What science degree should I study at university?

An international student in a science lab

Why study science at university? There are many different reasons to consider – but most come down to what a varied and exciting subject area it is. Science degrees are all different from one another – from studying chemicals and compounds with a chemistry degree, to atoms and particles with physics, no science degree is alike.

However, no matter which degree subject you choose, you’ll be sure to get an excellent education which will prepare you for the world of work. Science degrees expertly combine both practical learning with theory. You’ll learn about scientific theory from expert teachers and researchers, before putting what you learn into practice through labs and work placements. At the University of Surrey, many science degrees include a Professional Training Year to help you graduate with work experience.

Types of science degrees

There are three main types of science degrees – with lots of subsections and specialisms within them. These are biology, chemistry and physics. But which one are you most suited to study?

Biology-based degrees

Biology is the study of living things, such as plants and animals. This study can then be further divided into multiple specialist fields such as anatomy and behaviour, or evolution and genetics. Some biological specialisms you might consider studying include:

  • Biochemistry: the study of that makes up living things (both a form of biology and chemistry)
  • Botany: the study of plants and agriculture
  • Cellular biology: the study of cells
  • Ecology: a biological study of the environment and the things within it
  • Evolutionary biology: the study of the origins of living things and how they have changed over time
  • Genetics: a look into what makes us who we are, and how it can change
  • Molecular biology: the study of molecules in biology
  • Physiology: the physical nature of organisms
  • Zoology: the study of animals and their behaviour

Chemistry-based degrees

Chemistry is the science of elements and compounds. It’s a natural science – with chemicals making up everything in our world. To narrow the subject down, chemistry can be broken down into specialisms, including:

  • Analytical chemistry: the study of the chemical composition of materials – used within engineering, medicine and other industries
  • Biochemistry: the study of the chemicals what make up living things (both a form of biology and chemistry)
  • Inorganic chemistry: the study of chemical compounds which do not contain carbon
  • Organic chemistry: the study of chemical compounds which do contain carbon
  • Physical chemistry: a way to apply physics to study of chemistry

Physics-based degrees

A degree in physics covers all things matter and energy. By studying physics, you’ll be studying heat, radiation, light, sound, electricity, magnetism and atoms. There are many different specialisms found within physics, including but not limited to:

  • Astrophysics: the study of astronomy within physics – such as the physical nature of stars and interstellar material
  • Electromagnetism: the study of electromagnetic force, occurring between electrically charged particles
  • Medical physics: using the theories of physics in a medical setting
  • Nuclear physics: the specific study of nucleus of the atom
  • Quantum mechanics: the study of how atoms and particles work

Other types of science degrees

Biology, chemistry and physics are not the only types of degrees for those with scientific minds. There are plenty of other subjects you can study at university in order to be a science student, including:

  • Computer science: the study of computing and information, from developing software to solving digital problems
  • Environmental science: combining many different sciences whilst focusing on the environment, this subject includes aspects of biology, ecology, physics, chemistry, oceanology, and zoology
  • Geology: the study of the physical structure of the earth, including the materials and structures which make it
  • Psychology: the scientific study of the mind and behaviour

Postgraduate study

Once you’ve studied an undergraduate degree in a science-related subject, you can decide to enter the graduate employment market or continue with your studies. This is the point in your academic journey where you may wish to focus on an even more detailed area or specialism than you studied on your undergraduate degree.

A postgraduate degree is an excellent addition to your CV. As well as showing your passion for your subject, and gaining even more knowledge in the area you wish to work in, potential employers will be impressed with the dedication to your subject you’ve shown.

Careers with a science degree

What science degree is the most employable?

Science subjects are highly employable – both within the science sectors and outside. According to the UK government (Labour Force Survey), physical and environmental subjects have an employment rate of 87%. Similarly, graduates with a degree in biological sciences also have an employment rate of 87%. Math or computer science graduates were seen to have a 90% employment rate. Agricultural sciences students achieved a 91% employment rate.

What science degree has the highest salary?

Once you’ve landed your graduate job, you’ll also be interested in pay. According to the Labour Force Survey, employees with science degrees earn more than certain arts and humanities graduates do.

Graduates with a degree in biological sciences have a median annual salary of £26,000. Agricultural sciences graduates have a median annual salary of £31,980. Math or computer science gradates earn on average £34,996 each year. Whilst physical and environmental graduates earn £38,012 a year.

How can I study a science degree in the UK?

As an international student, the best way to study a science-related degree at a UK university is to study a foundation year to help you gain the science fundamentals and academic English language skills to succeed. At the University of Surrey International Study Centre, you can choose to study either the International Foundation Year in Engineering and Physical Sciences or Life Sciences. With a pathway programme such as this, you will study core and option modules based around your progression goals to ensure you begin the first year of your degree with the skills required of a renowned UK university.

Why study science at Surrey?

The University of Surrey is a great choice for international students to study science. As well as offering a range of different science degrees, you’ll be studying with ambitious classmates from all over the world who share you passions and interests. At Surrey, you can study a range of science degrees, including:

  • Biology and biosciences
  • Chemistry
  • Computer science
  • Physics
  • Psychology

As well as many more – including the various specialisms in each of those subjects.

Another great reason to choose Surrey for your science degree is the excellent facilities you’ll find on campus. One example of this is the Department of Physics, which has recently received a £3.5 million refurbishment of its research laboratories – used by undergraduate students to complete their final-year research projects. The University boasts state-of-the-art facilities in other areas too, with the Department of Chemistry providing students with the use of chromatography equipment, x-ray equipment, optical spectroscopies and more.

On top of this, you’ll be able to get practical experience outside of the University facilities by taking advantage of the Professional Training Year offered as part of many of its science degrees.  Taking the form of a placement year, you will undertake  a paid year-long work placement, allowing you to practice what you’ve been learning in the classroom. The University of Surrey is ranked 1st in the world and 7th in the UK for work placements and research partnerships (QS World Employability Rankings 2019) – giving you plenty of choices to build on your skills.

We hope this blog has helped you learn more about the different types of science degrees available. Once you’ve chosen which science degree to study at university, it’s time to think about applying. Check out our programmes page [link] for more information on the pathways to study at the University of Surrey.


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