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Go beyond - get a Genetics Degree from the University of Otago

Want to know what a genetics undergraduate degree offers and what you need to do to enrol? Read on, or download our Genetics Pathways leaflet.

What makes a Genetics Degree at Otago?

At Otago you can major or minor in Genetics as part of a Bachelor of Science (BSc) degree. Other degrees with a strong genetics component are the the Bachelor of Biomedical Sciences (BBiomedSc) and Bachelor of Applied Science (BAppSc) degrees.

Otago's Genetics Teaching Programme unites the expertise of several departments, to give all students comprehensive coverage of modern genetics. This unique multi-disciplinary set up allows staff and students to share ideas across an amazing spectrum of research. It enables us to draw on cutting-edge research University-wide, and prepares students for a fast moving world.

Find out more about our contributing departments listed below

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What subjects should I take at school if I want to do a Genetics degree?

To begin with, all you need is curiosity - about life, the world around you, and what makes it all work. A passion for discovery or making life better also helps! As for the ‘formal’ things, we strongly recommend Year 13 chemistry, biology, and mathematics. If you have not done NCEA level 3 Chemistry, you can enrol for Chem150 in summer school before starting your course. 

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First year BSc Genetics

You can enrol in a Bachelor of Sciences (BSc.) Genetics straight away, or transition from Health Sciences First Year (HSFY) at the end of semester 1 or 2 in your first year. Genetics papers (with the GENE code) start in 2nd year. You must pass CELS191 Cell and Molecular Biology and CHEM191 The Chemical Basis of Biology and Human Health.

You must also take two other 100-level papers; we highly recommend BIOC 192 Foundations of Biochemistry and a statistics paper, STAT110 or STAT115. We recommend you keep options open for at least two majors in first year, as you never know what is going to grab your interest.  An average course load at Otago is 7 papers per year, spread across two semesters.  

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Second and third year Genetics

Genetics papers (with the GENE code) start in 2nd year. We advise students to keep their options open at 2nd year, many students will take GENE221 alongside MICR221 and BIOC221 in semester 1, leaving open the option to specialise, or major, in Genetics, Biochemistry or Microbiology.

Students majoring in Genetics will take GENE222 and GENE223 in semester 2 of the second year.
Check out the full programme and papers.

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Taking a minor or double major with Genetics 

It's important to remember that you do not have to do a minor or a double degree. However, Genetics combines with almost anything to take you into some amazing fields and careers. Popular companion subjects include Law, Commerce, Bioethics, Mathematics, Statistics, Information science, and Computer science.

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

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B.Biomed Sci. Reproduction, Genetics and Development (REGD) degree

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

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What is studying Genetics like?

Genetics is an experimental, problem-solving science with a strong theoretical background. Your days will include a mix of lectures and lab-based practicals (and if you go on to postgraduate study, this will include great new research!).

Lab classes in second and third year vary in exciting ways. You’ll examine everything from viruses and bacteria through to fruit flies, worms, and humans. In second year you can create genetically-modified bacteria and test for genetically-modified organisms in supermarket products.

In third year you can look at your own chromosomes, and 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.

Genetics is fast moving and great geneticists keep learning new skills - prepare to learn how to learn!

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How do I get advice, plan and enrol for a Genetics degree?

Made up your mind to enter the world of Genetics? Check out the University of Otago enrolment procedures.

Want to think some more? Read about why studying Genetics at Otago is your best next move.

Want to talk to one of our friendly genetics teaching programme staff? You can discuss your current or future studies in Genetics with our staff at the Genetics Office, G09 ground floor Biochemistry Building, or email the Director to arrange an appointment.

The Director is normally available in semester time on Mondays and Thursdays from 12-1pm in the Genetics Office. At other times we recommend that you email or phone to arrange an appointment.

(Make an International student enquiry)

Assoc. Prof Caroline Beck
Director, Genetics Teaching Programme
Email caroline.beck@otago.ac.nz
Tel + 64 3 479 4109

Assoc. Prof Stephanie Hughes
Deputy Director, Genetics Teaching Programme
Email stephanie.hughes@otago.ac.nz

Dr Gillian MacKay
Genetics Teaching Fellow
Email gillian.mackay@otago.ac.nz
Tel + 64 3 479 7937

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Where can I find out more about studying at the University of Otago?

Find out more about studying at the University of Otago on the University's website: