Careers and employability

Careers and employability

Studying biosciences provides you with an intrinsic understanding of life in all its forms – whether it be relating to the environment or researching organisms and molecules, among others.

The knowledge and key transferable skills developed as part of any of our undergraduate Biosciences degree courses provides an exceptional foundation for numerous careers across a variety of sectors.

Your degree will equip you with a comprehensive understanding of the very latest developments within the constantly evolving field of biosciences, and how they form a central part of global thinking on a wide range of topics.

So whatever your ambitions, you can be confident that a degree from Biosciences at the University of Exeter can provide a gateway to your chosen career aspirations.

Achieve your ambitions

The majority of our Biosciences undergraduate programmes are recognised by the Society of Biology. The Society website provides useful details for students including information about graduate career paths.

The University of Exeter also has an excellent reputation with graduate recruiters and our students and graduates compete very successfully in the employment market. Whatever path you wish to follow after graduation, we’re here to help and support you with all your career and employability needs. Further information about the career destinations of recent graduates can be found on the programme pages.

Work placements and industrial experience

My 12 month placement was with SHELL in Houston, Texas. I applied for the placement thinking that it would be an incredible opportunity for work experience that would help me to get a job after university. I believe that having worked for an internationally acclaimed company is a great benefit to any student. I also liked the idea of working in another country, which is a unique selling point and grabbed my interest. I planned to spend the year working in a laboratory situation to see whether scientific research would be the career that I want to pursue after I graduate. I wanted to experience real-life, cutting-edge science and see how I coped under the pressure of a full-time job. The placement has exceeded my expectations. With five months to go, I have already learnt a lot about myself and how I work. The year has also spurred my interest in doing a PhD after I graduate. The rewards from my year have not been purely academic; I have also been able to visit some incredible places whilst living in America, as well as making wonderful new friends and saving up some money. Overall, I think the benefits of undertaking a placement year whilst doing your degree is tremendous and I would definitely recommend it.

Alice Hunter, BSc Biological Sciences.

A fascinating year using the theory I've learnt to carry out research in a globally important field.  I've gained invaluable experience with personal guidance from countless world leading experts, something that just isn't possible in the university environment. Every week brings something new and I have loved the diversity and unpredictability of it all. I started this module unsure about research as a career but now I've found my perfect job.

Emma Knight, BSc Biological Sciences.

I am doing my placement at the GSK R&D site and am really enjoying it. I have learnt so much about the different aspects of drug discovery and have really enjoyed all the practical work I do in the laboratory. I think that all modules have helped me in my work - even though they may not be directly related to what I am doing, but they all taught me critical thinking, planning and data analysis - specifically through practical work and write - ups, as I need to write up every experiment I do at work. ​While I have been on my placement I have immensely improved my laboratory skills - planning entire experiments, working around any difficulties, data analysis and time management. I have also had the privilege of interacting with scientists from different backgrounds. Not only have I learnt about them and their career, but I have been able to work with them, ask for their opinions and expertise whenever I need it and shadow them to increase my knowledge.

Paula Usackaite, BSc Biological Sciences.

In today’s competitive job market, employers look much more favourably on graduates with relevant work experience. Yet, as press articles have shown, the best work experience often tends to go to the students with the best contacts. Our aim is to provide all of our students with opportunities to gain high quality work experience during their degrees. Our Employability Team works with careers, alumni and academic staff on our campuses in both Cornwall and Exeter. You will be encouraged to take the opportunity to develop your work-based skills though placements during the course of your degree.

Our BSc Biological Sciences, BSc Biochemistry, and BSc Biological and Medicinal Chemistry all have a 4-year option with Industrial Experience or Professional Placement incorporating a year-long placement in industry. In the past, students have worked with host organisations such as Shell, Cefas and GlaxoSmithKline. Final year student William George also undertook a placement with Fullbright in 2014 and has collated a video of his experiences whilst on placement.

Enhancing your employability

With an increasingly competitive job market, planning for your future career should begin the moment that you arrive at university.

Here at the University of Exeter, we understand how important it is to not only make the most of your time studying with us, but also make the most of your full potential once you have graduated.

There are a number of opportunities for you to develop your career aspirations, whether you’re based on our campuses in Cornwall or Exeter:

  • The CareerZone organises a series of pivotal events throughout the year, including careers fairs, forums and workshops
  • Widen Your Options is a fortnight of events, which takes place during the spring term, to give students access to industry professionals from a range of sectors
  • The Exeter Award is designed to enhance the employability of University of Exeter graduates by providing official recognition and evidence of extra-curricular activities and achievements
  • eXfactor is the employability and professional development day that aims to encourage you to consider what motivates you; where your interests and values lie; what skills you may already have; and which skills you need to develop in preparation for graduate level employment or further study.
  • Green Consultants trains students to undertake practical work as a junior consultant dealing with environmental and sustainability issues in organisations.
  • The Career Mentor Scheme is a unique opportunity for all current students to be matched with an experienced professional to gain one-to-one careers advice, support and guidance into their profession and sector for 6-months.
  • eXepert Scheme provides students and recent graduates the opportunity to contact University alumni to gain advice on how to enter their chosen sector, work for a certain company, become self-employed or benefit from possible networking opportunities and contacts.

