The Bachelor of Health Sciences (BHSc) is described by the University of Auckland as a “unique non-clinical programme of study that prepares graduates for a broad range of health-related careers”. So what does this actually mean?
As mentioned, this degree is ‘non-clinical’, meaning that careers that lead from this do not necessarily lead to dispensing medicine or providing treatment like a doctor (or other clinical professions) would. And contrary to popular belief, this degree doesn’t even use that much science! I think that a more appropriate name for this degree would be “Bachelor of Health Social Sciences and Population Health” (BHSScPH), but that’s a bit of a mouthful. It is a three year degree with a range of electives, pathways and additional career/study options you can choose from. Also, probably the most importantly for FYHS students, this is one of the two courses you can choose to get into either Bachelor of Medicine and Surgery (MBChB) or Bachelor of Pharmacy (BPharm). However, in this post, I’m going to mainly talk about just BHSc and not pre-med.
BHSc is a three year degree (like most ‘basic’ degrees at UoA), meaning that you take around 24 courses (360 points) over 6 semesters.
In your first year, you take four core BHSc courses (POPLHLTH 101, POPLHLTH 102, POPLHLTH 111 and HLTHPSYC 122), three electives and one general education (‘Gen Ed’) paper. For pre-med, your three electives will consist of BIOSCI 107, CHEM 110 and MEDSCI 142.
In your second year there are five core papers (POPLHLTH 202, POPLHLTH 204, POPLHLTH 210, MAORIHTH 201 and STATS 101/POPLHLTH 216*). You will also be able to take two electives (either Stage II or III) and another Gen Ed paper.
In your final year, there are two core papers that everyone takes, with POPLHLTH 300 being about Health Sector Professional Competencies, and POPLHLTH 302 being a practical paper where you are put on a Health Services Placement. The other 6 papers that you take are basically up to you in accordance with the schedule as shown in this planner:
BHSc Degree Planner for 2021 (note: if you commenced study earlier or later or study a conjoint, please check your own degree requirements!)
If you would like more information on the possible papers you can take, click here! Or read my own reviews :)
*this is TBC as of 2021
So what are these magical pathways that people talk about? Well they are sort of the equivalent to ‘majors’ in other courses like BSc, but they’re not officially ‘majors’ or ‘minors’. Kind of confusing right? Don’t worry, I’m here to help!
In BHSc, you have the option to either do a generic BHSc degree and pick any electives you like, or follow a pathway which has suggested (but totally optional) courses. That way, you can either generalise if you’re interested in different topics or focus more on one aspect of health. The five different pathways are:
- Health Promotion
- Mental Health and Addictions
- Food, Environments and Population Health (formerly Population Health Nutrition)
- Health Systems
- Digital Health (formerly Health Information and Analysis)
Many people choose to do a suggested pathway as it may lead to a specific career that someone wants to do. For example, a friend of mine was interested in becoming a clinical nutritionist, so they took the Food Environments and Population Health pathway.
The cool thing about these pathways is that the courses in them are just recommended, not compulsory. That means you’re free to pick whatever you like if one paper sounds more appealing than the other! A visual representation of this is shown in this planner:
BHSc Pathway suggestions for 2021 (note: if you commenced study earlier or later or study a conjoint, please check your own degree requirements!)
Entering From High School
If you want to enter BHSc from high school like I did with NCEA, the requirement is a rank score of 250. In CIE this is a rank score 300 and for IB this is a score of 33. In NCEA terms, this is a 30 score difference from BSc specialising in Biomedical Sciences for reasons I don’t really know or understand. For NCEA, 18 of your credits needs to be a ‘Table A’ subject which is basically ‘writing based’ subjects like History, English or Classical Studies, and another 18 credits needs to be a ‘Table B’ subject like Biology, Chemistry or Physics. CIE also has similar prerequisites which require you to take a humanities and science subject at full A Level.
Here are a list of NCEA subjects I think are quite useful to take at high school in preparation for BHSc:
- Level 2 or Level 3 Statistics — I found this quite helpful for understanding the terms used in the first section of POPLHLTH 111 and being able to do the simple probability calculations quite easily.
- Level 3 Health — I didn’t take this personally, but I heard that they teach some important aspects of equities and inequalities in health, including the Ottawa Charter that is the foundation of health promotion.
- Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3 History — This is a great subject to get you used to writing essays if English isn’t really your thing. Also, lots of history topics explore how our society become unequal (especially in New Zealand) which is a good foundation for papers like POPLHLTH 102 which focuses on society.
