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Open up the world

From molecules to forests, ecology is a broad discipline that teaches you how to make sense of the interactions between organisms and their environment

  • Level

  • Undergraduate, NZQF Level 7
  • Campus

  • Manawatū
  • Duration

  • 3 year(s) full-time. Available part-time.
  • International

  • Available for international students studying in NZ

We now have a great deal of information about the natural world available to us – the problem is how to make sense of that information. Ecology attempts to do this. It is a broad discipline that teaches you how to make sense of the interactions between organisms and their environment.

The Bachelor of Science (Ecology) at Massey offers some of the best courses on ecology in New Zealand - making it the number one choice if you want a broad knowledge in the discipline.

  • Our ecology staff are world-leading and their cutting edge research feature heavily in the teaching.
  • You can expect to learn about the latest research findings in lectures.
  • Our ecology programme is the longest running programme of its kind in New Zealand (over 20 years).
  • Practical labs and fieldtrips are an important part of all ecology courses.

Hands-on experience

Practical labs and fieldtrips are an important part of all the ecology courses. You might learn how to identify fish and invertebrates for monitoring water quality, how to build a computer model to predict the recovery of an endangered species or set a sustainable quota for a fishery, or how to survey biodiversity in a forest or the ocean.

Broad range of topics

The courses taught in the ecology major include:

  • biodiversity of New Zealand
  • ecology and conservation
  • biological evolution
  • ecosystem health
  • freshwater ecology
  • conservation science
  • plant-biotic interactions
  • molecular ecology
  • and your might be interested in courses from related subjectsentomology
  • behavioural and evolutionary ecology
  • ornithology.

Careers and further study


Many of our graduates work with the Department of Conservation or other government  agencies. There are great opportunities for graduates in ecology to work with managed ecosystems (e.g. farming, forestry, fisheries). The interactions between scientists interested in managed and natural ecosystems is a particular focus at Massey University.

Many of our graduates go on to positions with central and local government or their agencies (such as regional and district councils), Crown Research Institutes, environmental or conservation organisations, ecological consultancy, school teaching, or technical and advisory work.

A postgraduate qualification in ecology will allow you to approach many environmental research and management issues from a strong theoretical and practical base. You might work:

  • with an interdisciplinary team in a private environmental consulting firm
  • in a government research laboratory
  • working with a regional council managing water quality
  • with a fish and game council concerned with the impacts of water quality on trout.

Other possible career areas include forestry, fisheries, eco-tourism and education.

Earn more

A 2017 Ministry of Education publication The post-study earnings and destinations of young domestic graduates showed that those who complete a qualification in a science, agriculture, technology, computer science, engineering or mathematics field of study have high relative earnings after they complete their study compared to the national median. Earnings can be substantially more than other graduates.

Further study

Many of our students go onto postgraduate study in programmes such as the Bachelor of Science (Honours), Master of Science or a PhD in ecology or conservation biology.  This really helps get you into a career as a research scientist or higher level management and policy where you can make a real difference.

International students

New Zealand is a great place to study. Massey University’s reputation is supported by our international rankings, accreditations and associations. We are rated five star plus by the QS World University Rankings.

Massey University has small class sizes, and our lecturers and staff are friendly and approachable.

As an international student, there are entry requirements that will apply to you. We recommend that you apply at least three months before your anticipated start date so your application can be processed in time. There are additional steps you will need to take. These include obtaining a visa and travel bookings if your study is to be in New Zealand.

Entry requirements

University admission

All students must meet university entrance requirements to be admitted to the University.

Programme admission


There are no specific entry requirements for this programme, outside of university admission regulations. However there is some expected background knowledge.

Expected high school preparation

Knowledge gained in the following NCEA subjects (or the equivalent in Cambridge International Examinations, International Baccalaureate, or similar) will give you the expected background knowledge to take this major.

  • At least 14 credits in NCEA Level 3 Biology

English language requirements

To study this programme you must meet Massey University's English language standards.


Other recommended high school preparation

Knowledge gained in the following NCEA subjects (or equivalent) will help your study of this major but is not essential.

  • At least 16 credits in NCEA Level 2 Mathematics from the following list of standards: 91256, 91257, 91258, 91259, 91260, 91261, 91262, 91269
  • At least 14 credits in NCEA Level 3 Chemistry

If it’s some time since you have studied mathematics at school you can find out if you have the required background by taking this maths quiz.

Prior learning, credit and exemptions

For information on prior learning, exemptions and transfer of credit or other questions:

If you do not have the entry requirements

Pathway tool

If you are unsure whether you have the right background/subjects to study this programme, our tool will help you to figure out what you might need to do before starting your qualification.