Activities in Exeter

'What next after a Biosciences Degree?' event

A Career in Bioinformatics event.

Access to first-hand knowledge and experience is crucial in helping you to decide the right career path for you.

Having the opportunity to speak directly with those already successfully working in your chosen field can help strengthen your aspirations about what you want to achieve once you leave university life. In 2014 / 2015 we held a number of employability events for our students:

What next after a Biosciences Degree?

All Biosciences students were invited to attend an evening event hosted by various Biosciences alumni who came to share their experiences and career paths. Our speakers offered a variety of tips and advice to students throughout each of their presentations. They highlighted to students the need to be prepared to work hard, to chase every opportunity, to network and build trust with others, to step outside their comfort zones and to aim to build a legacy they could be proud of. Students then took the opportunity to network with our speakers on a one to one basis, finding more out about the various roles and paths our alumni have taken after graduating with a Biosciences degree.

To PhD or Not to PhD?

Current PhD and Post Doc students delivered a talk to all Biosciences and Medical Science students about undertaking a PhD. Guest speakers included Ines Castro, Adam Thomas and Kate Le Cocq, who cautioned students that a PhD and Post Doc can be tough, with long hours in an environment that can be isolated at times. However, they emphasized that if students ensure they are working on a topic they connect with and are in a department they enjoy, then it can be a great experience. They also highlighted that when applying for this programme students need to make use of the Career Zone, and thoroughly check their applications.

A Career in Bioinformatics

In December all second and third year Biosciences and Medical Sciences students were invited to attend an employability event which provided insight into a career within Bioinformatics as well as touching on the NHS Healthcare Scientist Training Programme (STP). Dr Carolyn Tysoe, Principal Clinical Scientist at the Molecular Genetics Laboratory at Royal Devon and Exeter NHS Foundation Trust, shared with students some of the important work her team do. She then invited current STP student Stuart Cannon to share his experiences. He highlighted to students that when making applications they must read with purpose, use the Career Zone services here at Exeter and check their applications thoroughly before sending.

Student employability conference

The student employability conference at our Streatham campus is an exceptional opportunity to find out exactly how to take the first steps on a successful and rewarding career path. We host an afternoon of talks and interactive sessions with both University of Exeter Biosciences alumni and nationwide guest speakers who are among the very best in their fields, including oilfield safety, medical writing, law, and education. The afternoon comprises of talks from each of the keynote speakers, networking opportunities, and a chance to speak at a one-on-one level with the guest speakers.

Activities in Cornwall

After my second year exams, I travelled to Northern Cyprus to conduct an Erasmus work placement with the Society for the Protection of Turtles. Totalling 3.5 months, I conducted a range of activities during this placement from active turtle conservation, beach surveys both in the night and day, dissemination of information to the public and a research project on green turtle nest site fidelity. This work placement abroad allowed me to take the theory I had been taught in lectures and apply it in a practical sense, improving on my degree knowledge and helping me to develop practical skills in the field. As a result of this work placement I was able to secure an internship with the Cayman Islands Department of Environment after graduating, where I spent a further 3 months monitoring and conserving the endangered sea turtle population on Grand Cayman.

Jack Boyle, BSc Zoology

The Shape of Enrichment

Dedicated employability committee

In order to help you achieve your ambitions, Biosciences undergraduate students in Cornwall have established an employability committee for their fellow students. Run by students, the committee organises and hosts a number of dynamic events over the course the academic year to inspire fellow undergraduates to consider career paths that are open to them. Events included a Careers Fair specifically for Biosciences, which attracted more than 250 students to meet with different speakers and organisations about the opportunities for volunteering, and subsequent employability, on a one-to-one basis.

Seminars

There has also been a regular series of seminars given by local organisations, charities and businesses such as the Wildlife Trust, Natural England and the RSPC. The seminars attract up to 100 students and give an insight into different sectors and career paths.
Students also have the option to undertake a work experience based module in which many students undertake placements abroad, including working in Wildlife Parks, undertaking Turtle Research, as well as working with the RSPCA, RSPB, Environment Agency and National Trust.

The Shape of Enrichment at Newquay Zoo

In the summer term Biosciences students in Cornwall also have the opportunity to undertake free training courses in areas such as mammal trapping, camera trapping and reptile survey. There is also a zoo-keeping style course that runs in partnership with The Shape of Enrichment at Newquay Zoo in  the summer, which takes place over four days and it open to a limited number of students.