For information on the range of career options available to graduates of Life Sciences related courses please see the Faculty of Life Sciences Careers page
Graduates from Biology go into a range of careers. Around a third choose to work in scientific research and development, which may require significant postgraduate study, usually a PhD. Around two thirds of graduates choose other career options such as teaching or communicating science, as well as careers unrelated to the life sciences including management, finance, marketing and the civil service.
Recent graduates have secured roles as:
- Graduate Trainee at a brewing research company
- Clinical Safety Scientist at a multinational pharmaceutical company
- Trainee Cellular Pathology Scientist for a biotechnology company
- Genetic Technologist for the NHS
- Product Development Scientist for a healthcare company
- Research Technician for a biotechnology company
- Trainee Medical Writer for a medical communications company
- Instructor for a science education company
- Account Handler for a pharmaceutical company
- Project Co-ordinator for a science education charity
Non Life Science roles included:
- Associate Tax Consultant for a multinational accountancy firm
- Healthcare Team Manager at a multinational pharmacy group
Biology Graduate Profile - Medical Writer, HealthEd
Biology Graduate Profile - PhD Student, University of Manchester
Biology is the study of living organisms. The Biology course at Manchester offers flexibility and diversity. This means that you can keep your options broad and cover a wide range of areas, but similarly you can focus on particular biological topics when you realise that these are areas that interest and excite you most. As Biology Course Director I support and positively encourage the flexibility that the biology course offers.
“By undertaking a Degree in Biology the breadth of the subject can be tailor-made to meet your interests.”
My own research area is cardiac physiology in ectotherms. I am interested in strategies of cardiac adaptation that permit maintenance of heart function in animals living in fluctuating environments. For example, changes in temperature, pH, or oxygen dramatically affect the ability of the heart to maintain normal function and yet many ectothermic animals experience these changes during their everyday existence.
Although my specific area of research focuses on animals, I am a biologist and I appreciate the advantages of looking at a wide range of organisms and the breadth of processes organisms employ. Lessons can be learnt from talking to people who work on different organisms or different levels of organization within an organism. By undertaking a Degree in Biology the breadth of the subject can be tailor-made to meet your interests.
What degree did you do at Manchester?
BSc (Hons) Biology, I graduated in 2004.
What job do you do now?
Medical Writer, HealthEd.
What were the highlights and the biggest challenges for you whilst you were studying at Manchester?
I think the highlight of studying at Manchester was the variety of courses on offer within my degree. I could study anything from plant ecology to pharmacology to animal behaviour. The calibre of teaching was also excellent and we were learning about cutting-edge developments in biology that were taking place within the University research departments. I also met some fantastic people who I still remain friends with. Of course the degree wasn't without its challenges. Workload was heavy (especially in the final year)and juggling this with everything else in life could sometimes be challenging!
How has your career progressed since leaving Manchester?
After graduating from Manchester I took a role in medical publishing which led to my current role as a Medical Writer. I have been a Medical Writer since 2006 and find it very interesting and rewarding. I work for a company who specialise in patient education materials. We produce information for patients about a variety of health-related subjects. This includes writing about specific disease areas as well as healthy-living and psychosocial advice. Our information is presented in a variety of formats from printed items to websites and DVDs. I also write information for healthcare professionals, which may involve medical education programmes and patient-counselling tools.
What is the most interesting thing about your job?
The most interesting thing about being a medical writer for me is learning about different therapy areas and new developments in these areas and the variety of the workload. I also enjoy the fact that the materials I produce help people understand more about their illness and raise awareness of different conditions.
How do the skills you learnt during your degree help with your job?
My degree in Biology gave me the foundation knowledge needed to write confidently about a variety of health-related topics. It also gave me core skills that help me in my role as a medical writer such as knowledge of biostatistics.
Do you have any advice for anyone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Many medical writers have PhDs, however it is not essential. Most companies employ graduates as associate or junior writer and you recieve on the job training and (hopefully) progression to medical writer. The link below provides a list of medical communications companies.
What degree did you do?
I did a BSc (Hons) in Biology, graduating in 2008.
What was the highlight and biggest challenge of your degree?
I really enjoyed having the freedom to follow my interests within biology through the variety of courses on offer and the flexibility of the degree programme. It helped me find my way in the subject and focus my interests. The biggest challenge, but also the most rewarding, was my final year project. It was a bit daunting to be thrown in at the deep end in a “proper” lab setting to work independently, but this ultimately gave me a taste of what it’s like to be a real scientist and inspired me to work in research.
What job/course do you do now?
I’m currently studying for my PhD in biochemistry, specifically looking at how proteins are targeted and transported across membranes.
What does it involve on a typical day?
Most days vary, but they usually involve designing and conducting my own experiments. I make radioactively labelled proteins and can follow their movement across membranes. Interfering with this process allows me to understand some of the machinery involved in targeting the proteins to the membrane. I have frequent meetings with my supervisor to talk through results and establish what directions my research will go. I attend lectures from visiting scientists and have even presented some of my own work at conferences in the UK and abroad.
How did the skills you learnt in your degree help you get your job/PhD?
I use pretty much everything I ever learnt in my degree. Obviously you will need most of the scientific knowledge, but my degree helped to develop other skills too. Time management, extended writing, and communication skills are all vital to success in whatever field you choose to go into.
What do you plan to do next?
I’m hoping to continue in research, hopefully as a post-doctoral researcher.
Any advice for applicants?
Some of the degree options can be a bit daunting (especially in biology). Don’t worry about specialising too early, take some time to figure out what you’re interested in. Also make sure you enjoy yourself at uni and get involved in as much as possible, you never know where it will lead.
What degree did you do?
BSc Hons Biology, Graduated 2004 MRes Biological Sciences, Graduated 2005
I initially worked as a Project Manager then Senior Project Manager for a Medical Communications agency (involved in delivery of publication strategies, standalone meetings, satellite symposia, advisory boards, training materials, abstracts, posters, publications etc). From this I then transferred into the public sector working as a manager for a Clinical Trials Coordination team (Gastro-Intestinal). My remit has extended as I have worked through the ranks and I now work across many different disease specialised teams in an oncology setting at The Christie Hospital in Manchester. My role is still research focussed with overarching responsibility for the 75 Trials Coordination staff we employ at this Trust.
What attracted you to this career?
I knew from my year completing the MRes that I did not want a bench-focussed career. My natural skill set lent itself to a more project management focussed career but I wanted to retain an element of my degrees in what I did. My roles since graduating have fitted this brief perfectly.
How do you think the knowledge and skills you gained as part of your degree helped you in securing this job?
As my career has been in a research focussed setting within medical research, a prerequisite for most roles has been a life sciences degree. Employers in this field are always looking for science graduates that have a solid medical/ science grounding, coupled with the IT, presentation, planning and analytical skills that are usually consolidated as part of a degree programme.
What does the job entail in a typical day or a typical week?
My current role is very varied, ranging from planning hosted conferences, overarching line management of the Trials Coordination staff, building relationships with pharmaceutical companies and streamlining the processes used in the Trust in terms of data collection, study set-up etc.
What do you enjoy the most/find the most interesting about your job?
The variety is brilliant. Weeks vary from having a HR hat on when dealing with complex cases of absence/ capability management through to having the autonomy to implement change and move with the ever varying nature of research in an oncology setting.
Do you have any advice for people who might want to follow in your footsteps?
Clinical research is a really interesting path having completed a life sciences degree. The Christie supports the development of new graduates in this arena and it is worth contacting the Trust to see if you can volunteer within the R&D division to get a taster of what roles are out there and the career paths you can take.