What is a life sciences degree?

Surrey science student in lab

What are life sciences?

The life sciences are made up of the sciences that study living things. Biology, zoology, botany, and ecology are all life sciences, for example. These sciences continue to make new discoveries about the animals, plants, and fungi we share a planet with.

As the field is so wide-reaching, there are plenty of degrees to choose from depending on your interests.

What are life sciences degrees?

At the University of Surrey, life sciences degrees are taught by the School of Biosciences and Medicine. The undergraduate degrees available here are accredited by the UK’s Royal Society of Biology, which ensures each life sciences degree will equip you with valuable transferable skills.

The University has a broad range of life sciences degrees, so wherever your interests lie, there is a degree for you.

BSc Biochemistry

Health, disease, ageing, and development are all influenced by biochemical processes. On this degree, gain an understanding of what the field has previously discovered, as well as how to conduct your own research.

BSc Food Science and Nutrition

Discover more about the biology and chemistry of the food we eat. You’ll learn about what makes some foods more nutritious than others, and how your diet can affect your health.

The University of Surrey is ranked 2nd in the UK for Food Science and Nutrition by The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022.

BSc Microbiology

Bacteria, fungi, and viruses all impact human health — both positively and negatively. In BSc Microbiology, you will learn about the human immune system, how we treat disease, and innovative medicines.

Plenty of choice

There are lots of other life sciences degrees available at the University of Surrey:

  • BSc Biological Sciences
  • BEng Biomedical Engineering
  • BSc Medicinal Chemistry
  • BSc Veterinary Biosciences

What life sciences degree should I study?

With such a range of degrees in the category of life sciences, it can be tough to make a decision about which degree to study. There are several factors you should take into consideration:

Your interests

Most importantly, you must be interested in the subject. If you know you’re interested in the life sciences, consider whether learning about animals, plants, fungi, or humans that appeals to you the most. From there, you can continue to narrow down your options until you arrive at the ideal degree for you.

Career ambitions

Another important aspect to consider is what you would like to do with your degree. Some degrees will be great for developing more practical skills, while others will be more research-intensive. The kind of job you would like after you graduate should influence your decision.

Career support at the University of Surrey

The University of Surrey is renowned for producing highly employable graduates — it has won the National University Employability Award three years in a row. During your studies, you’ll have the opportunity to take part in a Professional Training Year, where you work at one of over 2,300 placement partners for a year. Partners include Unilever, Public Health England, and the Pirbright Institute.

Surrey also partners with institutions around the world in exciting countries like the USA, France, Italy, and Sweden.

The Professional Training Year is a fantastic opportunity to gain experience, discover the kind of career you might like to pursue, and even get a job — in the 2017/18 academic year, 39% of students received a job offer from their placement organisation. The Professional Training Year is just one reason the University of Surrey was awarded University of the Year for Graduate Employment by The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022.

Benefits of studying a life sciences degree

Job prospects

The career options of a life sciences graduate are well respected around the world, and your work and research can have a real-world impact and help improve people’s lives. Your expertise will also be sought-after around the world, so there could also be opportunities to work abroad.

Life is all around us

Life sciences are ultimately the studies of the world we live in. Studying a degree in the field can be a great way to satisfy your curiosity about life on our planet and how it works.

Surrey students sitting in a park

Develop useful skills

You will gain plenty of interchangeable skills with a life sciences degree — many of which will be transferable between job roles and careers:

  • Maths
  • Chemistry
  • Research
  • Critical thinking
  • Reading and writing in English
  • Communication and presentation

Opportunity for further study

An undergraduate degree in life sciences can be just the start of an exciting academic career. Once you have completed your Bachelors degree, you could move on to a Masters degree, and eventually even a PhD.

Study a life sciences degree in the UK

A UK university is a great place to start your journey towards a career in life sciences. Globally recognised degrees, world-class facilities, exceptional teaching quality, and a generous post-study work visa are all benefits of studying here.

Study life sciences at the University of Surrey

Ranked 2nd in the UK for Food Science and Nutrition, and 20th in the UK for Biological Sciences*, the University of Surrey is the perfect place to start your academic journey. High rankings, fantastic facilities, and 97% of their bioscience and medicine graduates in work or further study** all make Surrey a desirable study abroad destination.

How to study at Surrey

At the University of Surrey International Study Centre, we prepare international students for their studies at university, as well as their life here in the UK. By studying one of our undergraduate or postgraduate pathway programmes, you’ll improve your English language, study skills and academic knowledge so you can progress to Surrey with confidence.

In September 2021, we enhanced our curriculum even further, ensuring our teaching is as relevant and useful to the modern world as possible.

International Foundation Year

The International Foundation Year in Life Sciences is a two-semester programme, designed to boost your skills so you can start the first year of a life sciences undergraduate degree. With different modules available depending on your intended progression degree, your studies with us are tailored to give you the best chance of success at the University.

Contact us now

If you have any questions, get in touch with our easy-to-use enquiry form. Our expert Student Enrolment Advisers are happy to help.


What are the five major fields of life science?

  • Ecology – the interactions between organisms and their environment. Ecology examines things like organism population numbers, distribution of those organisms and biodiversity.
  • Botany – the study of plants including fungi and algae. This field of life sciences has many subdivisions of its own, but they all focus on plants.
  • Zoology – the study of the animal kingdom and the characteristics of different animals including their behaviour, breeding, habitats and more. It also works to identify new species.
  • Microbiology – looks at the smallest of all living beings such as single-celled organism or small cell colonies.
  • Genetics – the study of DNA looks at how traits are passed down and how they adapt to suit the environment. 

Why is it important to study life sciences?

Studying life sciences will give you a new perspective of the world. They affect many aspects of our lives from health care and the environment.

How long is life science course?

The length of a life science degree depends on the field you wish to specialise in and whether you choose to study a postgraduate programme.

The typical undergraduate degree in the UK takes three years to complete. 

*The Times and The Sunday Times Good University Guide 2022

**Graduate Outcomes survey 2020, HESA.