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Biological sciences are at the heart of many global challenges including food security, sustainable development, climate change and biodiversity management.  

Our MSc Biological Sciences course provides training in the breadth and depth of whole-organism biology, allowing you to develop a wide range of knowledge across the discipline via our general biological sciences pathway, or to specialise within one of three major areas through dedicated pathways in: Evolutionary Biology, Plant and Crop Science, and Biodiversity and Conservation.

Within the Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, our teaching and research expertise extends from cell, genes and biotechnology through to communities, ecosystems, conservation and climate change so whichever pathway you choose, you'll be learning about the latest research in the field from the experts who are making the discoveries first-hand.

Read about our latest research in this area.

Course structure

Our 12-month MSc Biological Sciences course is designed to train you for a career in research or management around the world. Throughout your course, you'll learn about the fundamental concepts and key skills required within biological science before applying these through your literature review and independent research project.

You can choose to explore the breadth of organismal biological sciences, or specialise in an area that most interests you within three pathways:

Evolutionary Biology

Evolutionary Biology is a rapidly moving field thanks to advances in sequencing technologies that are revolutionising the way we tackle key questions. Students on this pathway will learn about the patterns of life history variation seen in nature and the theories behind them, as well as exploring bioinformatic techniques to be able to identify when genes have evolved adaptively.

Plant and Crop Science

Training in Plant and Crop Science is led by the experts behind our multi-million pound centre of excellence, Plant Production and Protection (P3) which encompasses the breadth of plant and soil science expertise within the University of Sheffield. You'll understand the key issues in global food security and explore how plants can truly influence global change.

Biodiversity and Conservation

Biodiversity and Conservation students will develop fundamental knowledge about today’s major conservation issues and their human and environmental drivers including urbanisation, tropical logging, marine conservation, and the balance between sustainable food production and biodiversity.

The biggest part of the course is the Independent Research Project. Here you'll spend three months researching an area within the biological sciences that matches your future career aspirations. You could be field-based, lab-based or complete a computational data driven project which will give you an opportunity to apply the subject-specific knowledge and analytical skills that you've developed throughout your degree.

Current modules - all students will study:

  • Field Biology (15 credits) - learn about the habitat, wildlife, and human context, and gain experience in a range of appropriate methods for data collection during field visits to representative ecosystems in the Peak District.
  • Scientific Skills and Project Management (15 credits) - gain the skills necessary to become a skillful modern researcher.
  • Literature Review (15 credits) - work with your research supervisor to produce a critical review of a biological topic.
  • Independent Research Project (60 credits) - work with your research supervisor to design, conduct, and write-up an independent research project.

Students on the Evolutionary Biology pathway will also study:

  • Evolutionary Principles (15 credits) - learn about the patterns of life history variation seen in nature and the theories behind them.
  • Molecular Evolution and Genomics (15 credits) - identify when genes have evolved adaptively thorough investigation of rates and patterns of molecular evolution.
  • Issues in Evolutionary Biology (15 credits) - apply your evolutionary understanding to address real-world problems.
  • Biodiversity in Space and Time (15 credits) - begin practical and theoretical training in how to quantify diversity in time and space.

Students on the Plant and Crop Science pathway will also study:

  • Crop Science and Biotechnology (30 credits) - learn about the factors that limit crop production, and the breeding and genetic manipulations that can be used to overcome these limits.
  • Agricultural Ecology in a Changing World (15 credits) - learn about agriculture as an ecological system in the context of global change.
  • Issues in Global Food Security (15 credits) - engage in a critical analysis of current major issues in food security.

Students on the Biodiversity and Conservation pathway will also study:

  • Global Conservation Issues (15 credits) - study major real-world conservation issues through case studies.
  • Agricultural Ecology in a Changing World (15 credits) - learn about agriculture as an ecological system in the context of global change.
  • Changing Global Ecosystems (15 credits) - explore the principles of ecosystem science, showing how human impacts combine with natural processes to drive change in a range of tropical, temperate, boreal and marine ecosystems.
  • Biodiversity in Time and Space (15 credits) - begin practical and theoretical training in how to quantify diversity in time and space.

Students studying our broad Biological Sciences pathway will be able choose 60 credits of optional modules from across the three pathways above.

Learning, teaching and assessment

You’ll be taught through a mixture of practical and field classes, individual research projects, lectures, seminars, tutorials and discussion groups. Assessment includes, but is not limited to, oral presentations, essays, reflective journal entries, examinations, coursework, policy briefing notes and a dissertation.

After your degree

Graduates will develop the specialist knowledge and transferable skills to pursue careers working around the world or further study to PhD level.

Possible career paths include: working in biotechnology, agri-tech, or conservation and sustainability programmes within government science, NGOs including environmental bodies or wildlife trusts, or in industry. Inspiring the next generation as a university teacher, or solving pressing problems through research in further study to PhD level.

How to apply

To apply for this course, complete the University of Sheffield's postgraduate online application form.

Online application form

Early applications are encouraged. Any applications received after all places have been filled will be deferred for entry the following year.


Visit the MSc Biological Sciences page on the University of Sheffield website for more details!

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