Molecular Cell Biology – Bachelor of Science

Cells and the molecules that make them are the building blocks of all life. Join the molecular revolution in biology and develop sought after scientific skills in molecular cell biology. 

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 Molecular Cell Biology for your Bachelor of Science at Massey

Molecular cell biology is at the forefront of scientific endeavour. Rapid advances in technology have enabled the genomic revolution, the targeted manipulation of genes, electron microscopy imaging of single biomolecules and computational biology. These exciting developments have united the traditional disciplines of cell biology, biochemistry, genetics, genomics,  and molecular evolution into the field of Molecular Cell Biology. 

In the Bachelor of Science (Molecular Cell Biology) you will study the big questions of life:

  • How does  life work at a molecular and cellular level and what keeps it going?
  • What are cells made of and how do they control their molecular complexity?
  • How did life start and why is it so diverse?
  • How are organisms related and how does evolution work at a molecular level?
  • How do cells go wrong and cause disease; what can we do for prevention and treatment? 

You will learn key concepts, theories and experimental methods that help answer these questions. You'll gain a scientific education that enables the application of these ideas to important current issues such as:

  • strategies to prevent global warming
  • sustainability in food production
  • diagnosis, treatment and prevention disease.

The laboratory component of our courses develop your experimental and computational skills in molecular cell biology. Some examples include:

  • recombinant DNA engineering and protein analysis
  • microscopy of chromosomes and cell movement
  • genetic analysis
  • cellular energetics
  • computational genome sequencing and evolutionary analysis.

Join world-leading researchers

Our teaching is research-led. Your lecturers are internationally recognised with research strengths including; human, plant and microbial molecular, cellular and protein biology; cancer, neurological and bacterial disease mechanisms and treatments; diagnostics and vaccines; plant and bacterial evolution. Together we will help you develop the skills and knowledge to become molecular cell biologists of the future.

Make industry connections

Your study will benefit from the breadth of strong connections between Massey and research institutes including Fonterra, AgResearch, Plant & Food Research, Scion (Forestry). We maintain formal research collaborations throughout New Zealand, as well as the Pacific Islands, USA, United Kingdom, Europe and Asia.

Develop the skills employers are looking for

You'll graduate with a sound understanding of the fundamental aspects of molecular cell biology. You will have strong written and oral communication skills, and an analytical approach to problem-solving. These skills are all sought after by employers, and will ensure that you will have options in a wide range of careers, and the ability to progress quickly within your employment path.

A Bachelor of Science in Molecular Cell Biology is a good fit if you:

  • enjoy sciences, especially biology 
  • are interested in cell biology, molecular biology, genes, genomes  and evolution
  • are interested in experimental biology (eg DNA analysis, genetic engineering,  microscopy, genome analysis).

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.

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.

Molecular Cell Biology 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 first:

  • 123104 Chemistry for Biological Systems
  • 162101 Cell Biology.

Then take:

Take these in any order:

  • 247113 Science and Sustainability for Science
  • 161111 Applied Statistics or 161122 Statistics
  • 124103 Biophysical Principles or 160101 Calculus or 160102 Algebra or 160104 Introductory Mathematics for Science or 160105 Methods of Mathematics.
Recommended 100-level electives

Two of the following, depending on interest:

  • 123105 Chemistry and the Physical World
  • 196101 Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour
  • 199103 Animals and the Environment
  • 214101 Human Bioscience: Normal Body Function
  • 120101 Plant Biology.
200-level courses in the major

Take all four:

300-level courses in the major

Take all of:

And at least one of:

  • 122301 Proteins and Cell Biology
  • 196318 Molecular Ecology.

Not sure of your major yet?

You can change to any BSc major at the end of your first year. Moving from the first year of Molecular Cell Biology to one of the majors below is particularly simple, as the required first-year courses are similar. By choosing your courses and electives carefully to cover both majors you could easily swap over at the end of first year. Changing your major may incur an increase in completion time.

  • Chemistry (include 123105 and 160101 or 160102 or 160105 in your first year).
  • Ecology and Conservation (include 196101 and 199103 in your first year)
  • Human Nutrition (Auckland only) (include 214101 in your first year)
  • Microbiology (Manawatū only)
  • Plant Science (Manawatū only) (include 189151 and 120101 in your first year).
  • Zoology (include 199103 and 196101 in your first year).


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 (Molecular Cell Biology) 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 Molecular Cell Biology include those shown below. Timetabling will prioritise these combinations to minimise clashes.

  • Chemistry (include 123105 in your first year)
  • Microbiology
A Molecular Cell Biology minor (for students who are studying a different degree)

If you are not studying a Bachelor of Science (Molecular Cell Biology) and wish to complete a Molecular Cell Biology 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.

Core courses for the Bachelor of Science

As well as the specialisation courses listed below, this qualification has core courses that you will need to complete.