Find your pathway

English language and foundation courses

If you need help with your English language skills before you start university, we have courses and programmes that may help.

Summer School

Haven’t studied the right subjects at high school?

The following pathways will get you prepared to study this major. If you have not studied NCEA Level 3 Biology (or equivalent) take the following course first:

This course is available in the summer semester and will count towards credits in your degree.

Courses and planning

Credit summary

360 credits

240 credits (at least)

From the Schedule to the Degree including:

Core courses

Major courses

Elective courses from the Schedule


120 credits

Elective courses


Ensure that overall, you also have:

  • Not more than 165 credits at 100 level
  • At least 75 credits at 300 level

Attend block courses, contact workshops, field trips, studios, workshops, tutorials and laboratories as required.

See ‘Courses for this programme’ below for schedules of courses.

Courses for this specialisation

Compulsory courses

196201 Biodiversity of New Zealand 15
196203 Ecosystem Health 15
196205 Ecology and Conservation 15
196207 Biological Evolution 15
196313 Freshwater Ecology 15
196315 Conservation Science 15
196318 Molecular Ecology 15
196319 Plant Biotic Interactions 15

Planning your programme

Planning overview

If you study full-time, in your first year, you’ll take eight 15-credit courses, making a total of 120 credits.

If you wish to study over two semesters, you should aim for 60 credits per semester. You may be able to take some courses at summer school. Make sure you include courses that are prerequisites for the next level of courses you wish to study.

Suggested structure

The first year structure is designed to provide you with a broad knowledge and skill set which will equip you to go on to more advanced courses in the second and third years.


100-level courses  (not necessarily in this order)
  • 247.113 Science and Sustainability for Science
  • 161.111 Applied Statistics or 161.122 Statistics
  • 124.103 Biophysical Principles or 160.101 Calculus or 160.102 Algebra or 160.104 Introductory Mathematics for Science or 160.105 Methods of Mathematics
  • 123.103 Chemistry for Modern Sciences or 123.104 Chemistry for Biological Systems
  • 162.101 Cell Biology
  • 196.101 Ecology, Evolution and Behaviour
  • 199.103 Animals and the Environment

Recommended 100 level elective:

  • 120.101 Plant Biology or 233.105 Our Dynamic Earth or 189.151 Principles of Soil Science

You will pass at least 90 credits from the BSc Schedule A, including any compulsory courses, in your first 120 credits of study towards the Bachelor of Science.

200-level courses in the major

Take all four:

  • 196.201 Biodiversity of New Zealand
  • 196.203 Ecosystem Health
  • 196.205 Ecology & Conservation
  • 196.207 Biological Evolution
300-level courses in the major

Take all four:

  • 196.313 Freshwater Ecology
  • 196.315 Conservation Science
  • 196.319 Plant Biotic Interactions
  • 196.318 Molecular Ecology

Not sure of your major yet?

Ecology has similar first year core courses to several other majors available in the Bachelor of Science, allowing you to change your major before your second year.  Note that changing your major may incur an increase in completion time.

Moving from the first year of ecology to one of the majors below is particularly simple, as the required first year courses are similar. By choosing your courses and electives carefully to cover both majors you could easily swap over at the end of first year.

  • Earth Science (include 233.105 and 189.151 in your first year)
  • Environmental Science (include 233.105 and 189.151 in your first year)
  • International Agriculture (include 2 of 120.101, 189.151, 119.120 or 117.155 in your first year)
  • Microbiology (include 123.104 and 122.102 in your first year)
  • Molecular Genetics and Biochemistry (include 123.104 and 122.102 in your first year)
  • Plant Science (include 120.101 and 189.151 in your first year)
  • Zoology

Changing your major may incur an increase in completion time.


Completing a minor is optional. Minors increase the breadth of your degree. They give you extra knowledge, attributes and capabilities.

A minor must be in a different subject from your major.

A Bachelor of Science (Ecology) with a minor

You may choose a minor from any University undergraduate degree that has recognised minors. If the minor is from another undergraduate degree, the regulations of that programme will apply.

An Ecology minor (for students who are studying a different degree)

If you are not studying a Bachelor of Science (Ecology) and wish to complete a minor in Ecology see the BSc regulations for the requirements of this minor.  

Fees and scholarships

Fees and finance

Fees, student loans and free fees scheme

Your tuition fees may be different depending on the courses you choose. Your exact fees will show once you have chosen your courses.

There will also be some compulsory non-tuition fees and for some courses, there may also be charges for things such as study resources, software, trips and contact workshops.