- Level 2 Biology (if you’re intending on applying for a clinical programme/take BIOSCI 107) — Contrary to popular belief, Level 3 Biology (besides the Homeostasis internal that some schools don’t do) is not really relevant for premed. The Level 2 standards on Life Processes at the Cellular Level and Gene Expression are very handy for most of BIOSCI 107 so I recommend you take these. I didn’t take the latter standard and I really struggled in this section, so if you can take it, do it!
- Level 3 Chemistry (if you’re intending on applying for a clinical programme/take CHEM 110) — Taking Level 3 Chemistry will absolutely save your life if you take CHEM 110. Most of the topics you learn are concepts from Year 13 in more depth. I think the reason why I did good in this paper is because I had that foundation, which made the content more enjoyable.
Career and Further Study Options
Many people don’t really appreciate what a range of roads BHSc leads to. There are several careers and further study options you could do after studying BHSc and I’ll highlight some down below:
- Business development manager — Related to Health Systems and/or Digital Health, they are tasked with developing healthcare businesses and organisations so that they grow.
- Community addictions counsellor — Related to Mental Health and Addictions, they are trained to help people deal with any mental issues, drug and alcohol problems etc. people may have.
- Health economist — Related to Health Systems, they look at how resources are allocated and used in different health systems to help do this more efficiently.
- Health promoter — Related to Health Promotion, they work with communities and groups to help improve people’s health. They may also work with the Ministry of Health to help with health campaigns.
- Health protection officer — Usually work in public health units, specialising on disease control and protection.
- Health services manager — Responsible for running hospitals, primary health organisations or clinical healthcare businesses.
- Policy analyst — Gather and analyse information to help plan, develop, interpret and review government or industrial policies in health.
- Population nutrition specialist — Related to Food, Environments and Population Health, they look to improve the health of communities through nutrition.
Further Study Options
- Bachelor Clinical Programmes (MBChB, BMedImag(Hons), BNurs, BOptom, BPharm) — If you still want to pursue a clinical programme, you still can! In these cases, your cumulative GPA is used to rank you for the approximately 50 postgraduate positions for MBChB or other clinical programmes as well as the MMI (and UCAT if you intend to apply for MBChB). Usually the GPA requirements are slightly lower than if you do premed, but for MBChB, it’s still around 8.0–8.5 over 3 years.
- Bachelor of Health Sciences (Honours) — An additional one year added to BHSc where you do a supervised research dissertation in population health and some advanced courses in population health, health informatics, health management and Maori health. This is a great programme to do if you’re thinking about postgraduate study, but not entirely sure yet.
- Master of Audiology (MAud) — This is a programme to become a clinical audiologist, with two years of research and another year of supervised clinical practice, recognised by the New Zealand Audiological Society. This is limited to 24 students who also need a good GPA and a MMI.
- Master of Health Leadership (MHlthLd) — This degree equips you with the knowledge to improve patient experience, health of communities and populations and the operations of health services
- Master of Health Practice (MHlthPrac) — This is known to be an ideal option for BHSc graduates who want a masters degree in a short amount of time. With the specialisation you choose, you can work in a range of places and with different people.
- Master of Health Science (MHSc) — MHSc allows you to be able to take on leadership roles in the delivery of health services, systems of research or specialise in Nutrition and Dietetics to reguister with the New Zealand Dietitians Board
- Master of Public Health (MPH) — A degree that King Ashley Bloomfield did himself after MBChB, this programme focuses on making a valuable contribution to the health and welfare of the community. It is also Part I in training for Public Health Registrar
- Postgraduate Diploma in Public Health (PGDipPH) — A one year degree focusing on understanding issues and skills to apply in research, the workplace and life in the health sector.
Going Psycho(logy)’s POV
I think I made the absolute right choice in deciding to do BHSc instead of Biomed when I was thinking about FYHS. Being a student who enjoys writing, historical contexts and looking at society, this degree really took my fancy. I totally understand that BHSc isn’t for everyone, but I genuinely think it is the more interesting and easier course of the two if you’re intending to apply for MBChB or BPharm at the end of first year. If that doesn’t work out, BHSc has so many exciting paths you could go down (both clinical and non-clinical) that are sure to take your fancy. I’ve really tossed up almost every idea on the above list at some stage of my BHSc journey.
So there you have it! A deep dive into the exciting world of BHSc. If you have any questions, feel free to comment below or email me at email@example.com :)
Stay safe, stay healthy and stay happy!
Going Psycho(logy) ^.^