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 Study Anatomy at Otago

The inside story.

Anatomy – you can’t leave home without it. It’s with you everywhere you go. It holds you together, it controls what you think and do, it enables you to run, jump, and play.

So as you might expect, there is more to studying Anatomy than immediately meets the eye.

There’s cell biology, neurobiology, clinical and functional anatomy, body systems, reproductive biology, developmental biology, and biological anthropology.

The University of Otago is the only New Zealand university to offer a bachelor’s degree majoring in Anatomy. You have the opportunity to explore the traditional approaches to studying Anatomy, as well as using the latest techniques and hi-tech equipment to explore the human body at all levels of its structure: from single cells to multi-organ systems.

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Why study Anatomy?

Anatomy is a diverse, vibrant, and visual subject. It explores the relationship between the structure of the body and the functions it performs, and can be studied from microscopic to macroscopic levels.

Some of the things you will learn include:

  • How the body develops from just a single cell to an individual with millions of cells organised into many different tissues and organ systems.
  • How the desire to move is transmitted from the brain to the muscles.
  • How you can tell the age a person was when they died just by looking at their bones.
  • What changes occur when we develop from child to adult.
  • How our brains control what we think how we feel, and what we do.
  • How the reproductive system functions.
  • Using skeletal remains to track movement, culture, and health of ancient people.

Studying papers in Anatomy will expose you to world-leading research in the anatomical sciences. You will learn techniques such as immunohistochemistry, cell culture, and gene sequencing, and have access to state-of-the-art equipment such as electron and confocal microscopes, and next-generation sequencing technology.

Career opportunities

A University of Otago graduate in Anatomy has the world at their feet. Opportunities available to them are varied and numerous, ranging from health professions such as Medicine, Dentistry, and Physiotherapy, to research and teaching at university or secondary and primary school, to technical work in medical or agricultural laboratories, to sales, marketing, and research positions with pharmaceutical, medical, or agribusiness companies, or national bodies such as the Cancer Society of New Zealand.

Graduates also work as funeral directors, winemakers, policymakers,  and beyond – there is definitely something for everyone with a degree in Anatomy!

Anatomy students gain a high level of knowledge and competencies across a broad range of topics, with a range of skills that can be applied to any chosen career. These skills range from learning to speak and work in group environments, honing and extending thinking and communication skills, through to having an awareness and understanding of ethics and developing the ability to undertake self-directed learning. Ant then of course, there are the technical and applied skills that are used every day in practical labs.

Some graduates use their degree as a stepping stone to further study in a health professional course, while others have gone on to postgraduate study in forensic science, clinical embryology, and of course the various research fields – biological anthropology, clinical anatomy, neuroscience, and reproductive and developmental biology – offered in the Department of Anatomy here at the University of Otago.

Anatomy at Otago

Anatomy is offered as major for the Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree, which includes all ANAT papers as well as biological anthropology (BIOA).

We also offer the Reproduction, Genetics and Development major for the Bachelor of Biomedical Science (BBiomedSc) degree.

Anatomy papers also form key components of degrees in Neuroscience, Forensic Analytical Science, Genetics, Human Nutrition, Food Science, and Medical Laboratory Science.

BIOA papers can also form part of an Arts (BA) degree.

What does a BSc in Anatomy involve?

In your first year, you will be introduced to the structure, function, and development of the various systems in the human body. You will also learn about the biology of cells and human genetic variation, the diversity of microorganisms, and microbial virulence and diseases. You'll also take other general first-year papers, including Chemistry or Physics.

At the end of your first year, you will have a good basic knowledge of the whole body, be able to recognise the difference cells and their organelles, and have a basic understanding of how the human body systems work.

The skills and knowledge learnt at first year will then be developed more in-depth in second- and third-year papers which cover human cells and systems, neurobiology, reproductive and developmental biology, functional anatomy, cell biology, and biological anthropology.

Teaching style

Papers are taught in a lecture and laboratory format. Laboratory classes are exciting and hands-on, and involve learning state-of-the-art techniques for the scientific analysis of human and animal tissue, including tissue / cell culture; electron, light, and confocal microscopy; immunohistochemistry; histology; stereology; molecular biological technique; and skeletal forensic investigations.

