Career - Bachelor Degree
Bachelor Degrees are also referred to as Undergraduate degrees. As significant differences exist from country to country with respect to duration, admission requirements, costs, & more, the following information should be considered as a guide only.
Bachelor degrees in the biosciences (e.g. Bachelor of Science) usually have a duration of 3 - 4 years. Examples of countries awarding Bachelor degrees within 3 years include Australia, New Zealand, United Kingdom and most of Europe, whilst 4 year examples include the United States and Canada, though many universities in these countries are moving towards 3 year programs. Most degrees are divided into semesters (usually two per year) with 3 – 4 subjects per semester.
For recent school leavers admission requirements usually consist of achieving above a defined minimum score upon completion of secondary / high schooling. In some circumstances the completion of specific secondary / high school subjects may also be required. Depending on the particular university and the particular degree, the completion of subjects such as chemistry and advanced mathematics to the secondary / high school level may be required for degree entry. For mature aged admission (without consideration of secondary / high school results or subjects) entry may be granted on completion of an entry exam, though advanced knowledge of specific foundation subjects such as biology and chemistry may be highly recommended.
In most countries the student is required to pay the cost for Bachelor degrees though the amount varies greatly from country to country. Fees are usually charged per semester. In this respect the student may only be required to pay for semesters undertaken should the student choose not to complete the degree. In some countries degree costs may be covered by government loans scheduled for repayment upon completion of the degree and the obtainment of paid work. In many cases, such loans are interest free. Given the large volume of students undertaking Bachelor degrees, government scholarships are rare in most countries.
Important things to consider
In the event that the student is unable to complete the degree (for any number of reasons), the granting of a lesser award, such as a diploma may be an option. Alternatively, completion of the degree may be deferred allowing the student to take a break from study to return at a later date to complete the degree.
Subjects / semesters completed at one university are often recognised by another. This is usually the case within a country where the standards of one university are considered equivalent to the standards of another. Using a three year degree as an example, should the first year be completed at a particular university, after which the student needs to relocate and hence attend a new university, the new university may allow the student to obtain the award of degree after completing two final years following recognition of the first year completed at the initial university.
In the event that a student fails a particular subject, the student may be required to repeat the entire subject incurring additional costs and time delaying graduation. Such policies vary from country to country. In some countries students are given the opportunity to resit any failed exams which is much more cost and time effective for the student.
The majority of bioscience related degrees usually include the following course activities: lectures, recommended text book and online personal study, supervised laboratory classes and written examinations. Course activities may also include small written assignments, field trips, oral presentations and in some cases short laboratory projects.
Bachelor degrees in the biosciences and your options
If you are unsure what particular area of the biosciences best suits you, you can choose to study a pre-designed degree such as Medical Science that covers a broad range of subjects. Such degrees allow you to gain experience in an array of subject areas whilst the structured nature ensures the degree is tailored for clear job outcomes.
Most flexible bioscience degrees have a very similar first year. After the first year you will then be able to decide if you prefer, for example, a Microbiology or a Molecular Biology focus for the final years though you may not have been able to decide between the two at the start of your degree. It may be smart to check in advance if the particular university or degree course you are considering offers this level of flexibility.
If you know your specific interests, flexible degrees such as Applied Science usually allow you to select your interests as a major. When you select a major this means that the majority of subjects you undertake in your final years should all be related or applicable to this particular study area (e.g. Biochemistry). Though you may be required to study three subjects per semester, the university may only offer two biochemistry-related subjects per semester. In this case you will also be required to select a minor to complete the three subjects per semester total. The minor may be derived from any other bioscience associated subject area or even from more diverse subject areas such as computing or management etc, whilst still granting you a bioscience degree based on your major. Adding such diversity to your degree may give you a competitive advantage. The particular subject areas chosen should be considered carefully against your desired career outcome.
Another option is to undertake a double degree. A double degree allows you to obtain in-depth qualifications in two distinctly different study areas but is completed in less time than if the two study areas were completed as separate degrees. For example, if you are interested in working in government planning and policy you may undertake a double degree in science and politics. Or if you are interested in working in management & sales for a large scientific equipment manufacturer you may undertake a double degree in Applied Science or Medical Science and business or marketing. Many universities have pre-designed double degree programs ready to go.
Even after completing your Bachelor degree, many other options will be available beyond the associated job outcomes related to your particular degree. You may wish to study to a higher level, Honours, Masters or a PhD, if you are interested in research. Or you may use you bioscience degree as a stepping stone into medicine. Or you may be interested in pursuing teaching, which may only require an extra year of study on top of your bioscience degree.