy and Imaging Centre, Genomics and DNA sequencing facility, protein analysis suite (Mass Spectroscopy, X-ray crystallography, NMR), bioreactors and fermentation facilities.

A Bachelor of Science in Microbiology is a good fit if you:

  • enjoy the sciences, specifically biology.

Planning information

If you study full-time, in your first year, you’ll take eight 15-credit courses, making a total of 120 credits.

If you wish to study over two semesters, you should aim for 60 credits per semester. You may be able to take some courses at summer school. Make sure you include courses that are prerequisites for the next level of courses you wish to study.

The first-year structure is designed to provide you with a broad knowledge and skill set which will equip you to go on to more advanced courses in the second and third years.

You must pass at least 90 credits from the BSc Schedule A, including any compulsory courses, in your first 120 credits of study towards the Bachelor of Science.

Microbiology has similar first year core courses to several other majors available in the Bachelor of Science, allowing students to change their major before their second year. Changing your major may incur an increase in completion time.

Suggested structure

100-level courses

Take these in any order:

Take these in the order shown:

  • 123104 Chemistry for Biological Systems
  • 122102 Biochemistry.

Plus choose two 100-level elective courses. These can be from a subject area other than Science.

200-level courses in the major

Take all four:

  • 203210 Genetics and Evolution
  • 162211 Biology and Genetics of Microorganisms
  • 162221 Immunology
  • 280201 Industrial Microbiology.
300-level courses in the major

Take all four:

  • 162301 Medical Microbiology
  • 162304 Applied and Environmental Microbiology
  • 203310 DNA Technology
  • 203311 Genome Science.


Completing a minor is optional. Minors increase the breadth of your degree. They give you extra knowledge, attributes and capabilities.

A minor must be in a different subject from your major.

A Bachelor of Science (Microbiology) with a minor

You may choose a minor from any university undergraduate degree that has recognised minors. If the minor is from another undergraduate degree, the regulations of that qualification will apply.

Some BSc minors that are particularly compatible with Microbiology include those shown below. Timetabling will prioritise these combinations to minimise clashes.

  • Molecular Cell Biology
  • Physiology (course: 214101 or 117155).
A Microbiology minor (for students who are studying a different degree)

If you are not studying a Bachelor of Science (Microbiology) and wish to complete a Microbiology minor see the BSc regulations for the requirements of this minor.  

Official regulations

To understand what you need to study and must complete to graduate read the official rules and regulations for this qualification.

You should read these together with all other relevant Statutes and Regulations of the University including the General Regulations for Undergraduate Degrees, Undergraduate Diplomas, Undergraduate Certificates, Graduate Diplomas and Graduate Certificates.

Returning students

For returning students, there may be changes to the majors and minors available and the courses you need to take. Go to the section called ‘Transitional Provisions’ in the Regulations to find out more.

In some cases the qualification or specialisation you enrolled in may no longer be taking new enrolments, so may not appear on these web pages. To find information on the regulations for these qualifications go to the Massey University Calendar.

Please contact us through the Get advice button on this page if you have any questions.

Courses you can enrol in

Course planning key

Courses that need to be completed before moving onto a course at the next level. For example, a lot of 200-level courses have 100-level prerequisite courses.
Courses that must be completed at the same time as another course are known as corequisite courses.
Some courses are restricted against each other because their content is similar. This means you can only choose one of the offered courses to study and credit to your qualification.

Compulsory courses

Course code: 162211 Biology and Genetics of Microorganisms 15 credits

Structure and metabolism of bacteria and their relation to the environment. Bacterial genetics. Eukaryote microbes - structure, physiology and genetics. Life cycle of viruses. Practical training in the manipulation of micro-organisms.

Prerequisites: 162101 or 123104

View full course details
Course code: 162221 Immunology 15 credits

The course explores the cell types involved in the mammalian immune system. It allows students to learn about the principles of immunology including innate immunity, cell and antibody mediated immunity, the major histocompatibility complex, transplantation immunology, hypersensitivities, immunodeficiency and autoimmunity. The course provides an introduction to vaccines, clinical immunology and immunological laboratory tests.

