Microbiology - Course Advice - Biological Sciences - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

Studying Microbiology at Canterbury

LaboratoryMicrobiology is the study of organisms such as algae, fungi, bacteria and viruses that cannot be seen with the naked eye.

These micro-organisms are abundant and diverse, and they affect humans in both negative and positive ways. Some micro-organisms cause diseases in humans, other animals, or agricultural crops. Others can be used to benefit humans, such as microbes that can be used to kill insect pests (biocontrol) and those that destroy harmful chemicals such as pesticides (bioremediation). Other microbes are simply essential to the maintenance of all life, such as those that generate nitrogen, oxygen and other critical elements.

Career paths

Microbiologists are employed by various industries to test product safety, by wastewater treatment plants to ensure water quality, by hospitals to identify disease-causing microbes, and by research institutes to explore basic aspects of microbial biology, diversity and ecology.

The food industry employs many microbiologists for food testing and production of products such as wine, beer, dairy products and mushrooms.

Careers can also be in horticulture, plant disease research, terrestrial and freshwater ecology, water pollution investigations and biology teaching.


  • BSc (Hons) - Students complete a fourth year of study comprising four 400-level papers and a research project.
  • PGDipSc - Students complete a fourth year of study comprising four 400-level papers.
  • MSc - Students complete a fourth year of study comprising four 400-level papers (part I), followed by a one year research project (part II), written up as a thesis.
  • PhD - Students complete a 3 year research project written up as a thesis. Entry is after successful completion of either BSc(Hons) or an MSc.

Planning Your Degree

Below is a guide to help you select courses that will give you a well rounded degree in microbiology.

Year 1


  • BIOL 111 Cellular Biology & Biochemistry
  • BIOL 112 Ecology, Evolution & Conservation
  • BIOL 113 Diversity of Life
  • BCHM 112 Structure and Reactivity in Chemistry and Biochemistry [1] (aka CHEM 112)
  • STAT 101 Statistics 1


  • CHEM 111 Chemical Principles and Processes [1]
  • MATH 101 Methods of Mathematics [2]

Year 2



  • BCHM 222 Biochemistry B - Metabolism; the reactions of molecules in cells
  • BIOL 254 Principles of Plant Physiology

Year 3



  • BIOL 309 Experimental Design and Data Analysis for Biologists [3]
  • BIOL 331 Biochemistry 3 (aka BCHM 301)
  • BIOL 332 Genetics and Evolution of Invasive Species
  • BIOL 334 Evolutionary Genetics
  • BIOL 352 Plant Development and Biotechnology

[1] If you have fewer than 14 credits of NCEA level 3 chemistry take CHEM 114 before starting BCHM/CHEM 112.
[2] MATH101 is strongly recommended unless you have good NCEA level 3 maths credits.
[3] BIOL309 is essential for postgraduate biology.