Top 10 careers in life sciences

Student in a science lab

If you are passionate about science and the natural world, a life sciences career could be a good option. This diverse subject can be applied to many industries, like agriculture, food science and medicine.

What are life sciences?

Life sciences are the study of living organisms such as microorganisms, plants, animals and human beings. The discipline looks at life processes and the relationship between organisms and their environment. The four major fields of life sciences are ecology, zoology, microbiology and genetics.

Top 10 careers in life sciences

1. Pharmacologist

Pharmacologists specialise in researching new medications to evaluate their effectiveness for treating conditions and whether they are safe to use. They also discover new medicines, carry out research to see how and why people react differently to different medications and find out about potential side effects.

There is a high level of collaboration with other scientists and pharmacologists often share their findings with colleagues through conferences, reports and meetings. 

2. Microbiologist

Microbiologists specialise in the study of microscopic organisms such as fungi, algae, bacteria and viruses. By understanding these, they aim to solve a range of problems affecting the environment, climate, health, agriculture and food. This can include the prevention, diagnosis and control of infections, as well as ensuring that food is safe for consumption. 

3. Laboratory technician

Laboratory technicians assist personnel in scientific analysis, investigation, research and development. They are typically responsible for maintaining and setting up equipment, recording data, running tests and carrying out risk assessments. 

4. Technical writer

Technical writers are responsible for developing written materials such as instruction manuals and scientific articles that inform or instruct the reader on a specific subject. They also perform duties like creating diagrams, researching information, writing content and editing written materials. The topics written about often include biology, ecology and medicine. 

5. Biomedical engineer

The role of a biomedical engineer combines engineering and design with medicine and healthcare. They research, design and develop medical products and devices to provide innovative solutions for problems in the medical industry. Other responsibilities of a biomedical engineer include arranging clinical trials, testing and maintaining equipment and writing reports.

6. Clinical research associate 

The role of a clinical research associate is to organise and run trials to test the safety of new medicines and find out if they are effective. In these trials, they collect data and report the results for the lead researcher to interpret. The other responsibilities of a clinical research associate are cleaning the lab between trains, maintaining lab equipment and ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all trial subjects. 

7. Bioinformatics scientist

Bioinformatics is a multi-discipline sector that combines computer science, statistics and engineering to process biological data. The role of a bioinformatics scientist is to develop and design experiments, maintain databases and collaborate with biologists to provide solutions to biological questions. 

8. Genetic counsellor

Genetic counsellors assess individuals and their families to better understand the risk of inherited conditions such as genetic disorders. The main responsibility of a genetic counsellor is to help patients understand medical facts and the options available to them when it comes to dealing with potential conditions. 

9. Clinical data manager

Clinical data management is one of the most important jobs in life sciences as it involves the storing, processing and protection of data. The role includes ensuring all data from clinical trials is collected and recorded correctly, protecting the integrity of this data so accurate conclusions can be drawn from it. Clinical data managers also develop data testing and analysis to find where improvements can be made to existing processes. 

10. Chemical engineer

A chemical engineer is a scientist that uses physical and biological processes to develop chemical compounds. They design and develop a range of products to solve problems in various industries such as pharmaceuticals, energy and food and drink. The daily activities of a chemical engineer consist of researching new products, considering safety issues related to projects and testing models. 

During your study, you will gain the skills and knowledge needed to apply for graduate employment in roles both in and out of life sciences. You will also be able to apply for jobs in:

  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Journalism
  • Sales
  • Publishing
  • Civil service
  • Patent law
  • Accountancy.

Study life sciences at the University of Aberdeen

Prepare for your life sciences career at the University of Aberdeen, which was founded in 1495, making it the 5th oldest university in the UK with over 525 years of high-quality academia.

The city of Aberdeen is establishing its own life sciences sector. The sector within the city region has attracted £175 million in investment in the last five years. It supports more than 1,075 jobs and amounts to £55 million in GVA. Home to one of the largest concentrations of life scientists in Europe, Aberdeen has the potential to expand substantially (InvestAberdeen 2020).

There are also nationally recognised enterprises based in Aberdeen, including Novabiotics Ltd. (named Investment of the Year at the Scottish Enterprise Life Science Awards) and Ripptide Pharma Ltd. (awarded Innovation of the Year at the Scottish Enterprise Life Science Awards in 2015).

The University of Aberdeen has a new Science Teaching Hub that has been designed around the provision of specialist teaching, training and learning for students across several disciplines, including chemistry, medical sciences, biological sciences and geosciences.

International students can begin their life sciences degree with a pathway programme at the University of Aberdeen International Study Centre. Get the best possible start to learning in the UK with excellent student support and English language development.

The three-term Undergraduate Foundation Programme in Life Sciences will equip you with subject, academic and English language development through university style teaching. Equivalent to the first year of a four-year Scottish degree, successful completion of the programme will allow you to progress to the second year of your undergraduate degree at the University of Aberdeen.

Check out our how to apply page to learn about the process or find out the entry requirements and fees.


What is the highest-paying job in life sciences? 

One of the highest-paying life sciences jobs in the UK is a microbiologist. Those working in this role can expect to earn around £69,000 per year (Indeed 2023). 

Why is the study of life sciences important? 

Studying life sciences will give you a new perspective and a better understanding of the world. They affect many aspects of our lives, from health care and the environment.

Is life sciences a good degree?

A life sciences degree allows you to develop a versatile skillset that can be used across many roles and industries, both in and out of life sciences. As the industry is always evolving, there are many exciting life sciences job opportunities for graduates. 

Mohamad, a student from Syria

The degree that I progressed to is Biomedical Sciences and specifically Physiology. So far, it's a very cool subject to study. You get the chance to study anatomy, which is very, very cool. Seeing all of the specimens, understanding how each muscle is different, the bones and the joints, it is fascinating."

Mohamad from Syria

Undergraduate Foundation Programme

BSc Biomedical Sciences – Physiology