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The basics
Study abroad : Subject Guides

What can you do with a Biology degree?

Everything you need to know about where studying Biology at University can take you in the future

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In a talk by Anne Glover CBE, Chief Scientific Adviser to the President of the European Commission, the 21st Century was identified as ‘The Age of Biology’. Glover sees the 19th Century as ‘The Age of Engineering’, and the 20th Century as ‘The Age of Chemistry and Physics’.

If you want to break into this exciting scientific world on a career basis, you're going to need to get a degree in biology - here's our guide to everything you'll need to know.


What is biology?

At school, science is typically divided into three neat categories: Biology, chemistry and physics. In biology, you learn about living things, in chemistry about substances and their structure, and in physics about the reactions of matter and the universe. Once you leave school, it gets less clear, and biology stops being a simple, singular subject and begins to encompass far more.


In our study guide series, we’ve already explored a number of subjects that tell us something about being human: Economics tells us all about how we distribute our scarce resources in order to survive as a species, and anthropology tells us about our society and civilisation. But the biological sciences go a step further: they explain what it means to be living.


It’s not just human life, though: the biological sciences are the study of life in general, from the smallest microbe to the tallest tree; from the bottom of the ocean to the outer reaches of the universe (yes, astrobiology explores the possibility of life beyond earth!).


"Biology is truly a land of unlimited possibilities. We may expect it to give us the most surprising information, and we cannot guess what answers it will return in a few dozen years…"

- Sigmund Freud


What will you learn if you study biology?



Fittingly for the science of living things, biology isn’t one discipline alone (even if you were taught this at school!) – it’s a tree with many branches: the study of the photosynthesis is a leaf on an entirely different branch of biology to the study of bacteria. It’s worth familiarising yourself with these branches, as they will inform the modules you take, and maybe even the shape of your course as a whole, and they will become even more important if you decide to delve into biology even further after your bachelors – in fact, it’s not uncommon for undergraduate biology students to be required to specialise in a particular area of study from their second year.
It would be impossible to give a complete overview of all of the different branches biological science – they range from anatomy (the study of what’s inside living things) to Virology (the study of viruses, as the name probably indicates) – but we’ll give you a rundown of some of the branches you’re bound to encounter while studying.
  • Anatomy - As we said above, this is the study of the structure of living things, both animals and plants, right down to individual cells.
  • Ecology - The study of living organisms in interaction with one another, and with the non-living elements of their environment.
  • Genetics - The study of the transmission of characteristics from one generation to the next.
  • Biochemistry - The chemistry of living organisms.
  • Zoology - As you may be able to tell from the name, this is the study of animals.


Of course, all of these different branches of biology lead to different places in the world of work - if you're area of expertise is ecology you might decide to work in environmental sustainablity, but if zoology is where your interests lie you might find a career working with and studying animals.


Where can you study biology? 


La Trobe University in Melbourne boasts an impressive science building 
There are over 2,000 institutions offering undergraduate biology / biological sciences courses. To show the diversity of the discipline and the variety of courses to choose from, we’ve selected a few that might interest you.
  • Bachelor of Science (Wildlife and Conservation Biology) at La Trobe University (Melbourne, Victoria, Australia) - "Learn how to tackle the threats facing our environment through this three-year course. You'll study a range of disciplines including botany, genetics, microbiology, and zoology, and focus on issues like environmental degradation, climate change and loss of biodiversity. You'll also take subjects in environmental law, remote sensing and GIS, and have the opportunity to study global environmental politics and international climate change economics and policy. You can attend monthly seminars hosted by conservation experts."
  • Bachelor of Science with an emphasis in Biology and Life Sciences (Including biology, botany, health, physiology or zoology) at The Evergreen State College (Olympia, Washington, USA) - "Examine life at the cellular level. Find new ways to cure disease. Survey marine organisms in their Puget Sound and Pacific Ocean habitats. Delve into the complex relationship between mathematical models and experimental results. Share your passion for science."

  • Human Biology BSc (Hons) at Loughborough University (Loughborough, UK) - "A rich, fascinating and constantly advancing field of scientific discovery, the study of Human biology has been integral to understanding human evolution, how the human body functions in health, and both the causes and treatment of disease. Loughborough's Human Biology degree is unique in its emphasis, its integrative and systematic approach and its global perspective. Modular in structure, the degree explores how the human species evolved, how the species changes over the lifespan, how humans adapt to external stressors, and how human biology and culture influence disease risk. The course enables you to explore what it is to be human - from an entire population down to a single cell."


Want to check which program suits you the best?
Find out with our new "Course Matcher" tool!

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