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This is the primary route that a BSc (Biomedical Science) at a University institution prepares you for. The classical academic would be expected to follow a typical pathway outlined in Figure 1 below.


  • One could take the slightly elongated route via Postgraduate Diploma and Masters to reach the almighty PhD or

  • Take the accelerated pathway where a 1 year successful First Class Honours can allow a fast tracked route to the PhD.

The PGDip degree is a 1-year intensive degree filled with typically 8 courses where one is expected to read journal article upon journal article and absorb large amounts of information.

The Masters is a 1-year intensive degree dedicated entirely for a research project.

The Honours is a hybridised fast-tracked combination of a PGDip and Masters where one is expected to do a few courses (up to five, depending on the degree requirements) and a research project as well.

Meanwhile, the PhD is a 3-4 year degree (average of 3.8 years at the FMHS, UoA) where one dedicates their entire time to a larger research project. All research projects need to be supervised by an academic staff at the University and require you to write a thesis or dissertation as a summary of the skills, experiments, and research that you compiled and completed in the duration of your study.


Some research projects at Masters and Honours level can be funded (i.e. you receive a stipend whilst studying), but the majority are not. However, it is reasonable to expect funding for most PhD students at a sizeable tax-free rate of $27,000 per annum which is adequate to survive on whilst studying.


Following the PhD, one could expect to obtain a postdoctoral research fellow position at a tertiary institution (i.e. University) with a New Zealand median salary of $70,000 per annum. However, these positions are often short-term (i.e. 2 to 3 year contracts) which require constant renewal and grant applications to maintain.


Depending on one’s availability, one should also expect to move to other countries and Universities due to funding constraints. (Hint: NZ only has ~7/8 University institutions. For comparison, Australia has ~43, and the USA has ~2,600 <-- that is not a typo).


Following years of postdoctoral training, one might be lucky enough to start their own research laboratory and obtain “tenure” – a term used to broadly describe a permanent staff member of the University. The job security here is much higher and the median wage is approximately $80,000 per annum. There is a progressive pay increase associated with promotion through from Lecturer, Senior Lecturer, Associate Professor, and then to Professor (these job titles differ between different countries). These roles are largely expected to be balanced amongst three responsibilities: research output, teaching commitments, and administrative responsibilities. This is ultimately the end goal of the academic route where one is expected to continue working at a University: pioneering cutting edge research for the benefit of society, ensuring efficient management of the University, and inspiring generations to come in the tertiary education sector.

academic pathway.png

Figure 1 – the typical oversimplified academic pathway relevant to New Zealand. Numbers denote the typical number of equivalent full time study (EFTS) years required to complete the corresponding degree. Dollar values are based on NZD in 2018.

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