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What is Biology?

Biology is the study of life. Students interested in careers in biology will employ the processes of science in their investigations and explore the diversity of life and the inter-relationship between organisms and their environment.

What 3rd level courses are available?

Universities and colleges in Ireland are offering courses in the following subject areas:

  • Biomedical Science – the study of Life Science subjects related to human health and disease.
  • Marine Biology – the study of life in the oceans and other saltwater environments such as estuaries and wetlands.
  • Microbiology –  the study of all living organisms that are too small to be visible with the naked eye.
  • Molecular Biology – the processes common to all life forms, with emphasis on animal cell biology, learning about molecular biology and cell functions, differentiation, ageing and tumorigenesis.

Studying Biology in College

Most first year study involves an overview of the subject. This is a great way for students to develop an understanding of some of the major sub-disciplines of biology, which they will maybe go onto specialise in.

Biology courses require a lot of lectures, alongside practical work and in-course assessment.

Typically, as the course progresses students spend less time going to lectures and spending the bulk of their time in labs and/or doing fieldwork. Students will often narrow down their field of study to focus on specialised modules as they progress towards their final research project.

Most biology courses combine exams, assessed practical work, assignments and presentations.

Most undergraduate biology courses run for three or four years and in certain cases universities will facilitate work experience. 

It is common with all science-based subjects that students are expected to engage in a high number of contact hours with lecturers and tutors, ensuring their successful completion of a rigorous curriculum and preparing them for careers in biology after university.

A bachelor’s degree is adequate for some non-research jobs. For example, graduates with a bachelor’s degree may start as biological scientists in testing and inspection or may work in jobs related to biological science, such as technical sales or service representatives. Some work as research assistants, laboratory technicians, or high school biology teachers. Many with a bachelor’s degree in biology enter medical, dental, veterinary, or other health profession schools.

Career Options

Graduating from college with a degree in Biology will serve you well in the jobs market as it equips you for a wide variety of careers in biology related settings, particularly if you have had some hands-on experience during your degree. With a degree and practical real-world skills in hand there are a number of avenues to explore in the environmental and biological sciences, the biotechnology sector, or in a medical profession.

 It is not uncommon to start off at an “entry-level” job and many begin as biological scientists in testing and inspection or find work in jobs related to biological science, such as technical sales or service representatives. Some work as research assistants, laboratory technicians, or go on to teach. 

Other careers in biology that require a higher degree of responsibility will typically require further education, training and/or experience to qualify for, eg teaching, research and consulting positions.

Most Biologists work in research and development. Their work involves research in order to gain a fuller and clearer understanding of fundamental life processes and advance our knowledge of living organisms. That understanding can then be applied to developing new products or processes, such as drugs, pesticides,  treatments, medical diagnostic tests, vaccines or policies that can help protect humans, animals and plants.

 Related jobs include:

  • Agricultural Biologist
  • Biotechnologist
  • Marine scientist
  • Microbiologist
  • Research Scientist
  • Zookeeper
  • Ecologist
  • Teacher
  • Healthcare Scientist
  • Nanoscientist
  • Pharmacologist
  • Forensic Scientist
  • Quality Control Scientist

Further study

An undergraduate biology degree is often the first step to go onto further postgraduate study often involving specialization in particular fields and areas of biology and/or undertaking work in new, sometimes interdisciplinary fields, such as bioengineering, biopharmaceutical, agrochemical and biotechnological areas of research.

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  • What points do I need to study Biology?
    • Different courses and different colleges will have different entry requirements. It’s always best that you check with the individual higher education institution which is available on their websites. As a general rule Leaving Cert students should have a minimum of six subjects which should include: Two H5 (Higher Level) grades and Four O6 (Ordinary Level) grades or four H7 (Higher Level) grades. Subjects must include Mathematics, Irish or another language, and English.
    • Last year students required 441 CAO Points to study Biological and Chemical Sciences at University of Limerick. Whereas 543 CAO Points were required to study Biological and Biomedical Sciences at Trinity College.
  • Are there any particular qualities you need to study biology?
    • You should be able to work independently, or as part of a team and be able to communicate clearly and concisely, both in speaking and in writing. Lab work and field research requires physical stamina, and a high degree of patience and self-discipline in order to conduct long and detailed research projects. 
    • You need to have a firm grasp of what you are studying and be comfortable with general concepts. You need to be curious and embrace your role as researcher. Finally you need to be driven, determined and confident.
  • Where can I study Biology?
    • Explore your options here

Did You Know?

  • It would take someone typing 60 words per minute, eight hours a day, around 50 years to type the human genome.
  • The taste cells in our taste buds live for only about two weeks.
  • Your spit contains your entire genetic blueprint.
  • An adult is made up of 7,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 (7 octillion) atoms.


Ethan Moser

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