School of Life Sciences

Undergraduate study

Biology science equipment in the lab

More than looking down a microscope

Our School of Life Sciences trains the biologists of the future.

From biomedical scientists who help diagnose disease, to marine biologists who see first-hand the impact of climate change, a life sciences degree can set you up for a rewarding career in your field of interest.

At Essex we know that choosing the right degree can be hard. Do you go for biochemistry or biomedical science? Why should you pick the BSc Marine Biology over BSc Biological Sciences? How do you choose between genetics and human biology?

To help with this our School offers a wide range of specialist modules, giving you an opportunity to try other areas of interest. This means that if you suddenly discover a new passion for a different area of life sciences, you may be able to change your course. And if you choose a broader degree, such as our BSc Biological Sciences, then our module choices mean you can still specialise in an area of interest such as ecology and conservation.

We get you ready for future employment by embedding the skills you need in our courses. Throughout your time with us you’ll have opportunities to apply for work experience placements, take part in paid and volunteer opportunities on campus, and join field trips across the UK or abroad. All of these possibilities enhance your skills, and can go on your CV as examples of your passion and commitment to your life sciences interests.

Whatever the future holds, the science of life has a place in it.

Explore our Undergraduate courses
Why choose us?
  • 15th in UK for overall student satisfaction for Biosciences (National Student Survey 2022)
  • 83% of our School of Life Sciences graduates are in employment or further study (Graduate Outcomes 2022)
  • Our lecturers are active researchers, so the latest research is embedded in our teaching.

Graduate stories

A head and shoulders photo of Phoebe Magnone, a graduate from the School of Life Sciences.
"I really enjoyed studying medical microbiology at Essex. By this point I realised that I wanted to study medicine, and the way this course was run really held my attention. I also found immunology and cancer biology to be very interesting, and all of these have been incredibly useful and relevant for my current course. I'm now on the MBBS Graduate and Professional Entry Programme at King's College London. If I hadn't been at Essex, I wouldn't have realised how much I loved human biology. There was a particular staff member who helped me become more resilient, confident, and independent, things which are essential in medicine, and I will be eternally grateful to her."
Phoebe Magnone BSc Biomedical Science, 2018

What does our School offer you?

Pursue your scientific interests

Our range of modules means that you have an opportunity to pursue your interests, as well as try new ones you’ve always wanted to learn more about.

Throughout your degree you’ll undertake a series of core modules that form the backbone of your course. Some of these are consistent across our degrees, which gives you the opportunity to swap course if you change your mind once you’ve started.

You will then have a range of optional modules to choose from. These specialist modules mean that you can pick a particular area of interest to focus on, or try out several areas that have always looked interesting, but that you never had the opportunity study before.

Explore our Undergraduate courses

Integrated Masters degrees

We offer Integrated Masters degrees in Biomedical Science, Tropical Marine Biology, and Biochemistry and Biotechnology.

An Integrated Masters degree is an ideal option if you know you would like to continue into to Postgraduate study after completing your undergraduate degree. You may already have a specialist career in mind that will need you to have a Master of Science degree, or you may want to stand out from the crowd when it comes to applying for jobs in the future.

By undertaking an Integrated Masters degree you will automatically move in to teaching for your Masters degree after your final undergraduate year, without needing to apply separately to stay for a Masters degree. Depending on the degree you may also still be able to undertake a Placement year or a Year Abroad during your undergraduate studies.

View our Integrated Masters degrees

In the field activities

Depending on your degree you may find there are opportunities to join in on our field trips around the UK and the rest of the world (which sometimes involve additional costs). These trips can enhance what you are learning in the lab, or give you a chance to put what you've learnt into practice.

Marine biology

For marine biology students our coastal Essex location gives us easy access to the beautiful East Anglian coast and the Thames Estuary. Many of our marine biology academic staff carry out research in these areas, so you benefit from their experience and expertise in these environments.

We may also run field trips abroad, including Greece and Indonesia (although there are additional costs for these trips). Here you can visit pristine coral reefs, get experience in scuba diving and ship-based data collections, and help in important conservation and research work.

Other degrees

During your time studying our other courses you may have opportunities for field trips around the UK. This can include visits to the Institute of Biomedical Science in London, the Public Health England site at Colindale, and conferences and other relevant professional events.

Investment in facilities

Along with our home in the Life Sciences building, we have a large undergraduate teaching lab in the new STEM Centre.

This innovative teaching space includes a range of specialist equipment for teaching and research, such as our integrated digital microscopes, which allow you to take photos of your findings for future analysis, send them to your lecturer as part of your reports, or share them to the class through digital screens around the lab.

Specialist and transferable skills

In our School we understand that your undergraduate degree is important for your success at finding a job in the future. We work hard to ensure that our degrees equip you with everything you need to start a fulfilling career in your chosen field.

You’ll get a thorough grounding in all the specialist scientific skills that the 21st century biologist needs. You’ll gain experience in making the most of sophisticated laboratory equipment and specialist software, learn how to collate, analyse and report on large datasets, and enhance your numerical, statistical and literacy skills.

