Choosing a biology degree

Studying biology at university will provide you with valuable knowledge, skills and experience. You will gain skills that you can use no matter which career path you choose, both in and out of science. They are valued by employers and will look great on your CV. These skills can open the door to working in business and enterprise, marketing, law, hospitality, politics and policy, journalism, art, economics and much more.

There are a wide variety of biology degrees on offer in the UK. These will vary in content, duration, and the qualification you achieve, as well as the types of career they prepare you for.

Bachelor of Science ( BSc or BSc with Honours) – usually involves three years (four in Scotland) of study. Each BSc degree will be different but many are built to be flexible, allowing you to choose from a range of courses in your first year and ‘try out’ different areas of biology. You can continue to study a variety of courses in the final years of your degree or choose to specialise and focus on the one area that fascinates you the most.

Sandwich BSc degrees – offer you an extra year of study where you can gain additional experiences with work, travel or a language by spending a year (normally the third year) in an industrial placement or abroad.

Joint and combined degrees – let you study biology in combination with another subject or subjects that interest you e.g. biology with management, biology and a foreign language. These degrees can help broaden your knowledge and skill base but they will reduce the amount of time you spend studying biology to 50 – 60%.

Integrated Masters degrees (MSci, MBiol, MBiolSci) – usually involves four years (five in Scotland) of study. These degrees allow you to undertake a more in depth study of biology or a specialised area of biology and graduate with a Masters level qualification. Integrated Masters normally include a significant research project or work placement and can provide good training for a PhD or a career in research.

Specialised degrees – allow you to focus on a particular field of biology from the very beginning of your degree and are great if you already know which area of biology you want to study before entering university – for example neuroscience or plant biology. Some biology courses offer a common first year for several degrees, allowing you to find out which areas you are most interested in before specialising in a specific field.

It is important that you research the subject and its career options before applying for a specialised degree to make sure it is the right area for you!

For more information see Becoming a Biologist – Degrees and Careers in Biology from the Society of Biology.