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University of Otago
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Master of Science (MSc) in Pharmacology

This course is available


Level of Study

Master's Degree


1 year

Next start date

Expected Feb 2025


University of Otago


The Master of Science (MSc) is a two-year degree which encompasses both coursework and research. The first year involves mainly coursework and preliminary research preparation. Students will have the opportunity to contribute to existing fields of research, or to begin to develop new areas.

Why study Pharmacology and Toxicology?

Most people are interested in pharmacology because drugs occupy such a prominent place in everyday life. Constant progress in medicine involves the design of new drugs that can cure cancer, cardiovascular disease, neurological disorders and other medical conditions.

Pharmacology incorporates and applies a variety of biological sciences, such as biochemistry, chemistry, physiology, microbiology and genetics. Unlike pharmacy, which is about the preparation and dispensing of drugs, pharmacology is the science behind how drugs produce their effects on the body and what the body does to the drugs. Pharmacology also plays a key role in developing drugs of the future.

Toxicology at Otago examines the harmful effects of chemicals on the human body, as well as understanding the impact of chemicals on the environment and in our food supply.

A good knowledge of pharmacology and toxicology is also an important part of the training of medical doctors, pharmacists, dentists, nurses and physiotherapists. Other scientists often find pharmacology useful in their own specialisation. For example, physiologists, biochemists, zoologists and psychologists may use drugs to understand the biological system or disease they are studying.

Research at Otago

All our teaching staff are engaged in cutting-edge Pharmacology and Toxicology research, seeking to develop new drugs and address toxicological problems.

Areas of particular expertise include:

Cancer drug development and treatment


Cardiovascular health and cardioprotection

Environmental toxicology

Human toxicology

Inflammation and wound healing

Neuropharmacology and auditory pharmacology

Duration of the Programme

A candidate achieving the degree by papers and a thesis shall normally follow a programme for the equivalent of not less than two years of full-time study and not more than three years of full-time study, and a candidate achieving the degree by thesis alone shall normally follow a programme of study for the equivalent of not less than one year of full-time study and not more than two years of full-time study. Exceptions shall be permitted only with the approval of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Sciences).

Intake: Anytime for thesis-only option.

Entry criteria

Admission to the programme shall be subject to the approval of the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Sciences).

Every applicant must either

  • be a graduate with an average grade of at least B for the appropriate 300-level papers, or
  • have alternative qualifications or experience acceptable to the Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Sciences).

An applicant seeking admission to the thesis-only option of the programme (see regulation 2(c) below) on the basis of the degree of Bachelor of Science with Honours or the Postgraduate Diploma in Science or equivalent must have achieved a grade of at least B+ for the research report, thesis preparation, or dissertation requirement of the qualification concerned.

In considering an applicant's qualifications, regard will be had to the detail of the course of study followed to gain the qualification, as well as the applicant's performance in the programme.

English language requirements

  • IELTS (Academic module) (including IELTS Online) - Overall score of 6.5, no individual band below 6.0.
  • TOEFL iBT - Overall score of 90 and a writing score of 21.
  • C1 Advanced (previously Cambridge English: Advanced (CAE)) or C2 Proficiency (previously Cambridge English Proficiency (CPE)) - Overall score of 176 (with no individual band below 169).
  • Pearson Test of English (PTE) Academic - Overall score of 58 with no communicative skills score below 50.
  • Language Cert - International ESOL: C1 Expert (LRWS) with a high pass overall and no less than a pass in each skill OR C2 Mastery (LRWS) with a pass overall and no less than a pass in each skill.
  • NZCEL - NZCEL 5 Academic endorsement
  • English New Zealand's Accredited Pathway Assessment - Assessment Level 3 (with no skill lower than Level 2).
  • APIEL Advanced Placement International English Language Examination - Grade 4 or higher.

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