Skip main navigation

New offer! Get 30% off one whole year of Unlimited learning. Subscribe for just £249.99 £174.99. New subscribers only T&Cs apply

Find out more

An overview of life science careers for graduates

Dr Leah Marks gives an overview of the types of careers that a degree in life sciences can lead to. Let's explore.
Scientist looking at a red liquid in a conical flask
© University of Glasgow, 2016

Often when we think of a career in science, our thoughts are limited to what we’ve seen depicted on TV and this often seems to revolve around working in a laboratory.

A career in science

This is certainly one major area that life scientists do go into and having worked in a laboratory myself for several years, I can assure you that life in the lab is never dull.

There are two main types of laboratory – diagnostic and research.

Diagnostic labs

Diagnostic labs are often associated with health services and can be biochemical, microbiology, genetics amongst others. The main focus is getting accurate and timely results to patients in order to enhance their care.

Research labs

Research labs on the other hand can be based in universities, in small biotechnology firms or in major pharmaceutical companies. In this type of lab work, you would typically be working on specific projects, trying to devise and answer hypotheses.

You would expect to present your findings to other scientists, often through writing up research papers for publication or by oral or poster presentation at conferences – these can be international and provide an excellent opportunity to travel.

Life science careers are varied

However, life science careers can be as varied as the subject themselves and you could find yourself doing anything from monitoring the breeding habits of rats to performing experiments with school children in local science centres and everything in between.

Sales, marketing, and product design careers are all possibilities, especially within the buoyant life technology industries. Environmental monitoring and quality assurance and control, for example within the food industry, are further types of employment that you might not even have considered.

Further study

Many graduates do go on to do further study, whether this is a master’s or PhD level. Some even choose to do a second degree in a more directly vocational subject such as medicine or physiotherapy. A good proportion of graduates also enter teaching after having taken an appropriate postgraduate qualification.

Work experience

Where you end up working will partly be down to chance, but there are many steps you can take before and during your degree to ensure you don’t just drift into a career. Things like work experience, summer internships and short projects are all ways you can not only enhance your own CV but also get a taster for the type of career you might be interested in.

If you’d like to learn more about studying life science, check out the full online course from The University of Glasgow, below.

© University of Glasgow, 2016
This article is from the free online

So You Want to Study Life Science?

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Reach your personal and professional goals

Unlock access to hundreds of expert online courses and degrees from top universities and educators to gain accredited qualifications and professional CV-building certificates.

Join over 18 million learners to launch, switch or build upon your career, all at your own pace, across a wide range of topic areas.

Start Learning now