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Biology and the Environment

Endangered speciesMany people are interested in biology because of the opportunity to help the environment. Find out about the jobs and courses available.

What jobs could I do?

  • Research into the environment is the first step in making a difference - after all, how can you save the world until you’ve worked out what it needs saving from? Research work can be direct and hands-on, but there are other roles, too. For example, deciding which projects will receive funding requires someone with a good understanding of the area.
  • R&D (research and development) might make you think of engineering, but technologies like genetic engineering make it an option for biologists, too. For example, genetically modified versions of bacteria that ‘eat’ oil have been used to help to clean up oil spills.
  • Conservation work is more direct and hands on. This involves managing areas to make sure the species that live there can thrive, requiring in-depth knowledge of how different species live, adapt and interact.

Who could I work for?

If you’re interested in research, this will usually mean doing a Master’s degree or a PhD and finding a research post at a university. However, research is also carried out by government departments and, sometimes, by charities.

R&D careers are more likely to be with private companies, but again a lot of work at the cutting edge of bioengineering and similar areas takes place in universities.

Conservation work is often done by government departments or by charities, although it may be possible to work for a private company as a consultant, for example.

What courses are available?

Some universities, including Queen’s University Belfast and Plymouth University, offer specific degrees in Environmental Biology. These cover the environmental elements of biology in great detail, but are also designed to give you the skills you need for a career in ecology, conservation or another environmental area. However, there’s plenty of relevant content in less specialist biology degrees.

There are also a wide variety of more specific master’s degrees available, which may be required for some roles, especially in research.

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