Subject Guide

Biology Degree

Daniella Driscoll  · Nov 9th 2022

Biology references the natural science of plants and living organisms.


Biology is the study of all things human life, animal life and cell life. With the various specialisms on offer from biochemistry to plant biology, it’s a subject known for diversity and development.

Biology Degree

What is biology?

Biology focuses on all living things and their processes; it looks at all the biological parts of life. The subject is vital in many industries such as food production, nature preservation and medical research. Biology is studied in different forms, and you can choose from a wide range of biology topics. These are some example degree types:

  • Anatomy degree: Focuses on investigating the function, form and development of the human body. It’s a theoretical and practical subject with lab sessions and learning the use of technology.
  • Cell biology degree: Teaches you about the function of cells, individually and together, within organisms and how they can go wrong.
  • Human biology degree: Looks at the function of the human body from the cellular level to the whole-body level. You will learn the way the body works in a healthy and diseased state.
  • Life sciences degree: A general degree looking at biological sciences including biology, zoology and ecology.
  • Marine biology degree: The study of marine environments, diversity of marine life and understanding of the biology of marine organisms.
  • Molecular biology degree: Focuses on the foundations of molecular and cellular biology. You will cover many topics including biotechnology and molecular genetics.

What are the modules for this course?

Modules for your degree can vary, depending on if you are taking a general biology degree or a specialised degree. Usually, general biology degrees provide a range of modules covering many areas of biology from molecules to biochemical processes. With specialised science degrees, the more generalised biology modules are combined with specialised ones, depending on the degree; for example, for a cell biology degree, you should study a module on genetics.

For your biological sciences personal statement, you need to cover your understanding of the course you are applying for and your enthusiasm for the subject.

In your first year, you will take modules which provide an introduction to most topics, whether it’s a general or specialised degree you are studying. Modules can include:

  • Biochemistry
  • Biodiversity
  • Cell biology
  • Ecology and evolution
  • Environmental issues
  • Genetics
  • Human physiology
  • Life sciences
  • Marine and terrestrial ecology
  • Microbiology
  • Molecular genetics
  • Physiology
  • Plant science

For both degree types in the second year, you will study the previous year’s modules in more depth. Modules vary based on course and university. Some examples include:

  • Biotechnology
  • Behavioural and molecular neuroscience
  • Immunology
  • Metabolism and metabolic disorders
  • Molecular pharmacology

What are the entry requirements?

Entry requirements for a biology degree can depend on the type of course and university you are applying for. Typically, you will need between 104-112 UCAS points. Qualifications can include:

  • A-levels: Two A-levels are usually required for a biology degree. Biology is usually the expected subject. Chemistry, physics and mathematics are also beneficial. Entry requirements range from CCC to AAA, averaging at BBB for most universities.
  • Scottish Highers: Highers requirements can range from CCCD to AAAB, with an average of AABBB. Sometimes, universities may ask for an Advanced Highers as an addition, at the grade ABB.
  • BTEC Nationals: Some universities may accept a BTEC qualification as the entry. Typically, the expected BTEC grade is D*D*D*–MMM but this can vary.
  • International Baccalaureate (IB): The expected overall score of the international baccalaureate can vary and on average be around 34.

Additionally, work experience and further reading are significant assets to your application. You can gain work experience through shadowing in a lab or volunteering in your local NHS trust. There’s also the opportunity to volunteer with local conservation charities for example. Further reading is valuable for your knowledge, and some helpful examples include the BBC or The Guardian for up-to-date news.

Biology Degree

How do I write my personal statement for this subject?

For your biological sciences personal statement, you need to cover your understanding of the course you are applying for and your enthusiasm for the subject. It’s important to speak about your interests, hobbies and activities which relate to your course.

You will need to demonstrate your commitment to the course. Think about the modules and discuss any you find particularly interesting and why. Have you taken part in any extracurricular activities or voluntary work which engages the subject beyond the syllabus? For example, if you volunteered in a local healthcare setting. What did you learn? How did it interest you?