We teach you more than science. We offer a “Transferable skills in Life Sciences” module in your first year, which gives you a strong foundation of oral and written communication skills, and planning, study, and research skills. You build on this work throughout the rest of your degree, as these skills feature in many of the modules you take over the following years.

On top of this we also have specialist modules tailored to the employability skills for each degree. These help you understand specific aspects of your professional development that you can refer to when it comes to applying for jobs and entering the world of work.

All this means that you’ll finish your degree with a strong set of complementary scientific and transferable skills, as well as organisational skills and experience of teamwork. These skills are in demand with employers across all sectors, giving you ample examples to mention in job applications and interviews.

Your career

Whatever your future plans, we’re here to help you take the first steps towards your career. Our Careers Services team offer a range of support services including help with writing your CV, events focused on applications and interviews, and mentoring.

Life sciences is an important and growing field of research and employment around the world, and graduates are in high demand. By the time you leave Essex you’ll be equipped with the skills and experience needed to flourish in the world of work. 

Some of the areas our graduates have gone on to include:

  • Public sector, including central government departments such as DEFRA and the NHS, and local government groups such as Suffolk County Council.
  • Private and third sector, including GlaxoSmithKline, BUPA, and Essex Wildlife Trust.
  • Further study, including medical school, or a research degree.

Some of our students also choose to stay with us, or return at a later date, for another year of study by undertaking a Masters degree. This can help you enhance your skills for a particular role that you wish to work towards or be promoted to, such as a researcher for a pharmaceutical company.

Learn more about careers in the life sciences

Placement year and year abroad

Many of our undergraduate degrees can be taken over four years, with a “placement year” between your second and final years. With advice from our School and the University’s Student Development team, you can search and apply for a work placement with a range of life sciences groups, such as the NHS, medical and conservation charities, and biomedical and pharmaceutical research companies.

Alternatively many of our degrees can include a year abroad. This gives you a chance to experience life and education in another country. You can enhance your language skills if you have already been studying another language, but if foreign languages don't come easy to you then don’t worry! We have partnerships with institutions in English-speaking countries including Canada and Australia.

What if you sign up for a placement or year abroad degree and change your mind? No problem! We know that things can change once you arrive at university. If you decide to, you can simply swap on to a standard three-year degree.

Our expert staff

Our lecturers are experts in their respective fields who have research interests in wide-ranging, high-impact areas such as cancer biology, plant science, marine conservation, and neurological diseases such as Parkinson's.

This means that what you learn in the classroom is cutting-edge and up-to-date - we provide relevant teaching underpinned by the latest scientific research.

Throughout the academic year our School runs a research seminar series featuring guest speakers from other institutions around the world, as well as our own academics and postgraduate students. Undergraduates are encouraged to attend these seminars, which highlight some of the latest theories and discoveries within areas of biology and introduce you to the world of life sciences research outside Essex.


Some of our degrees are accredited by the Institute of Biomedical Sciences (IBMS).

This important accreditation reflects on our high quality of teaching throughout your degree, and means you can jump straight in to a career in NHS labs across the country. 

Part of our community

Our School works hard to foster a feeling of community, bringing together people from all backgrounds who share a passion for life sciences. We offer a lively, friendly, and supportive environment, from the professional services and technicians teams who manage the administrative side of your degree and assist in our labs, through to the academics who teach and support you.

The University's Students' Union hosts a large collection of student-run societies, including the Life Sciences Society, the Marine Conservation Society, and the Green Thumbs Society. Through these societies, you can take part in activities and trips, and make new friends in the School beyond your classes.

A picture of Lucy Gardner, a graduate from the School of Life Sciences.
"I am currently in my first year of studying Medicine at Barts and the London School of Medicine and Dentistry, and I’ve recently completed a two-week placement in ophthalmology in Whipps Cross Hospital. Studying biomedical science at Essex gave me a great foundation of knowledge which underpins so much of what I am now learning in medical school – having studied biochemistry, genetics and microbiology has all been useful."
Lucy Gardner BSc Biomedical Science, 2018

Covid-19 and your studies

Covid vaccination and your course

As you may be aware, the UK Government revoked legislation in 2022 that required all health and social care staff working in sites regulated by the Care Quality Commission (CQC) in England to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19.

This legislation would have applied to all students undertaking practice placements in affected settings during the course of their studies on any healthcare programme. However, this is no longer the case.

We continue to encourage applicants to be vaccinated before their arrival with us to protect themselves, their friends and families, their classmates, our staff, and those they will be working with on placement. Some placement providers have indicated that they still require students on placement to be vaccinated for their own and others safety. 

In our School of Life Sciences, this includes students on the following courses:

  • BSc Biomedical Science
  • BSc Biomedical Science (including a year abroad)
  • BSc Biomedical Science (including a placement year)
  • BSc Biomedical Science (including foundation year)
  • BSc Applied Biomedical Science (including NHS placement)
  • MSci Biomedical Science (with Integrated Masters)
  • MSci Biomedical Science (with Integrated Masters and a year abroad)
  • MSci Biomedical Science (with Integrated Masters and a placement year)

Support and information is available to help make decisions about COVID-19 vaccination.

Thank you for your understanding and co-operation with this matter.

Student typing on a laptop
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