Plant Biology - Course Advice - Biological Sciences - University of Canterbury - New Zealand

Studying Plant Biology at Canterbury

PlantPlants are central to the maintenance of life on earth and for the basis of agricultural production.

Plant biology is a very broad discipline that covers the study of the structure, function and evolution and diversity of plants. Plant biologists study processes at the cellular and whole organisms level, and address questions on how plants respond to the environment and other organisms. Others study the evolutionary history of the huge diversity of plant species.

The study of plant biology can be undertaken in the lab or in the field, and is central to agricultural production and ecosystem function.

Career paths

Plant Biology graduates may find employment in diverse fields, including teaching and research for Universities, Crown Research Institutes and biological industries.

Employment opportunities for graduates with good plant biology training are in demand overseas as understanding plant biology is key to solving problems faced by agriculture, the environment and medicine through sustainable technologies.


  • 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 plant biology.

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]
  • SCIM 101 Science, Maori and Indigenous Knowledge

Year 2



  • BCHM 222 Biochemistry B - Metabolism; the reactions of molecules in cells
  • BCHM 281 Practical Biochemistry
  • BIOL 271 Evolution

Year 3



  • BIOL 305 Practical Field Botany
  • BIOL 309 Experimental Design and Data Analysis for Biologists [3]
  • BIOL 313 Advanced Molecular and Industrial Microbiology
  • BIOL 331 Biochemistry 3 (aka BCHM 301)
  • BIOL 334 Evolutionary Genetics
  • BCHM 381 Biochemical Techniques

[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.