Bachelor of Science core courses

Molecular Cell Biology courses

200 level courses

Compulsory courses

Choose 45 credits from
Course code: 122202 The Dynamic Cell 15 credits

Energy metabolism in higher eukaryotes from the perspective of life on earth and the necessary adaptation of living organisms from an anaerobic to aerobic environment. Carbohydrate, lipid and nitrogen metabolism in the context of health and disease. Integration and regulation of carbohydrate, lipid and amino acid metabolism. A lecture and problem-based tutorial course complemented by a hands-on project-based laboratory course.

Prerequisites: 122102 Restrictions: 122233

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Course code: 122231 Genes and Gene Expression 15 credits

This course covers fundamentals of molecular biology including nucleic acid structure, DNA replication, repair and transcription, with reference to health and disease. Methods used to study and manipulate genes will be covered and applied in practice. A lecture and problem-based course, complemented by practical laboratory experience.

Prerequisites: 162101 and (123101 or 123103 or 123104) Restrictions: 203211 and 203240

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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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Choose 15 credits from
Course code: 122201 The Molecular Cell 15 credits

Concepts of protein function, post-translational modification, folding, targeting and turn-over. The relationship between macromolecular structure/function and cell structure/function is explored with studies of cell membranes, the cell cytoskeleton, extracellular matrix and organelle organisation and function. Protein structure-function relationships will be discussed and analysed in the context of enzyme kinetics, enzyme catalysis and regulation.

Prerequisites: 162101 and 122102 Restrictions: 122232

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Course code: 203203 Biomedicine 15 credits

This course focuses on discoveries important to our understanding of human genetics and disease. The genetic and molecular basis of human diseases will be explored. How links between genotype and phenotype are made, and how such knowledge can lead to new treatments for diseases, will be addressed.

Prerequisites: 162101

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300 level courses

Compulsory courses

Choose 45 credits from
Course code: 122303 Gene Regulation 15 credits

The course explores gene regulation in eukaryotes from nuclear organisation to cytosolic control, with a focus on animals and humans. The molecular mechanisms of transcription within a chromatin environment will be discussed, along with the role of RNA processing and post-transcriptional regulation in gene expression, and their importance to health and disease. A lecture and problem-based tutorial course complemented by a hands-on laboratory project undertaking experimental methods used to study gene expression.

Prerequisites: 122202 or 122233 or 122231 or 203240 or 203211 or 203300 or 203310

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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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Choose 15 credits from
Course code: 122301 Proteins and Cell Biology 15 credits

The course explores concepts and methods in advanced molecular cell biology and protein biochemistry. Molecular mechanisms responsible for the signalling and biochemical responses of cells will be discussed with a focus on both cell and protein structure and functions. Advanced studies in protein function, cell signalling and cellular processes are taught in a context of molecular disease mechanisms. The course teaches modern experimental methods in microscopy, cell biology and protein functional analysis.

Prerequisites: 122201 or 122232 Restrictions: 122322, 203307

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Course code: 196318 Molecular Ecology 15 credits

This course explores the application and analysis of molecular markers to address questions within basic and applied ecology. The diversity of genetic techniques, metrics, and analyses used in molecular ecology will be demonstrated. Examples will address how molecular approaches can be applied to gain insights into ecology, demography, behaviour, biodiversity, and conservation.

Prerequisites: One of 196207, 196217, 203210 or 203212 Restrictions: 199317

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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. However, if you have not studied these subjects we have a pathway for you to progress to your major (see below).

  • 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

The Molecular Cell Biology major will provide you with internationally-marketable skills. Many of our graduates spend a period of time outside New Zealand, either furthering their studies at leading universities or in employment.

Possible career opportunities include pure and applied research, quality control, product development and work in medical, forensic, and analytical laboratories. You could also work in information services such as libraries and scientific publishing organisations.

Molecular Cell Biology graduates also have jobs in sales and marketing – especially of scientific equipment, chemicals, and reagents for biological research and drugs. Jobs in these areas can lead to high-level careers in management and administration in science and health-related fields.

Potential employers include:

  • medical laboratories
  • NZ research institutes (AgResearch,  Plant & Food Research, Malaghan Institute of Medical Research, Scion, Landcare Research, Environmental Science and Research) as well as international research institutes
  • agricultural and horticultural sectors: dairy, meat, wool, wheat, forestry, leather
  • wineries, breweries and food industries
  • pharmaceutical manufacturing and scientific supply companies
  • secondary and tertiary educational institutions (education and research)
  • biotechnology companies
  • scientific publishers (software and book/journal)
  • New Zealand Government (Ministry of Primary Industries, Ministry of Health, Environmental Protection Agency, Tertiary Education Commission), regional and local councils.

If you continue your studies to a higher degree (BSc(Hons), MSc, and PhD) there are careers in scientific research, tertiary teaching and higher level management.

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.

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.

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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