Already know which courses you're going to choose?

If you already know which courses you are going to take, you can use our fees calculator to get an estimate of your fees.

Student loans (StudyLink) and Fees Free scheme

You may be eligible for a student loan to help towards paying your fees.

The New Zealand Government offers fees-free tertiary study for eligible domestic students. Find out more about the scheme and your eligibility on the Fees Free website. To use the site's eligibility checking tool, you will need your National Student Number.

Current and returning Massey students will find their National Student Number on their student homepage.

A good fit if you:

  • enjoy sciences, especially biology
  • would like to work outdoors with animals or plants
  • enjoy analysing data and solving problems.

Key information for students

Compare qualifications and academic information across different New Zealand institutions.


Review this important information before you apply for this programme. This gives you full details of the rules and regulations about what you need to study and what you must achieve in order to graduate with this qualification. That includes structure, courses and requirements. These regulations should be read in conjunction with all other Statutes and Regulations of the University including the below.

Undergraduate programmes

General Regulations for Undergraduate Degrees, Undergraduate Diplomas, Undergraduate Certificates, Graduate Diplomas and Graduate Certificates.


Regulations for this programme

Applying and enrolling

Applying for the programme

Check you are ready

If you are ready to apply, have a look at our application checklist. It will help you get prepared with what you need. Please also check the entry requirements carefully before you apply.

Choose your programme and click on Apply now

You will apply for the programme using the Apply now button on this page. You’ll also choose your specialisation (major, subject or endorsement) if applicable.

Some programmes have additional requirements such as the submission of a portfolio or CV. Click on Apply now and you will be able to submit those documents as part of the application process.

Receive and accept an Admission Offer of Place

You will receive an Admission Offer of Place when you have been accepted into the programme. You need to accept this before you can enrol in your courses. International students also need to pay their fees at this point.

Enrolling in courses

You’ll then get access to your own student homepage (also known as the student portal). This is where you can enrol in courses. Any updates on your application or enrolments will also be on your student homepage. Make sure you check this regularly.

When you choose courses, ensure you check for any requirements that apply including:

  • prerequisites (courses you have to do before the one you are enrolling in)
  • corequisites (courses you have to do at the same time as the one you are enrolling in)
  • restrictions (courses that you cannot enrol in if you are completing or have completed another identified similar course)
  • location – for instance some distance-based courses still have an on-campus element, so double check that the way the course is taught is suitable for your situation.

Each of our courses has its own webpage where you can find this information. You can use our course search to find course pages.

More information on courses is in the ‘Courses for this programme’ section on this page.

You can find information on application due dates and semester dates on the key dates page.

We look forward to welcoming you to Massey!

If you have any questions, contact us through the Enquire button on this page.

What are courses and credits?

What are courses and credits?

Each Massey programme is made up of courses (in some tertiary institutions they are called ‘papers’).

You will have some compulsory courses and some you can choose from.

Each course is worth a certain amount of credits (often 15 credits, but this does vary). You must gain a set number of credits to be able to graduate from this programme.

There may also be some rules about which courses you need to pass to progress to the next year, or stage, of your study (known as progression). There are also courses you must pass to graduate with a specialisation.

  • See the ‘Courses for this programme’ section for the list of courses.
  • Courses search

Understanding course numbers

The first three digits of our course numbers show you which subject the course is about.

The second three digits show you the level and course ID number. For instance:

  • sub-degree courses are '0' (i.e. xxx.0xx)
  • undergraduate study begins at 100-level, (i.e. xxx.1xx)
  • as you progress through 200- and 300-level courses this number changes to 2 and 3 respectively. The higher the number that starts the second three digits, the higher the level of study
1 6 2 . 3   0 1
Subject area   Level   Course ID number

About electives

Electives are courses that are not compulsory. Certain guidelines are usually provided on courses you may take. Elective courses contribute to the programme, but not to your major or specialisation.

Workload and time management

Use this tool to help determine how much time you will need each week to complete your studies.

Estimate workload

Returning students

For returning students, there may be changes to the majors and minors available and the courses you need to take. You can go to the section called ‘Transitional Provisions’ in the Regulations to find out more.

There is a webpage with information on changes that took place in 2020, which may affect you if you are a current BSc student.

In some cases the programme or specialisation you enrolled in may be no longer be taking new enrolments, so may not appear on these web pages. To find information on the regulations for these programmes go to the Massey University Calendar.

Please contact us through the Enquire button on this page if you have any questions.

Scholarships and awards

There are a number of scholarships available for new and current students. They could relate to your situation, achievement or interest.

Find and apply for scholarships

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