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Study Genetics at Otago

The world of genetics is enormous. It touches our everyday lives in ways we can’t even begin to imagine.

Genetics is a rapidly-progressing science, a central theme of modern biology, and a critical component of most biological research.

With a high demand for genetics graduates within New Zealand and overseas, a degree in this ground-breaking and practical discipline will provide you with many career options.

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Why study Genetics?

Genetics is the study of genes and inheritance. It's fun, interesting, challenging and relevant to everyday life! It's a very diverse subject, in which you'll learn about the molecular basis of life right through to the study of whole organisms, populations and evolution.

You will learn to make informed decisions about topics such as genetic engineering, cloning and your own health. In your lectures, you'll also learn about the cutting- edge research being undertaken at Otago and you'll have many opportunities to undertake hands-on research.

Career opportunities

Graduates with a genetics degree from Otago can be found all over New Zealand and around the world, doing all sorts of interesting things. A degree in Genetics gives you a wide range of marketable skills suitable for employment in biologically- based industries, research organisations and government departments.

You could be a research associate, policy analyst, biotechnologist, conservation worker or biosecurity analyst, to name but a few!

With further study you could be a patent lawyer, science journalist, or a researcher in human, animal, plant, or microbial genetics.

A Genetics degree from Otago also provides an excellent foundation for the further training required to be a genetic counsellor or forensic scientist.

Genetics at Otago

Genetics is a rapidly-progressing science, a central theme of modern biology, and an indispensable component of most biological research.

The Genetics programme at Otago draws together the departments of Anatomy, Biochemistry, Botany, Microbiology and Immunology, Pathology, Pharmacology and Toxicology, Women's and Children's Health, and Zoology.

This allows staff and students to interact and share ideas across a broader sphere than is possible in any one department.

Can I combine my Genetics degree with other subjects?

Yes! Genetics and almost anything is a marketable and desirable combination.

Popular subjects include various business subjects, Law, Bioethics, Mathematics, Statistics, Information Science, and Computer Science.

You can combine Genetics with other biological sciences such as Anatomy, Biochemistry, Botany, Microbiology, and Zoology; and other science subjects such as Anthropology, Geology, and Psychology.

It is also possible to take Genetics papers as part of a BBiomedSc degree. In particular, Genetics is an integral component of the Reproduction, Genetics and Development major.

How will I study?

Genetics is an experimental science with a strong theoretical background, so you will have a combination of lectures and lab-based practicals.

The lab classes in second and third year are extremely varied. You'll examine everything from viruses and bacteria through to fruit flies, worms and humans. For example, in second year you create genetically-modified bacteria and test for genetically-modified organisms in supermarket products.

During third year, you'll have the opportunity to look at your own chromosomes, and to analyse a portion of your own DNA to determine which 'Daughter of Eve' you are descended from.

You also get to design and carry out your own group projects.

Computer simulation labs enable you to study evolutionary genetics.

Postgraduate study options

A Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Genetics can lead to a Postgraduate Diploma in Science (PGDipSci), a Bachelor of Science with Honours (BSc(Hons)), Master of Science (MSc), or PhD degree. You can apply to enter these postgraduate programmes during the third year of your BSc.

If you have a degree with a major other than Genetics, but wish to study postgraduate Genetics, you can study for a Diploma for Graduates endorsed in Genetics.

Background required

You need to have an interest in the world around you!

Year 13 Biology, Chemistry, and Mathematics are strongly recommended (but not essential).


Genetics 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-levelCELS 191 Cell and Molecular Biology18

At least two of:
GENE 221 Molecular and Microbial Genetics
GENE 222 Genes, Chromosomes and Populations
GENE 223 Developmental and Applied Genetics


300-levelTwo of:
GENE 312 Evolutionary Genetics
GENE 313 Medical Genetics
GENE 314 Developmental Genetics
GENE 315 Genomes
 Prerequisites for GENE 221 include CHEM 191 
Total 90

GENE papers

Paper Code Year Title Points Teaching period
GENE221 2024 Molecular and Microbial Genetics 18 Semester 1
GENE222 2024 Genes, Chromosomes and Populations 18 Semester 2
GENE223 2024 Developmental and Applied Genetics 18 Semester 2
GENE312 2024 Evolutionary Genetics 18 Semester 2
GENE313 2024 Medical Genetics 18 Semester 2
GENE314 2024 Developmental Genetics 18 Semester 2
GENE315 2024 Genomes 18 Semester 1
GENE360 2024 Extension Topics and Research Skills 18 Full Year
GENE411 2024 Current Topics in Genetics 20 Semester 1
GENE412 2024 Current Topics in Genetics 20 Semester 2
GENE480 2024 Research Project 40 Full Year, 1st Non standard period
GENE490 2024 Dissertation 60 Full Year, 1st Non standard period
GENE495 2024 Master's Thesis Preparation 40 Full Year, 1st Non standard period
QGEN401 2024 Quantitative Genetics and Improvement 20 Semester 2

More information

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Studying at Otago

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

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