The River Thames outside DLD College London

Do you want to study Biology at University?

21st November 12

Hyeon-Jun studied A level Biology at DLD College London

What A Levels do I need to study Biology at University?

It should come as no surprise that you’ll need a decent A Level in Biology, and while subject requirements will differ between universities, as a rule Chemistry, Maths and Physics are also desirable. Regardless of the university or the course you chose, the entry requirements will be high. Expect to receive offers from A*AA to AAB or ABB at A Level.

Biology and Biological Science courses vary wildly, so it’s important to do your own research into the courses and the universities that will suit your needs the best. But, generally speaking, The Complete University Guide 2013 listed the following universities as the best places to study Biology and Biological Sciences in the UK:

University of CambridgeSchool of Biological Sciences

The School of Biological Sciences comes under the remit of Natural Sciences at Cambridge. Therefore expect them to offer you A*AA. Cambridge want their students to have a very broad knowledge base in science and maths subjects. You will be expected to have the A* and A in at least one science and one Maths A Level, and they will encourage you to have another A grade in another science / maths subject. The most useful combination of A Levels for studying Biological Science at Cambridge would be Biology, Chemistry and Maths or Physics.

University of Oxford – Biological Sciences

Oxford can and do ask for the best grades. A typical offer from them will be A*AA, with the A* in a Science or Maths subject. Biology is mandatory, and other than that they don’t ask for any specific qualifications. However, you might like to think a little in advance when you chosing you’re A Levels and pick complimentary subjects like Chemistry, Maths or Physics.

Imperial College LondonDepartment of Life Sciences

Minimum entry requirements for Biology, Biochemistry, Biotechnology and other Biological Sciences are AAA. Depending on what you specialise in dictates what A Levels will be mandatory. For Biology you’ll obviously need Biology, and Chemistry is looked upon favourably. For Biochemistry or Biotechnology, you’ll need Chemistry, and Biology is looked upon favourably. For any of the biological sciences subjects, Maths is a recommended subject.

University College LondonFaculty of Life Sciences

UCL offer a very broad spectrum of Biological Sciences degree courses. You can study anything from Biological Sciences and Environmental Biology, to Human Genetics, Genetics and Zoology. A typical offer from UCL will be AAA. Biology A Level is mandatory, and you will need one other from Chemistry, Physics or Maths.

University of SheffieldDepartment of Animal and Plant Sciences

Sheffield offer two Biology courses, a three year Bachelor of Science (BSc) course and a four year Master of Biological Sciences (MBiolSci) course. For the BSc course they will offer you AAB at A Level. You must have Biology and a second A Level from one of Chemistry, Physics, Psychology, Environmental Studies, Mathematics, Geography, or Economics. For the MBiolSci course, expect AAA at A Level. You’ll need Biology and a second science.

So once I’m there, what can I expect?

That all depends on which path of the subject you choose to go down. Taking a Biology or Biological Sciences degree means that you could be studying a whole range of subjects from human biology, genetics, and zoology, to bioinformatics, microbiology and botany. What is common amongst most courses is that you will most likely study the core subjects of Biology and spend a lot of time during the early part of your study in lectures and laboratories.

In your second, third, and maybe fourth years, depending upon what you specialise in, you will either take up residence in a lab or leave there entirely. You will most definitely have to undertake a final research project in your chosen speciality. At some institutions this will involve working on one of your professor’s work, and pooling your results together with other students. In other universities, like Oxford for example, you will be able to write your own project title.

What skills will I develop

Once again, this all depends on what strand of Biology and Biological Sciences you study. But in general, as well as a superb knowledge in your specialty area, you’ll have an in depth knowledge of biological systems and concepts, and will have a wide range of practical and technical skills from all your time spent in the lab.

What will my career prospects look like?

There’s a wide range of job opportunities open to Biology graduates. Many graduates go straight back into the lab after they graduate to work in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, or for universities and clinical research organisations. Careers in the private and public health sector are common, as is working for health and environmental charities. And if you want to give a little back, and inspire a new generation of scientists, you could always teach.

Good luck!