Explaining the skills and knowledge you have gained from your interests is beneficial. Wider reading is also useful in sharing your commitment and understanding of biology. Talk about a couple of books or online resources you have read which have helped develop your insight.

At the postgraduate level, this is where you choose the career route you would like to go into as many biology careers take further studying, whether you would like to be a nurse or microbiologist.

Enthusiasm is key in a personal statement. You don’t want to leave any fascination out. Talk about why you are interested in biology. For example, it could be how a cell works or the environment. Any detail which is important to you, share as it will give the university scope of who you are and your excitement for the course. One to two examples is ideal.

To demonstrate your knowledge, take pride in your statement. Ensure it is error-free, you use the correct grammar and spelling, and it reads well. Your statement is an example of your written skills and it’s important to make it count.

What books or equipment do I need?

Your university will recommend suitable books for your biology degree. However, it’s always practical to do further reading to develop your insight and knowledge. Some informative examples include Molecular Biology of the Cell by Bruce Alberts, Essential Cell Biology by Bruce Alberts and Concepts of Biology by OpenStax by Samantha Fowler. Alternatively, free resources are widely available for further reading and experience. For example, NASA provides STEM (Science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) activities, up-to-date news, resources and challenges for biology students of all ages.

For equipment, your university will share a list of useful items. The essential things to consider are a laptop for your assignments and take notes in lectures. Other organisational materials will come in handy including notebooks, stationery and a calculator.

How will I be assessed?

Assessment can vary on the course, however, you will typically be assessed by:

  • Coursework
  • Essays
  • Examinations
  • Final year research project
  • Laboratory reports
  • Literature reviews
  • Presentations

What are the career prospects?

A biology degree is a significant stepping stone for further study and diverse career paths. You will need to take a master’s or equivalent to enter certain career paths. For example, to train as a nurse, you will need a nursing qualification. However, some biology degrees may offer a year in a placement which can fulfil that requirement.

Many industries are open to biology graduates. Graduates can move into the route of a biologist, working in marine life or as a research scientist in microbiology. Alternatively, you can work in environmental management and conservation. Other industries include health and social work, education, business, wholesale, the media and teaching.

Biology Degree

What jobs can I get with this degree?

The job you choose will depend on your specialism and any further training you take. These are some typical jobs:

  • Biologist - specialising in either marine, research, soil etc
  • Biomedical scientist
  • Conversation officer
  • Embryologist
  • Field trials officer
  • Healthcare scientist
  • Forensic scientist
  • Investment consultant
  • MLSO (Medical Laboratory Scientific Officer)
  • Microbiologist
  • Pharmacologist
  • Psychologist
  • Research scientist
  • Science lecturer
  • Science journalist
  • Sports therapist
  • Toxicologist
  • Zoologist

How does biology change at a postgraduate level?

A master’s in biology usually takes around two years depending on your chosen degree. Whereas an undergraduate takes three to four years, depending on if you have a year in industry or not.

At the postgraduate level, this is where you choose the career route you would like to go into as many biology careers take further studying, whether you would like to be a nurse or microbiologist. Some examples include MSc in Biomedical Science, MSc in Medical Sciences and MSc in Environmental and Biochemical Toxicology.

Biology focuses on all living things and their processes; it looks at all the biological parts of life.

Postgraduate degrees are taught at more of an expert level, going in-depth on previous science subjects you learnt at an undergraduate level.

What is the average grad salary in this area?

The average biology graduate salary depends on your postgraduate qualification, experience and location. On average, however, the graduate salary ranges from £18,000-£23,00 for an entry-level position[1]. With experience in the industry, the average biologist earns around £33,000 in the UK[2].


  • [1]Average graduate salary UK — Retrieved 9 November 2022.
  • [2]Biologist salary in United Kingdom — Retrieved 9 November 2022.

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