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Study Medical Laboratory Science at Otago

The backbone of medical decision making

Does this tissue sample contain cancer? What can this woman’s blood tell us about her health? Is this unborn child developing normally? Is this drug effectively stopping the infection? Did this man die of COVID–19?

Medical laboratory scientists are part of a highly-skilled team that works to solve the mysteries, put the pieces of the puzzle together and answer the critical questions of medicine. They play a crucial role in health care by providing laboratory tests and interpreting results to enable accurate diagnosis and treatment of patients. It’s a life-saving profession.

What is a medical laboratory scientist?

Medical laboratory scientists are skilled health professionals who provide the laboratory-based tests and assays necessary for the diagnosis and treatment of patients. 70% of diagnoses made by clinical staff (such as doctors) depend on laboratory tests. In fact, the practice of modern medicine would not be possible without medical laboratory scientists.

In addition to working in hospital and community diagnostic laboratories, medical laboratory scientists play important roles in other areas such as medical research, forensic science, and biotechnology.

Medical laboratory science covers a wide range of subjects. As a medical laboratory scientist, you can choose to become a specialist in one particular area after you graduate:

  • Chemical pathology – Changes in blood chemistry relating to illnesses like diabretes, cancer, drug dependency, and heart disease.
  • Haematology – Detection of diseases related to blood such as leukaemia and bleeding disorders.
  • Histology and cytology – Microscopic analysis of tissues and cells to identify abnormalities observed in cancer biopsies and cervical smears.
  • Immunology – Tests for changes in the immune response indicating infection, gluten and other allergies, and autoimmune diseases.
  • Microbiology and virology – Detection of harmful bacteria, fungi, viruses, and parasites causing diseases such as meningitis, pneumonia, and skin infections.
  • Transfusion science – The use of blood products and blood group identification is essential for organ transplantation, blood transfusion, and clotting factor deficiencies.
  • Molecular diagnostics – Nucleic acid testing has a wide range of applications. The ability to detect gene abnormalities has significantly advanced diagnosis and treatment of many diseases.

Why study Medical Laboratory Science?

The Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science (BMLSc) is the only degree that enables you to enter the pathway to register as a medical laboratory scientist.

In the diagnostic medical laboratory, theoretical knowledge is combined with cutting edge technologies and sophisticated instrumentation to provide rapid, accurate and reliable results that are used by clinicians for the correct diagnosis and treatment of patients. The test results that medical laboratory scientists provide have an immediate impact on the care of patients, especially those who are critically ill.

The knowledge you acquire in the BMLSc degree will be directly applicable to your work as a medical laboratory scientist.

Demand for faster testing and constant monitoring of patients has taken some tests out of the laboratory to patients’ bedsides. This is called “point-of-care” testing. Another new role is that of the clinical scientist, a position of responsibility achieved through time in the medical laboratory workforce and further training.

Background required

There are no subject requirements for entry into the Health Sciences First Year (HSFY) programme, but we recommend you take Biology, Chemistry, and Physics in Year 13.

If considering tertiary study before enrolling in HSFY, you are strongly advised to contact Health Sciences Admissions beforehand.

Admission to the BMLSc programme

The BMLSc is a four-year degree, including Health Sciences First Year (HSFY).

All applicants seeking admission under the HSFY category must have passed all seven HSFY papers with at least a B- grade (65%) overall average. UCAT (the University Clinical Aptitude Test) is not required.

The Admissions Committee will firstly select from those applicants who are applying under Single Programme Preference. Thereafter if places are still available, the Committee will select from the applicants that have applied to multiple Health Sciences professional programmes.

There are other routes of admission for students who have completed two or more years of University study, or who are University graduates. International students should apply under the International category for admissions.

Postgraduate study

If scientific research is your passion, a postgraduate degree provides an opportunity to further your education. The BMLSc(Honours) degree is one option. If you gain your BMLSc with credit or distinction, you are eligible to apply for the Postgraduate Diploma in Medical Laboratory Science (PGDipMLSc). This is a one-year programme which can be undertaken in most areas of medical laboratory science.

If you then gain your PGDipMLSc with credit or distinction, you can undertake a further year of research and study to gain a Master of Medical Laboratory Science (MMLSc).

There are opportunities for high-achieving students to progress to a PhD through a further three-year programme of research and study.