Prerequisites: 162101 Restrictions: 162303, 162389

View full course details
Course code: 162301 Medical Microbiology 15 credits

Some major bacterial pathogens of humans in terms of the organisms, their habitats, modes of transmission, disease patterns and laboratory diagnosis. The structure, classification, propagation, assay and transmission of some of the major viruses of humans. Immunity to viruses and the laboratory diagnosis of viral infections.

Prerequisites: 162211 and (162221 or 162283) Restrictions: 162384

View full course details
Course code: 162304 Applied and Environmental Microbiology 15 credits

Actions and interactions of micro-organisms in soil, water, air, food, and the animal and human gut; consequences and applications of microbial colonisation processes.

Prerequisites: One of 162211, 162212, 162214, 196213, 203210, 203300, 203310, 203340 or 280201

View full course details
Course code: 203210 Genetics and Evolution 15 credits

This fundamental course for the biological sciences explores the genetic principles and evolutionary processes important for understanding the relationships among genetic diversity, phenotype variation, and biological evolution. Topics include sources of molecular genetic variation, the genetic basis of traits with simple and complex patterns of inheritance, evolutionary mechanisms and patterns, and molecular evolution.

Prerequisites: 162101 Restrictions: 203202 and 203212

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Course code: 203310 DNA Technology 15 credits

Advanced molecular biology methods to address areas ranging from detection of microbial pollution and vaccine development, to molecular characterization of inherited diseases and cancer. Topics will include gene cloning, PCR, recombination, transposons, transgenes and mutagenesis using state-of-the-art technologies like CRISPR and gene drives. Students will gain practical experience by planning and performing a DNA technology project encompassing primer design, PCR, molecular cloning, DNA quantification, electrophoresis, DNA sequencing and computer analysis of the recombinant construct.

Prerequisites: One of 122231, 162211, 203240 or 203211 Restrictions: 203300, 203340

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Course code: 203311 Genome Science 15 credits

This advanced course focuses on the practical computational skills needed to extract biological information from the genome and associated ‘omics systems, including transcriptomes, metagenomes and comparative genomics. Delivered via tutorials and hands-on activities, the course is assessed solely through practical assignments and spans topics including the dynamic nature of the genome through to sequence analysis, curation, annotation and data visualization. This introduction to computational analysis is geared towards biologists and assumes no previous knowledge or familiarity with computational methods.

Prerequisites: 162101 Restrictions: 203328 and 203341

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Course code: 280201 Industrial Microbiology 15 credits

An industry focused course in microbiology with particular reference to the importance of microorganisms and their application in selected industries. This programme of study examines the growth and control of industrially important microorganisms, the role of microbes in the production of food products, their application in both waste treatment and in industrial fermentation, and the role of microbes in the health sector. A laboratory course.

Prerequisites: (123101 or 123104 or 123171) and (123102 or 123105 or 123172 or 122102) Restrictions: 162212, 162214

View full course details

Entry requirements

Admission to Massey

All students must meet university entrance requirements to be admitted to the University.

Specific requirements

There are no specific entry requirements for this qualification, outside of university admission regulations. However, there is some expected background knowledge.

Expected high school preparation

Knowledge gained in the following NCEA subjects (or the equivalent in Cambridge International Examinations, International Baccalaureate, or similar) will give you the expected background knowledge to take this major.

  • At least 14 credits in NCEA Level 3 Biology.
  • At least 14 credits in NCEA Level 3 Chemistry.

English language requirements

To study this qualification you must meet Massey University's English language standards.

English language skills

If you need help with your English language skills before you start university, see our English for Academic Purposes (EAP) courses.

Can't meet the entry requirements?

The following pathways will get you prepared to study this major. If you have not studied NCEA Level 3 Biology (or equivalent) take the following course first:

  • 162103 Introductory Biology.

If you have not studied NCEA Level 3 Chemistry (or equivalent) take the following course first:

  • 123103 Chemistry for Modern Sciences.

These courses are available in the summer semester and will count towards credits in your degree.

If you need to do a course before you start your qualification, there may be options for you in Summer School.

Fees and scholarships

Fees, student loans and free fees scheme

Your tuition fees may be different depending on the courses you choose. Your exact fees will show once you have chosen your courses.

There will also be some compulsory non-tuition fees and for some courses, there may also be charges for things such as study resources, software, trips and contact workshops.

Already know which courses you're going to choose?

You can view fees for the courses that make up your qualification on the course details pages.

Student loans (StudyLink) and Fees Free scheme

You may be eligible for a student loan to help towards paying your fees.

The New Zealand Government offers fees-free tertiary study for eligible domestic students. Find out more about the scheme and your eligibility on the Fees Free website. To use the site's eligibility checking tool, you will need your National Student Number.

Current and returning Massey students can find their National Student Number in the student portal.

Scholarship and award opportunities

Search our scholarships and awards

Fees disclaimer

This information is for estimation purposes only. Actual fees payable will be finalised on confirmation of enrolment. Unless otherwise stated, all fees shown are quoted in New Zealand dollars and include Goods and Services Tax, if any. Before relying on any information on these pages you should also read the University's Disclaimer Notice.

Careers and job opportunities

In demand

The growing demand for qualified microbiologists is highlighted by the number of microbiology positions advertised in the scientific journals Science and Nature. The need for microbiologists has been sharply increased by Covid-19 pandemics, where microbiologists play the key roles in developing diagnostic tests and vaccine. Microbiologists are on the Immediate Skill Shortage List as published by the New Zealand Immigration Office.

Areas graduates could work in include:

  • reducing global warming and the production of environmentally-friendly biodegradable materials
  • the production of high-value compounds such as antibiotics and vaccines
  • food production - such as beer, wine and cheese
  • developing affordable and rapid tests for SARS-CoV2 and other disease-causing microbes
  • preventing and treating diseases, forensics and cleaning up pollution
  • search for life on the bottom of the ocean and on other planets.

The importance of microbes in traditional New Zealand industries means that you will be in high demand by these industries and Crown Research Institutes in quality control and research and development.

Other traditional areas of employment include hospital laboratories, universities, Crown Research Institutes, meat and dairy processing or vaccine production companies, quality assurance and diagnostic laboratories (AsureQuality, Hills Laboratories, Eurofins, Gribbles, MedLab Central and others), or government (e.g. Border control, Ministry of Primary Industries, Environmental Protection Authority). Newly emerging New Zealand export industries, such as winemaking and biotechnology, as well as diverse food production companies, employ graduates from the qualification.

Earn more

A 2017 Ministry of Education publication, The post-study earnings and destinations of young domestic graduates, showed that those who complete a qualification in a science, agriculture, technology, computer science, engineering or mathematics field of study have high relative earnings after they complete their study compared to the national median. Earnings can be substantially more than other graduates.

There is a large and increasing variety of career opportunities for you as a Massey University microbiology graduate.

International students

New Zealand is a great place to study. Massey University’s reputation is supported by our international rankings, accreditations and associations. We are rated five star plus by the QS World University Rankings.

Massey University has small class sizes, and our lecturers and staff are friendly and approachable.

As an international student, there are entry requirements that will apply to you. We recommend that you apply at least three months before your anticipated start date so your application can be processed in time. There are additional steps you will need to take. These include obtaining a visa and travel bookings if your study is to be in New Zealand.

What our students say

“I thoroughly enjoyed my time at Massey and feel it provided the necessary basis to enter the workforce in my chosen field.”
Shanna Hickling

Bachelor of Science (Microbiology) (Genetics)

Accreditations and rankings

QS Ranking - Biological Sciences

Massey University is ranked by QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) as one of the top 450 universities in the world for biological sciences.

Learn more

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