What is Biology?

Biology is the study of life and living organisms, and covers the key areas of molecular biology, cellular biology, organismal biology and population biology. It is a fascinating subject that answers fundamental questions such as how did life first begin?

Why study Biology?

By studying Biology, you are choosing to study a subject that offers solutions and developments to social and ethical challenges. It is possibly the most actively changing and developing subject in the sciences, and has offered an advanced understanding of threats to human populations such as AIDS, as well as threats to conservation and habitats.

Are you unsure of the difference between Biological Sciences and Biology? Download our guide to help you decide which is right for you.

Course highlights

  • Biology is a wide-ranging subject that Leeds is well equipped to deliver through one of the UK’s largest and most diverse biology teaching groups. 
  • The degree is popular – for some it’s the breadth of the subject that appeals, for others it’s a path to specialisation. 
  • The common first year provides you with a broad foundation as a scientist, flexibility, and the opportunity to specialise in your chosen area in Years 2, 3 and 4.
  • In each year you will choose modules from our specialist degrees across the biology area (Biology with Enterprise, Genetics, Ecology and Environmental Biology, and Zoology), allowing you to follow your own biological interests. 
  • Our MBiol and industrial placement year programmes have received Advanced Accreditation by the Society of Biology.

Why Biology at Leeds

  • The school of Biology has an 88% student satisfaction rating with a 91% overall satisfaction score from first year students (NSS, 2015).
  • The school of Biological Sciences achieved a 92-96% overall satifaction for teaching and 95-97% overall satisfaction with learning resources (NSS, 2015).
  • 93% of our graduates are employed or in further study six months after graduation (DLHE 2013/14).

Advanced Accredited programme

Our MBiol and industrial placement year programmes have received advanced accreditation by the Royal Society of Biology.

Advanced Degree Accreditation by the Society recognises academic excellence in the biosciences, and highlights degrees that educate the research and development leaders and innovators of the future. The Advanced Accreditation criteria require evidence that graduates from the programme meet defined sets of learning outcomes, including gaining a substantial period of research experience.

Find out more about MBiol BSc Accreditation (pdf download).

This programme is also available part time. Please contact the Lifelong learning centre for more information.


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Course Overview

Our Biology degree starts broadly and then introduces more choice in years two, three and four, giving you the freedom to specialise or maintain breadth in your studies depending on your interests. We offer a range of topics from Diversity of Life to Organismal Evolution, and Animal Physiology. A highlight for many students are the field courses we offer throughout the degree. There is also the option to visit the Mpala Research Centre in Kenya in your fourth year of the MBiol. Visit Mpala Live! to see round-the-clock views of hippos, elephants, and other incredible species in Kenya’s Laikipia County, the area that surrounds the Mpala Research Centre and see where you could be studying.

These are typical modules/components studied and may change from time to time. Read more in our Terms and conditions

Our courses have a modular structure where you will be required to study 120 credits per year. 

The table below offers a brief insight into the types of modules you will be offered:

BSc Year 1 BSc Year 2 BSc Year 3
Core modules

Core modules

Core modules

  • Data Analysis
  • Biology Practicals
  • Cell Biology
  • Diversity of Life
  • Introduction to Genetics

All students take the programme-specified modules as shown below. Students can take modules specified for other biology programmes, optional modules or an elective module.

All students undertake a research project and choose modules from amongst those identified as appropriate to their programme.

  • Biology Practicals and Data Analysis
  • Ecology in a Changing World
  • Coastal & Upland Habitats Field Course
  • Applied Biology & Agriculture
  • Practical Applied Biology
  • Practical Genetics
  • Tutorials for Biology
  • How Plants Work
  • Organismal Evolution Animal Physiology from Ants to Whales
  • Genetics (Human Genetics, Genetic Engineering or Bacterial Genomics)
  • Enhanced Study Skills for Biologists.

Selection is made from the broad range of advanced level biological topics offered across all the specific biology programmes, including at least one module concentrating on each of the following levels of biological organisation:

  • molecules
  • organisms
  • populations

Course changes may occur given the fast-moving nature of the field and the above is an indicative list only.

BSc Year one

In year one, the research ethos is developed and fostered from the start via practicals and tutorials. The modules reflect the complexity of life forms from molecules, through organisms (both plants and animals) to populations. There is a residential field course in North Yorkshire to study coastal and uplands habitats.

