Bachelor of Health Sciences

Health is an enduring issue for society; it concerns everybody at every stage in life. Health Sciences at UC prepares you to contribute in a meaningful way to the health issues that face our communities. Health Science students have the opportunity to develop a comprehensive overview of health and heath care, inclusive of a range of approaches and understandings, and the practical application of knowledge and skills in health settings.

The non-clinical, multidisciplinary Bachelor of Health Sciences (BHSc) degree programme covers important and timely topics such as mental health and wellbeing, sexual health promotion, environmental health, communicable and non-communicable diseases, Māori and indigenous people’s health, health through the life-span, and evidence-based policy and decision-making. 

Why study Health Sciences at UC?

  • BHSc graduates are increasingly in demand from Canterbury District Health Board (CDHB), primary health organisations, and other regional and further afield organisations.
  • The BHSc includes a wide variety of courses, allowing you to keep your options open and learn about many different areas before embarking on your career.
  • UC is ranked first in Aotearoa New Zealand for research in Public Health (Te Amorangi Mātauranga Matua | Tertiary Education Commission 2019 PBRF assessment).
  • Some BHSc majors offer the opportunity for practical placement and skills development in health-related workplaces.
  • It provides a broad foundation for working in the wider health sector, pursue postgraduate opportunities for a specific health career, or future work as a health and wellbeing researcher.
  • Te Kura Mātai Hauora | School of Health Sciences is well-equipped for conducting a wide range of research and projects.
  • Involved and attentive academic staff will look for ways to help you to achieve your goals.
  • Students who complete the Public Health major for the BHSc will be able to meet the generic public health competencies and the health promotion competencies for Aotearoa.

Many Health Sciences courses may be taken as part of the BHSc, or included in a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science.

The minimum prerequisite is University Entrance but NCEA Biology is recommended.

UC offers Headstart preparatory programmes for students who do not have the required background.

Major subjects

The six majors were designed to fill identified gaps in skills in New Zealand's health sector. Combinations can be taken as a double major. Students may take up an internship as part of their degree.

Through the Environmental Health major you will develop an understanding of risk factors in the natural and built environment, underlying biological processes and the scientific methods used to investigate, monitor, and assess the effects of environmental hazards – such as pollution, unsafe food and infectious diseases – on people's health and wellbeing.

Your studies will cover topics such as:

  • the geographical distribution of disease
  • exposure to key risk factors and methods used to minimise exposure
  • the context of government legislation aimed at creating and maintaining healthy environments.

Graduates of the BHSc majoring in Environmental Health will potentially find employment as environmental health officers (with a further qualification), laboratory roles in health laboratories, in local and national environmental health roles, or progress to postgraduate research in environmental health science.

The Health Education major prepares graduates with the knowledge, skills, and understanding to work with individuals and groups in a range of health settings. Students develop extensive facilitation skills and gain confidence in presenting to a range of people. 

Experiential learning in a variety of contexts (e.g. mental health, sexuality, and nutrition) supports your ability to recognise the factors that influence health and the consequences for wellbeing. You will develop an extensive toolbox of pedagogical strategies that can be used to enhance wellbeing at the personal, interpersonal, and community level.

This major engages in debate and critical reflection on a range of contemporary health issues. Through this, you will develop an in-depth understanding of ethical issues and principles, a respect for the autonomy and choice of both individuals and groups, and cultural competency in collaborative and consultative ways of working.


Career options for students who major in Health Education include employment in health-related institutions and agencies such as community and public health (in nutrition, sexuality, health promoting schools, and mental health teams), drug and alcohol agencies, Family Planning, Mental Health Foundation, nutrition advisories, and Red Cross.

Students can also apply to complete a further year of study in the Graduate Diploma of Teaching and Learning to become a qualified primary or secondary school teacher.

E ngā mana, e ngā reo, nāia te reo pōwhiri ki a koutou. Tēnā koutou katoa.

The purpose of the Māori and Indigenous Health major is to prepare culturally competent graduates who are able to use, apply, and integrate Māori, bicultural, and indigenous knowledge and practices in their chosen health and social services related careers.

The holistic Māori view of health and wellbeing is an important component of the major that includes knowledge and skills in the following areas:

  • Te Ao Tangata — Engaging with Māori: understanding, respect, te reo, interpersonal and cross-cultural communication/dialogue, and Māori health-based experiences
  • Te Ao Hauora — Working with health professionals: promoting students' understanding of the multiple disciplines and roles involved in delivering health care to Māori, including clinicians (eg, pharmacists, doctors, physiotherapists, and psychologists), the cultural/community/clinical interface, and interprofessional/interdisciplinary collaboration
  • Ngā Ratonga Hauora — Working with health services and health systems: providing students with a thorough grounding in sociohistorical health developments and current health system structures, including Māori and iwi community-based health and social services.

