• University of Glasgow

So You Want to Study Life Science?

Explore the exciting subjects within life sciences and the rewarding careers that studying life sciences at university lead to.

6,669 enrolled on this course

A image depicting many forms of life! A sea turtle takes up most of the image. To the right is a bee landing on pink blossom with green bacteria, a blue strand of DNA and some pink cells in the background.

So You Want to Study Life Science?

6,669 enrolled on this course

  • 2 weeks

  • 2 hours per week

  • Digital certificate when eligible

  • Introductory level

Find out more about how to join this course

This short, free online course will introduce you to studying life sciences at university level.

We’ll take you on a whistle stop tour of the exciting world of life sciences, exploring the vast array of subjects within the discipline – from anatomy to zoology and everything in between, including immunology, cellular and molecular biology, genetics, physiology and parasitology.

Find out what it’s like to study and work in life sciences

You’ll also hear from individuals working in a range of different life sciences career areas, including basic, field and applied research, scientific communication, teaching and science writing.

You’ll also get lots of tips on preparing your university application, adjusting to life at university and securing that first life sciences job.

By the end of the two weeks, you’ll:

  • be aware of the variety of branches of life sciences;
  • be confident making a university application to study life sciences;
  • be able to describe some of the career pathways open to you as a life sciences graduate;
  • and have met other people on the same journey of exploration into life sciences.

Learn with the University of Glasgow – a life sciences centre of excellence

So You Want to Study the Life Sciences? has been developed by the University of Glasgow – a centre of excellence for many branches of life sciences.

On the course, you’ll learn with Leah Marks, Maria Jackson and a team of educators who, between them, have extensive experience across life sciences disciplines, including biochemistry, genetics, and cellular and molecular biology.You’ll follow the progress of student Kevin as he decides which subject to study at university.

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Skip to 0 minutes and 7 seconds KEVIN GLASGOW: Have you ever wondered what it’s like to study the fundamental building blocks of life, from the tiniest components that you couldn’t even see under a normal microscope, to the opposite extreme, organisms so large that even getting close enough to them can be a challenge in itself? In the two weeks of this course, we’re hoping to explore what it means to be a life scientist– to study life itself, and to talk about where that study can take you. We’ll speak to people working a wide range of careers, from a geneticist helping to diagnose complex conditions that have eluded scientists for decades, to a zoologist who is returning from field work in Tanzania.

Skip to 0 minutes and 41 seconds Whether you’re fascinated by life at the bottom of the ocean, or under the most extreme conditions that the human body can tolerate, whether human anatomy, or parasite survival is what captivates your interest, join us on this exciting journey. Glasgow University is an ideal place to begin this journey, due to its record in the area of life sciences. Here, world class research is intertwined with teaching excellence to give students the best possible learning environment. We hope that by the end of this course, you’ll be as excited about the wonders of life as we are. And we’ll have a better idea of how to follow a path of discovery in the life sciences.

Skip to 1 minute and 14 seconds Join us as we ask, ‘So you want to study life science’?


  • Week 1

    Welcome to life science!

    • Welcome and introduction

      Welcome to the course. In this activity you'll meet the educators and get a chance to introduce yourself to us!

    • Beginnings: What is Life Science?

      This activity will give you an overview of the history of the life sciences and allow you to think about some of the key events that have shaped the subject.

    • Which Life Science?

      In this activity we start to take a more in depth look at some of the individual subjects contained within life sciences. You'll learn more about Plant Science, Physiology and Sports Science, and Molecular biology/Genetics.

    • Thinking Ahead: Careers

      An important area to consider when deciding what to study at university is where it might lead you. We explore some of the possible career areas that life science graduates enter

    • Week 1 Summary

      We ask you what you've learned this week and Kevin brings us up to date with his thoughts.

  • Week 2

    In depth life science

    • Applying to university and becoming a student

      We discuss the things to think about when preparing your application to study life sciences and talk to some current life science students to find out what life is really like at university.

    • Which Life Science? (Part 2)

      Following on from last week, we look at a different selection of life sciences including anatomy, immunology and marine biology. Which one will you find most interesting?

    • Thinking Ahead: Careers (Part 2)

      Another selection of careers that a degree in life science might lead to. Hear from individuals working in the pharmaceutical industry, research and teaching as well as considering the possibility of a career in science writing.

    • Week 2 Summary and Goodbye!

      Before we leave you, we think about how to make the most of your time at university and want to find out what you have learnt over the past two weeks.

When would you like to start?

Start straight away and join a global classroom of learners. If the course hasn’t started yet you’ll see the future date listed below.

  • Available now

Learning on this course

On every step of the course you can meet other learners, share your ideas and join in with active discussions in the comments.

What will you achieve?

By the end of the course, you‘ll be able to...

  • Demonstrate an awareness of the variety of branches of life sciences;
  • Explore factors relevant to making a university application to study life sciences;
  • Describe some of the career pathways open to you as a life sciences graduate;
  • Engage with other people on the same journey of exploration into life sciences.

Who is the course for?

This course will be of particular interest to individuals considering going to university or college to study a life sciences related subject.

While the Educators themselves aren’t available to facilitate this run, we encourage you to engage with other learners and there are opportunities to do this throughout the course.

Who will you learn with?

My PhD was in Developmental Medicine and I am currently a Senior Lecturer in Medical Genetics at the University of Glasgow. I have also been a Senior Fellow of the HEA since 2016.

My PhD was undertaken in the Genetics Department at the University of Leicester, and I'm currently a Senior Lecturer in Medical Genetics at the University of Glasgow. I'm a Senior Fellow of the HEA.

BSc (Hons) Genetics 2012
MSc (Med Sci) Medical Genetics 2013
Genetic Technologist 2015-16
Trainee Clinical Scientist (Genomics) 2016-2019
Advanced Healthcare Scientist /Clinical Scientist (2019-current)

Who developed the course?

The University of Glasgow

Founded in 1451, the University of Glasgow is the fourth oldest university in the English-speaking world. It is a member of the prestigious Russell Group of leading UK research universities.

  • Established

  • Location

    Glasgow, Scotland, UK
  • World ranking

    Top 70Source: QS World University Rankings 2020

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Ways to learn

Choose the best way to learn for you!

Buy this course

$109/one-off payment

Fulfill your current learning need

  • Access to this course
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Printed and digital certificate when you’re eligible

Subscribe & save

$349.99 for one year

Automatically renews

Develop skills to further your career

  • Access to this course
  • Access to 1,000+ courses
  • Learn at your own pace
  • Discuss your learning in comments
  • Digital certificate when you're eligible

Cancel for free anytime

Limited access


Sample the course materials

  • Access expires 8 Aug 2024

Find out more about certificates, Unlimited or buying a course (Upgrades)

Learning on FutureLearn

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  • Courses are split into weeks, activities, and steps to help you keep track of your learning
  • Learn through a mix of bite-sized videos, long- and short-form articles, audio, and practical activities
  • Stay motivated by using the Progress page to keep track of your step completion and assessment scores

Join a global classroom

  • Experience the power of social learning, and get inspired by an international network of learners
  • Share ideas with your peers and course educators on every step of the course
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Map your progress

  • As you work through the course, use notifications and the Progress page to guide your learning
  • Whenever you’re ready, mark each step as complete, you’re in control
  • Complete 90% of course steps and all of the assessments to earn your certificate

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