BSc Year two

In year two you will build on your skills and knowledge from first year, with the option of taking modules from other disciplines, including genetics and zoology. There is also an optional Yorkshire Dales field course in terrestrial ecology and behaviour.

BSc Year three

In Year 3 you will study topics at the cutting edge of biological discovery, in areas such as epigenetics, behavioural ecology and conservation biology. You will undertake your own independent research, literature or computer based project. There is also a popular optional South African Ecology field course.

MBiol year three and four

Year 3 of the MBiol offers grounding for the step to masters level with compulsory preparation modules, an individual research project and a literature review project.

Year 4 will offers an optional field course to Africa. The African field course is based at Mpala Research Centre, Laikipia, Kenya. It provides a first-hand appreciation of the ecology and conservation concerns of an African savannah community, both for the wildlife and the people who live in the area.

In year 4 you will study a range of Masters level modules such as Host-Parasite Interactions and Infectious Diseases, as well as undertaking an extended research project that will provide you with more advanced research skills, ideal for numerous careers in industry and research.

Please note that year one and two are the same as the BSc for the MBiol.

To find out more about this MBiol degree programme download our guide and our overview on MBiol programmes.


Our degrees are delivered through a combination of lectures, tutorials and practicals. The first and second year will see a focus on these three teaching methods, building your skills, understanding and knowledge for your final year research project, which will see independent research and learning complemented with the guidance of leading experts.

Typical timetable (3 year BSc)

  • Year one includes twelve hours of lectures, a three hour practical session in the lab, additional workshop and seminar sessions, plus private study. 
  • Year two includes nine hours of lectures and nine hours of practicals, with a one hour tutorial or workshop, plus private study. 
  • In year three week you will have nine hours of lectures and extended time in a research laboratory, plus private study.

Discover more about our teaching.

The structure of your course will depend on the pathway that you choose:

Qualification Course Title Duration
BSc Biology 3 years
BSc Biology with industrial placement year 4 years
BSc Biology with a study year abroad 4 years
MBiol, BSc Biology 4 years
MBiol, BSc Biology with industrial placement year 5 years
MBiol, BSc Biology with a study year abroad 5 years



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Graduate Employment

Our biology students graduate into many different careers, including the pharmaceutical industry, agribusiness, conservation, environmental consultancy and education. Many graduates go on to specialise through further study such as a masters or PhD. Recent data has shown us that a starting salary within the field of Biology in the UK can amount to around £14,000 (DLHE 2012/1013).

Career destinations within the field of Biology have been widespread, and employment prospects have been proved to be high with recent graduates having secured jobs in a multitude of roles relating to the subject of Biology, with jobs being secured in an array of different establishments featuring city councils, hospitals, not-for-profit charities, housing associations, and private corporations in the industry of biology.

Recent graduate destinations include:

  • Campaign intern, Environmental Justice Foundation
  • Neighbourhood assessments intern, Leeds + Yorkshire Housing association
  • Field assistant, Silver Back
  • Research Assistant, University of Edinburgh
  • Business Development manager, Stephan Duggan Events
  • Pharmaceutical Marketer, Ashfield In2Focus
  • Ecologist, TEP
  • Admin Officer, St. James Hospital

 Sophie Mills: BSc Biology

In terms of finding a job I think going abroad shows a lot of qualities potential employers would want in a person, such as initiative, organisation, capability, and a sense of adventure! I’ve enjoyed meeting so many fantastic and interesting people that I wouldn’t have met otherwise, whilst enhancing my education, and seeing parts of the world that I didn’t think it was possible to see by the time I was 21!

Careers Support

We take personal development and career opportunities very seriously and the Faculty has a dedicated Employability Officer who works closely with the careers centre. We offer a host of additional opportunities beyond core course content, including volunteering and placement opportunities.

We organise regular careers workshops designed especially for biological sciences students to help develop their career opportunities, including the annual Bioscience Careers Networking Event, offering a chance to meet bioscience employers, speak to alumni, attend workshops and get masses of information.

Careers Centre

The Faculty works closely with the University’s Careers Centre, which is one of the largest in the country. The centre provides high-quality professional support and advice for all our students and access to thousands of opportunities for graduate employment, placements and internships.