Laboratory rooms are well equipped and modern, and you will have access to hi-tech equipment. You will also be able to study in our historic and world-learning W D Trotter Anatomy Museum.

Postgraduate study

If you wish you take your knowledge beyond third year, a range of postgraduate opportunities are available. We have a large family of postgraduate students who are vital contributors to the ongoing research in the Department of Anatomy, and have developed a vibrant social network.

You could find yourself doing an honours or master's degree, or a one-year Postgraduate Diploma in Science. Or why not aim high and shoot for PhD?

Background required

You don't need any particular subjects to get into the first-year papers that lead into Anatomy. However, because these papers are biologically oriented, it is helpful to have completed Year 13 Biology and Chemistry.


Anatomy as a minor subject for a BA, MusB, BPA, BTheol, BSc, BCom, BEntr, BHealSc, BACom, BASc or BComSc degree

Available as a minor subject for a Bachelor of Arts (BA), Bachelor of Music (MusB), Bachelor of Performing Arts (BPA), Bachelor of Theology (BTheol), Bachelor of Science (BSc), Bachelor of Commerce (BCom), Bachelor of Entrepreneurship (BEntr), Bachelor of Health Science (BHealSc), Bachelor of Arts and Commerce (BACom), Bachelor of Arts and Science (BASc) or Bachelor of Commerce and Science (BComSc) degree

100-levelSee below 

ANAT 241 Human Biology: Cells to Systems

ANAT 242 Neurobiology

ANAT 243 Reproductive and Developmental Biology





Two of:
ANAT 331 Functional Anatomy
ANAT 332 Cell Biology
ANAT 333 Reproductive Biology
ANAT 334 Developmental Biology
ANAT 335 Neurobiology
BIOA 301 Biological Anthropology of the Human Skeleton

Note: Prerequisites for ANAT 241-243 include CELS 191, CHEM 191, HUBS 191, 192 and PTWY 131*.
BIOA 201 is a prerequisite for BIOA 301. From 2016 BIOA 101 will be a prerequisite for BIOA 201.

* PTWY 131 is only available to students enrolled in the Diploma in Science.

Total 90

ANAT papers

Paper Code Year Title Points Teaching period
ANAT101 2024 Anatomy for Sport and Exercise 18 Semester 1
ANAT131 2024 Origins of Anatomical Language 18 Not offered in 2024
ANAT241 2024 Human Biology: Cells to Systems 18 Semester 1
ANAT242 2024 Neurobiology 18 Semester 2
ANAT243 2024 Reproductive and Developmental Biology 18 Semester 2
ANAT331 2024 Functional Anatomy 18 Semester 1
ANAT332 2024 Cell Biology 18 Semester 2
ANAT333 2024 Reproductive Biology 18 Semester 1
ANAT334 2024 Developmental Biology 18 Semester 2
ANAT335 2024 Neurobiology 18 Semester 2
ANAT336 2024 Selected Topics in Neurobiology 1 18 Semester 1
ANAT337 2024 Selected Topics in Neurobiology 2 18 Not offered in 2024
ANAT451 2024 Functional Human Anatomy 20 Semester 2
ANAT452 2024 Reproductive Biology 20 1st Non standard period
ANAT453 2024 Advanced Topics in Anatomical Science 1 20 Semester 1, Semester 2
ANAT454 2024 Neurobiology 20 Semester 1
ANAT456 2024 Developmental Biology 20 Semester 1
ANAT457 2024 Advanced Topics in Anatomical Science 2 20 Semester 1, Semester 2
ANAT458 2024 Current Topics in Anatomical Science 20 Full Year
ANAT480 2024 Research Project 40 Full Year, 1st Non standard period
ANAT490 2024 Dissertation 60 Full Year, 1st Non standard period
ANAT495 2024 Master's Thesis Preparation 40 Full Year, 1st Non standard period

More information

Contact us

Department of Anatomy
School of Biomedical Sciences

Studying at Otago

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Regulations on this page are taken from the 2024 Calendar and supplementary material.

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