General science courses at university

Wondering what that 'natural sciences' or 'applied science' course means?

Natural sciences

Some universities offer a single ‘natural sciences’ course instead of separate physics, biology and chemistry courses. Although you’ll need to specialize to some extent, these courses will usually give you the chance to take modules form outside your main discipline, and might make it easier to change your specialism if you discover new interests. On the other hand, you’ll also be able to stick to a single discipline if that’s what you want.

The name ‘natural science’ doesn’t mean that you’ll only be studying ecology or wildlife: it means that the subject covers the physical world, unlike social sciences or mathematics.

Primary education

If you’re interested in teaching science in primary school, this could be the course for you. It makes sure that you have both the scientific knowledge and the teaching skills and experience to succeed as a primary school teacher.

You’ll graduate with a BEd, which allows you to teach in primary schools without further training. However, keep in mind that as a primary school teacher you’ll be expected to teach a variety of subjects, not just science.

Vocational specialisms

Some science courses are based around specific uses of science, rather than disciplines like physics and chemistry. This means that they can involve concepts from many different disciplines. For example, an environmental scientist might need biology to understand how species spread and die out, and chemistry to understand how pollutants affect the soil.

Examples of this kind of specialism include:

  • Forensic science: using science to solve crime
  • Environmental science: the scientific study of the Earth’s environment
  • Archaeological science: using scientific methods to explore and understand the past

You’ll usually get a general grounding in the essential theory and techniques of the specialism, as well as the chance to focus on a particular area. For example, on a forensic science course you might specialise in DNA testing, drug metabolism or ballistics.

Applied science

Applied science courses focus on practical areas of the sciences. This doesn’t mean you won’t be learning theory, but the theory you learn will have a practical application. For example, you might study areas of biology that have a medical use, or areas of physics that can be used in power generation.

Although the course you apply for might just be called ‘applied science’, you’ll normally have to specialize in a particular discipline at some point, and some universities will have separate courses for applied chemistry, applied biology and so on. Others will just be called ‘applied science’, but only offer modules in certain areas, for example the food industry, biological sciences or biotechnology. Make sure you have looked carefully at the course before you apply.