Career options include research and policy analysis or advice, health promotion and community health liaison roles in non-governmental organisations focused on health and wellbeing, Māori and iwi health and development organisations, District Health Boards and local government.

Health psychology is concerned with understanding human behaviour in the context of physical health and illness. As such the field is a large one and this course aims to introduce students to a range of topics in the field. Topics include health promotion and prevention, determinants of health-related behaviours (e.g. smoking, diet, exercise), stress and coping, patient-practitioner communication, pain and its management, and management of chronic and serious illness.

Health psychology applies theories from various psychological sub-disciples and as such has a natural affinity with several other courses at the undergraduate and graduate level including abnormal, social, personality, developmental and industrial-organizational psychology.


The BHSc major in Psychology is a pathway to the postgraduate qualifications required for professional or research careers. Those who exit after a BHSc majoring in Psychology will look for work in areas resembling those open to other Psychology majors, but with a particular bias to health-related jobs. These will generally be in some kind of human service organisation or in roles such as health and safety trainers/promoters. We anticipate that most BHSc graduates majoring in Psychology will seek postgraduate qualifications.

Students majoring in Public Health will develop knowledge and skills in science and health, experience in critical appraisal and scientific investigation, an understanding of values and ethics in health and the ability to apply these to improving health and wellbeing. Graduates will meet the knowledge components of the generic public health competencies and the health promotion competencies for New Zealand.

tha major in Public Health aims to:

  • provide a strong foundation in health sciences, with detailed knowledge in public health;
  • equip students to meet the Aotearoa New Zealand competencies for public health, and health promotion (endorsed by the Health Promotion forum)
  • provide the knowledge and skills to operate effectively in health sector organisations (such as district health boards, primary care organisations, public health units, Māori health organisations, and non-governmental organisations)
  • contribute to the health sector workforce by preparing students to work as effective members of multidisciplinary teams in the health sector
  • contribute to meeting national health workforce development goals
  • provide the required foundation for students who wish to undertake postgraduate study in health-related fields.

Graduates are able to work effectively as members of multidisciplinary teams. Examples of career pathways include community development roles in public health units, DHBs, NGOs, local government, health promoters, public health analysts, and postgraduate students studying towards a research career in public health.

The Society and Policy major introduces you to the ethical, policy, and geographic challenges of improving the health outcomes of communities and populations. The interdisciplinary core ensures students graduate with strong skills in critical thinking, qualitative social science research methods and specialised knowledge of public policy development, bioethics and the sociology of mental health.

Graduates of the Society and Policy major have an in-depth knowledge of social issues relating to health, bioethics, and the development and evaluation of public policies, particularly policies with implications for health. Society and Policy majors possess core knowledge and skills relevant to health employment and sector-defined competencies. This includes some of the Aotearoa New Zealand generic public health competencies (PHANZ 2007), and some of the Aotearoa health promotion competencies (Health Promotion Forum 2012), including bioethics competencies that are specific to thisžmajor.


This major will prepare students for positions in policy analysis, social science research and development of public policy. It will also prepare them for further research in humanities and the social sciences. Students who graduate from this programme may go on to postgraduate study in Health Sciences. If students take the Sociology option at 300 level, they may also go on to postgraduate work in Sociology. Those who don’t wish to complete a postgraduate degree may look for jobs in health administration, health policy and other non-clinical roles within the broad health sector. This major also provides a foundation for graduate clinical degrees.

Examples of career pathways include:

  • Careers in health-related institutions and agencies
  • Community development in public health units, District Health Boards, Māori and Iwi health/development organisations, NGOs and local government agencies
  • Health policy analysis
  • Postgraduate studies towards a research career in health
  • Social and health research

The programme is designed so that students will be able to take a double major in Public Health and Society and Policy. These students would additionally meet all public health and health promotion competencies.


The BHSc degree leads to careers in health and public policy, public health, health management, health research and other non-clinical roles. Graduates play an important role in improving public health through disease prevention, health promotion, and health service planning, delivery, and evaluation. Our graduates have been employed as health promoters, case managers, policy analysts or in health management and research. 

It is ideal preparation for working in settings such as district health boards, government ministries, local government, non-government organisations, Māori provider organisations, hospices, aged residential care, schools, primary care organisations, universities and polytechnics.

The health sector is one of New Zealand’s biggest employers with a wide range of career opportunities. In New Zealand’s increasingly diverse and ageing society, health needs and health workforce opportunities will continue to expand.

For all enquiries about undergraduate study in Health Sciences

talk to a Student Advisor or a Liaison Officer

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