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Biological Science Subject Guide

If you’re here, you’re probably thinking about studying a biological science degree at postgraduate level. In this handy guide, you’ll be able to get information on every aspect of biological science degrees and what you’ll need to work towards gaining a range of biological science jobs. 

You might be wondering how a postgraduate course in biology differs from an undergraduate degree, whether you should do a taught or research master’s, and what the best universities are for biological science. Keep reading to find out everything you need to know about studying biological science, why you should do one, the entry requirements, and where you could study. 


Why do a biological science degree? 

Biology is a broad subject area that contains a range of sub-disciplines, and is popular with students looking to move into everything from conservation to genetic research. It’s concerned with the study of living organisms, and as a postgraduate student in biology you’ll have the chance to specialise in a certain area—such as plants, microorganisms, animal populations or the ocean environment, to name a few. 

Studying this subject at postgraduate level is a promising route to a wide range of biological science jobs. You’ll be able to tailor your degree to your desired career, whether it’s as a practitioner or researcher in academic, laboratory, industry, government, private or non-profit settings. 

Students who graduate from a postgraduate biology course go on to address many of society’s most pressing issues, from climate change to disease prevention, marine conservation, or agricultural innovation. 

What qualifications can you get? 

You might consider different biological science degrees depending on your academic or professional objectives, as well as your existing qualifications. 

The MSc is the most prominent taught master’s option for biological science students, with a broad range of programmes available. These courses will provide you with advanced knowledge in your chosen niche and the opportunity to explore its debates and challenges in depth, in addition to training in research skills and laboratory or field techniques. 

It’s also possible to do an MA degree in biological sciences. These tend to be in interdisciplinary areas, exploring the intersection between biological sciences and relevant humanities or arts. 

Shorter PGCert or PGDip qualifications are also an option, providing the opportunity to train or learn in a certain area in less than one academic year—great for professionals or students looking to change academic direction. 

Postgraduate research pathways, ranging from master’s by research to doctorates, give you the opportunity to train as a professional researcher and conduct impactful work in your field, often leading to publication. 

Go to: Search for biology courses

What jobs can you do with a biological science degree? 

Biological science jobs are numerous and varied. Following a successful course of postgraduate study, you could continue down an academic pathway and become a university researcher. Or you may choose to conduct your research in an industrial setting, driving progress and innovation across areas including pharmacology, agriculture or biomedicine.  

It’s also common for biology students to move into adjacent fields including environmental science, sustainable development, civil service and policymaking. Your skills as a biology postgraduate are valued by employers across many sectors, and your experiences equip you well for working across office or field environments. 

Communicating technical information is a key skill for many biological science roles. As a graduate, you could draw on your postgraduate experiences and thrive in science writing and journalism, teaching, or advisory and consultancy roles. 

What are the biological science degree entry requirements? 

Most biological science degrees at postgraduate level will ask for an undergraduate degree in a relevant area, such as biology, environmental science, biomedicine or zoology, with a 2:2 grade or above. Many admissions teams will consider applications from students with lower grades if accompanied by evidence of significant, relevant professional experience or alternative qualifications.  

What biological science courses are there? 

This field encompasses a wide range of biological science subjects, so there are many different areas for you to consider studying in. Depending on your interests and goals, you might be interested in courses such as: 

  • MSc Cancer Biology and Therapy 
  • MSc Ecology and Environmental Management 
  • MSc Biotechnology and Business 
  • MA Biodesign 
  • MA Anthropology, Ecology and Global Justice 

What topics does a biological science degree cover? 

Although biological science courses can vary widely at postgraduate level, you could expect to complete modules such as: 

  • Advanced topics in biological sciences 
  • Research project 
  • Advanced laboratory skills 
  • Medical molecular biology 
  • Applied and theoretical approaches to biodiversity, evolution and conservation sciences 

What do you learn in a biological science degree? 

Your postgraduate degree in biological sciences is designed to equip you with an advanced understanding of your field, a range of technical competencies, and the professional skills you’ll need to succeed in relevant biological science jobs. 

Theory, debates, practice and case studies will be a major component of lectures, seminars and tutor discussions as a taught postgraduate student. Both taught and research students can expect to spend time gaining real experience in lab or field settings. Independent study, investigation, critical thinking and communication are key skills that graduates in this field will emerge with. Research design and academic publication are core components of research pathways. 

The majority of postgraduate biology degrees will also contain dedicated professional skills modules, allowing you to stand out to potential employers and succeed in your industry. 

How will you be taught and assessed? 

Biological science degrees are typically assessed through a combination of coursework types. These may include graded essays, reports or policy briefs; assessed presentations, either individually or in groups; supervised laboratory or field activities; or dissertations and research projects. 

Your dissertation or research project will usually form a major component of your final grade, with minimum scores in that area sometimes necessary to reach the highest grade bands. 

How long is a biological science degree? 

At postgraduate level, your biological science degree will typically be one year in length if studied full-time. Courses with industry placements or extended projects may be longer. Studying part-time will mean your master’s could take longer to complete. 

Doctoral qualifications such as the MPhil or PhD can take anywhere between two or four years full-time, or four to seven years part-time. 

Where can you study biological science? 

The majority of universities in the UK offer courses in biological science, giving you the ability to find the perfect postgraduate degree for your needs. You can use our university search tool to get up to date information on your options with ease. 

Some of the highest rated universities in the UK for biological science include: 

What similar subjects are there to biological science? 

There are a number of subject areas that are parallel to, or contained within, the field of biological sciences. You might be interested in similar subjects such as: 

  • Biomedical sciences 
  • Biochemistry 
  • Zoology 
  • Environmental science 
  • Geography 

Next: Search for biological science courses


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