Physiology – Bachelor of Science

Want to know what makes you tick? Physiology is a rapidly advancing and exciting subject area you can be a part of with Massey’s Bachelor of Science (Physiology).

Where you can study

Auckland campus

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 Physiology for your Bachelor of Science at Massey

Ever wondered how your diet influences the skeleton, or how the stomach and intestines process food, or even how climate change impacts the survival ability of penguins? Your teachers are at the forefront of research like this. They’ll use it in their teaching, so what you learn is relevant and engaging.

Physiology explains how cells, tissues and organs work together to maintain normal body function. It is the basis of modern medicine, connecting science and health, so we can recognise and understand problems, helping us develop new treatments for disease.

You will gain a broad understanding of the functions and integration of the major organ systems of the body, progressing to more in-depth insights as your study progresses.

Follow your interests

You can choose from a wide variety of courses to complement your physiology study at Massey. That could include anything from agribusiness, psychology or human nutrition to environmental science, zoology or sport and exercise.

Topics you’ll learn about include:

  • adaptive human physiology
  • animal welfare science
  • cell physiology
  • environmental physiology
  • metabolic physiology
  • human lifecycle physiology
  • physiological control systems
  • physiological strategies for survival
  • physiology of mammalian organ systems

Transferable skills

You’ll also learn skills that will be useful, no matter what field you end up working in, like critical thinking, planning, analysis and communication skills.

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

  • like biology and chemistry
  • are curious about how the body works
  • want to work in human or animal health sciences.

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.

Physiology 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:

  • 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
  • 214101 Human Bioscience: Normal Body Function
  • 162101 Cell Biology or 214102 Applied Sciences for Health Professionals.

Take these in the order shown:

  • 123104 Chemistry for Biological Systems
  • 122102 Biochemistry.

Plus choose one 100 level elective course. This can be from a subject area other than Science.

200-level courses in the major
  • 122202 The Dynamic Cell
  • 194241 Physiological Control Systems
  • 194242 Physiology of Mammalian Organ Systems
  • 214201 Human Bioscience: Impaired Body Function.
300-level courses in the major
  • 194342 Cell Physiology
  • 194346 Metabolic Physiology
  • 194348 Adaptive Human Physiology
  • 194350 Human Lifecycle Physiology.


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 (Physiology) 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 programme will apply.

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

  • Exercise and Sport (Courses: 234121)
  • Human Nutrition (Auckland only) (include 214131 in your first year)
  • Molecular Cell Biology
  • Psychology (Course: 175102)
  • Zoology (include 199103 and 196101 in your first year)
A Physiology minor (for students who are studying a different degree)

If you are not studying a Bachelor of Science (Physiology) and wish to complete a Physiology 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

If you started the BSc programme before 2020 you may be completing the programme under the previous regulations, which are listed in Schedule C in the Regulations for this programme.

In some cases the programme 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 programmes 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.

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: 194241 Physiological Control Systems 15 credits

The principles of control systems involving nerves and hormones are examined. Control at the cellular, tissue, organ system and whole-body levels is explained with reference to the basis of cell excitability, basic functions of the nervous system, muscle contraction, actions of hormones, the immune system and the renal system.

Prerequisites: 194101 or 214101 or 117155 or 199103

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Course code: 194242 Physiology of Mammalian Organ Systems 15 credits

An examination of the roles of organ systems in maintaining life and health in mammals, including humans, with emphasis on the alignment between structure and function. Topics include the functions of the heart and blood vessels, breathing, reproduction, and the digestive system.

Prerequisites: 194101 or 214101 or 117155 or 117153 or 199103

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Compulsory course selection

Choose 15 credits from
Course code: 194243 Physiological Strategies for Survival 15 credits

Survival of individual animals, and species of animals, depends on effective physiological mechanisms that allow animals to live in different environments and to respond to changes in their environment, whether benign or extreme. These mechanisms are examined in relation to environmental factors that may include photoperiod, temperature, altitude, and latitude, and in relation to life in the air and underwater.

Prerequisites: One of 117155, 194101, 199101 or 199103 Restrictions: 194245

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Course code: 214201 Human Bioscience: Impaired Body Function 15 credits

An examination of the aetiology of disease and alteration of health status and the relevant scientific clinical tests, including the role of micro-organisms in disease processes.

Prerequisites: (214101 and 214102) OR (162101; and 194101 or 117155 or 214101)

View full course details

300-level courses

Compulsory courses

Choose 30 credits from
Course code: 194342 Cell Physiology 15 credits

An examination of the physiology of selected organ systems at the cellular and molecular level, with emphasis on the physiological processes involved in differentiation, development and disease. Contemporary cell physiology laboratory techniques will be used with the aim of preparing students for research in physiology labs.

Prerequisites: Two of 194241, 194242, 122202 or 122233

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Course code: 194346 Metabolic Physiology 15 credits

An examination of how the body attempts to maintain adequate nutrient and metabolic substrate levels in response to fluctuating energy demands in health and disease. Topics covered will include fluid and electrolyte balance, blood flow through vital tissues, signalling within the gut, nutrient absorption and utilisation and reflexes regulating metabolic activities

Prerequisites: Two of 194241, 194242, 122202 or 122233

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Compulsory course selection

Choose 30 credits from
Course code: 117332 Animal Welfare Science 15 credits

Understanding animal welfare is important to optimise animals’ health and productivity, to improve their quality of life and to safeguard the reputation of New Zealand’s animal production industries. This course explores how measurements of animal behaviour and physiology can be used to understand mental experiences such as pain, breathlessness, thirst, nausea and fear and thus the welfare states of domestic animals. These concepts will be applied to enable students to construct robust strategies for practical assessment of animal welfare in various production systems.

Prerequisites: Two of 194241, 194242, 194243 or 199203 Restrictions: 194343

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Course code: 194348 Adaptive Human Physiology 15 credits

An integrative study of the human physiological responses and adaptations to internal and external environmental stressors that challenge the normal homeostatic state and how these influence human health and performance.

Prerequisites: One of 122202, 122233, 194241, 194242 or 234223 Restrictions: 194347, 234304, 234328

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Course code: 194350 Human Lifecycle Physiology 15 credits

Advanced study of human physiology from conception to death, covering pregnancy, the foetus, birth, lactation, growth, puberty and ageing. The impact of earlier events on normal and abnormal body function later in the lifecycle will be considered.

Prerequisites: 194241 or 194242

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Course code: 199313 Environmental Physiology 15 credits

The physiological mechanisms that enable invertebrate and vertebrate animals to live in changing environments.

Prerequisites: 194241 or 194242 or 199212 Restrictions: 194345

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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 programme, 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 programme 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?

If you need to do a course before you start your programme, 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.

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

Physiology is key if you want to work in human or animal health sciences.

Wide variety of options

Can you picture yourself conducting vital research in universities, Crown Research Institutes or pharmaceutical or biotech companies? If you really want to go far, you could even be a research physiologist in outer space, discovering how the body adapts to zero gravity.

What about working in one of the world’s growth industries - healthcare? You can specialise in nutrition, toxicology, pharmacy, radiography, physiotherapy, nursing, or public and environmental health. How about teaching in schools or hospitals? Or you may fancy a career in the medical, veterinary or food industries, a job in medical writing, or in the active world of sport science, exercise and recreation.

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.

What our students say

“My studies have taught me that you don’t need to be a veterinarian to help animals; Physiology is a broad degree with many possible routes which all have a focus on improving the health of humans and animals.”
Sophia Holdsworth

Bachelor of Science (Physiology)

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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