Plant Science – Bachelor of Science

Join the Bachelor of Science (Plant Science) at Massey - the only university in New Zealand where you can study the full spectrum of plant science from molecular biology and evolution, through to agriculture and horticulture.

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 Plant Science for your Bachelor of Science at Massey

Nearly all life on Earth is ultimately dependent on the primary productivity of plants. The study of plants is a fascinating investigation of the history of life, the natural world and the future of life on Earth.

The Bachelor of Science (Plant Science) will help you understand the crucial biological processes that underpin the very basis of life on Earth. Studying plant science will give you a solid understanding of the fundamental elements of the structure and function of plants, how plants grow and interact with their environment, and how to apply this knowledge in both natural and managed ecosystems.

Our proud record dates back to 1927 when we offered New Zealand’s first degrees in agriculture and horticulture. As a student, you will benefit from our internationally-recognised capability and leadership in this area. Massey has over 50 years’ experience in plant-based sciences and has the largest number of plant scientists of any New Zealand university. We have decades of experience and consistently revise our courses overtime to remain strategic for today’s employment opportunities.

Further study

Following the completion of the BSc degree in Plant Science, many students continue into postgraduate study. Postgraduate study options open up more diverse employment opportunities and are usually a route to faster career progression and higher career earnings. Importantly, postgraduate studies in plant science offer the opportunity to carry out independent, cutting-edge research.

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

  • want a wide variety of career opportunities, ranging from pure research to applied plant science
  • are interested in making a significant impact on global issues, including climate change and sustainability.

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.

Plant Science 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. Note that 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:

  • one of 123103 Chemistry for Modern Sciences or 123104 Chemistry for Biological Systems
  • 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:

  • 120217 Plant, Cell and Environment
  • 203210 Genetics and Evolution
  • 196205 Ecology and Conservation
  • 120219 Plants and People.
300-level courses in the major

Take all four:

  • 120303 Plant Diversity
  • 196319 Terrestrial Ecology
  • 120306 Plant Improvement
  • 284342 Horticultural Productivity and Quality.


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 (Plant Science) 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 plant science include those shown below. Timetabling will prioritise these combinations to minimise clashes.

A Plant Science minor (for students who are studying a different degree)

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

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

Plant Science courses

Compulsory courses

Course code: 120217 Plant, Cell and Environment 15 credits

This course examines developmental and physiological responses that enable plants to cope with a changing environment and that occur daily, seasonally and over longer timescales; e.g. global climate change. Major topics include plant responses to light, carbon dioxide levels, mineral nutrition and abiotic and biotic stresses such as drought and pests. Emphasis is on mechanisms by which changes in the environment are perceived, signalling processes that are induced, and cellular and developmental changes that help the plant cope with the changed environment.

Prerequisites: 120101

View full course details
Course code: 120219 Plants and People 15 credits

Plants as sources of food and beverage, medicine, fibres and dyes, with emphasis on their origin, domestication and the role of plant breeding to improve plants for human use. The physiological effects of active plant compounds on the body. The cultural and geographic origins of commercially important plants.

View full course details
Course code: 120303 Plant Diversity 15 credits

The evolution of plant lineages has many potential outcomes, ranging from extinction to diversification and speciation. This course explores the processes that influence how lineages evolve and how we investigate and interpret patterns of diversity to better understand plant evolution and speciation. Lectures consist of critical discussion of topics including species concepts, local adaptation and diversification, morphological and molecular evolution, mating systems, and the roles of hybridization and polyploidy in plant evolution and speciation.

Prerequisites: One of (120201, 120218, 120219, 196205, 196207 or 203210)

View full course details
Course code: 120306 Plant Improvement 15 credits

Traditional and modern methods by which plants can be modified to provide new genetic material for use in agriculture, horticulture, forestry and industry. This course links basic and applied science and focuses on how natural and induced genetic variation can be harnessed for human use. Emphasis is on the dramatic progress being made in plant breeding, QTL analysis, marker-assisted selection, tissue culture and recombinant DNA technology. The course includes discussion of environmental, ethical and regulatory issues.

Prerequisites: 203210 or 284201 Restrictions: 120304

View full course details
Course code: 196205 Ecology and Conservation 15 credits

Terrestrial ecology and the application to conservation biology, including evolutionary ecology, population biology, species interactions, community, ecosystem and landscape ecology. New Zealand and overseas case studies are considered throughout the course. An analytical approach is taken in the field trips and laboratory work including the use of statistics to test ecological hypotheses and to identify patterns in plant and animal distributions. There is one compulsory weekend field trip.

Prerequisites: 1611xx and one of (196101 or 199101 or 199103 or 120101 or 121103) Restrictions: 196206

View full course details
Course code: 196319 Terrestrial Ecology 15 credits

The course explores the diversity of plant interactions with other organisms, their ecological relevance to communities and ecosystems, and the impacts of human activities and the role of restoration ecology.

Prerequisites: One of (196205, 196207, 196217, 203210)

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: 284342 Horticultural Productivity and Quality 15 credits

The role of crop architecture and the modification of the aerial environment for optimising yield and pre-harvest product quality, as well as the factors affecting quality and shelf life of horticultural commodities through the handling chain.

Prerequisites: 120217 or 284201

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 subject (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 this subject we have a pathway for you to progress to your major (see below).

  • At least 14 credits in NCEA Level 3 Biology

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:

This course is 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.

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

There is a steady demand for plant scientists in New Zealand and abroad. As a plant science graduate, you will have a wide range of career opportunities, including both pure research and applied work. Students often find employment at research institutes - four Crown Research Institutes employ plant scientists (Plant and Food Research, AgResearch, Forest Research (Scion), and Manaaki-Whenua Landcare Research) as do the Department of Conservation and regional authorities.

Related areas of employment include:

  • agriculture
  • horticulture
  • grassland science
  • forestry
  • plant breeding
  • plant protection
  • crop research
  • plant conservation
  • re-vegetation
  • science management and policy.

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 - Agriculture and Forestry

Massey is world-ranked and New Zealand’s No 1 university in agriculture according to QS (Quacquarelli Symonds) rankings.

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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.

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ShanghaiRanking - agricultural science

Massey University is ranked No.1 in New Zealand for agricultural science by ShanghaiRanking's Global Ranking of Academic Subjects.

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