Career in Medical Laboratory Science

The University of Otago BMLSc is an internationally-recognised qualification, enabling you to work around the world in:

  • hospital and community diagnostic laboratories
  • health research groups in universities, Crown Institutes, and the private sector
  • companies supplying scientific instrumentation (research and development, sales, technical support)
  • biotechnology companies
  • forensic science
  • diagnostic and clinical education
  • laboratory management
  • veterinary pathology laboratories
  • hospital mortuaries.

Career diversity is something we value. In addition to working in hospital and community diagnostic laboratories, medical laboratory science graduates often pursue other roles in medical science in the public and private sectors.

How to apply

Application information for admission into the Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science (BMLSc) programme is available on the Division of Health Sciences website:

Medical Laboratory Science: Guidelines for Admission


Explore your study options. Refer to enrolment information found on the following qualification pages:

Programme requirements

Postgraduate Diploma in Medical Laboratory Science (PGDipMLSc)


MELS 510 Advanced Medical Laboratory Practice (45 points)

MELS 580 Research Project (45 points)

Approved research methods paper(s) (30 points)

Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science (BMLSc)

Year Papers Points
1st year

Health Sciences First Year Course

Note: Students enrolled in the Health Sciences First Year course will be required to achieve a satisfactory mark in a standard diagnostic English test or another approved measure of achievement.

2nd year

MELS 208  Introduction to Diagnostic Pathology

MELS 223  Infection and Immunity (for BMLSc)

MELS 230  Biochemistry (for BMLSc)

MELS 241  Human Biology: Cells to Systems (for BMLSc)

MELS 251  Physiology (for BMLSc)






3rd year

MELS 301  Diagnostic Chemical Pathology

MELS 302  Haematology and Transfusion Science

MELS 304  Principles of Pathology

MELS 305  Elements of Histotechnology

MELS 306  Medical Microbiology






4th year

Two of:

MELS 401  Advanced Diagnostic Chemical Pathology

MELS 402  Clinical Microbiology

MELS 403  Clnical Virology

MELS 404  Diagnostic Molecular Pathology

MELS 405  Cytopathology

MELS 406  Haematology

MELS 407  Histopathology

MELS 408  Transfusion Science

MELS 409  Clinical Immunology

MELS 410  Medical Laboratory Science for Rural Health


Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science with Honours (BMLSc(Hons)) 



Paper code Year Title Points Teaching period
MELS208 2023 Introduction to Diagnostic Pathology 45 points Full Year
MELS223 2023 Infection and Immunity (for BMLSc) 18 points Semester 2
MELS230 2023 Biochemistry (for BMLSc) 18 points Semester 1
MELS241 2023 Human Biology: Cells to Systems (for BMLSc) 18 points Semester 1
MELS251 2023 Physiology (for BMLSc) 21 points Semester 1
MELS301 2023 Diagnostic Chemical Pathology 30 points Semester 2
MELS302 2023 Haematology and Transfusion Science 30 points Semester 2
MELS304 2023 Principles of Pathology 15 points Semester 1
MELS305 2023 Elements of Histotechnology 15 points Semester 1
MELS306 2023 Medical Microbiology 30 points Semester 1
MELS401 2023 Advanced Diagnostic Chemical Pathology 60 points Semester 1, Semester 2
MELS402 2023 Clinical Microbiology 60 points Semester 1, Semester 2
MELS403 2023 Clinical Virology 60 points Semester 1, Semester 2
MELS404 2023 Diagnostic Molecular Pathology 60 points Semester 1, Semester 2
MELS405 2023 Cytopathology 60 points Semester 1, Semester 2
MELS406 2023 Haematology 60 points Semester 1, Semester 2
MELS407 2023 Histopathology 60 points Semester 1, Semester 2
MELS408 2023 Transfusion Science 60 points Semester 1, Semester 2
MELS409 2023 Clinical Immunology 60 points Semester 1, Semester 2
MELS410 2023 Medical Laboratory Science for Rural Health 60 points Semester 1, Semester 2
MELS420 2023 Medical Laboratory Science Practice for Honours 60 points Semester 2
MELS480 2023 Medical Laboratory Science Research for Honours 45 points Semester 1
MELS510 2023 Advanced Medical Laboratory Science Practice 45 points Full Year
MELS580 2023 Research Project 45 points Full Year

Key information for future students

Contact us

Dr Tania Slatter
Bachelor of Medical Laboratory Science Course Director
Department of Pathology, Otago Medical School