Biology is the study of life in all its shapes and forms. The scope of biology is wide and varied and covers not only the traditional study of plants and animals but also areas such as molecular biology and biotechnology which have clear relevance to modern society.
Biology is a firm favourite among Leaving Cert students. With a staggering 34,000 candidates sitting Leaving Cert Biology in 2018, it is the most popular optional subject standing head and shoulders above the other science options such as Physics (6,258) and Chemistry (7,943). Students are often advised to study at least one science subject for Leaving Cert to keep as many options as possible open for third level education. The majority of the student body opt for Biology – but why? There is a perceived notion that it is the easiest of the sciences – is this true? Let’s look at the facts.
Leaving Cert Biology – The Facts
In 2018 Chemistry students fared slightly better than their Biology counterparts when it came to achieving the tops grades.
46% of Higher Level Chemistry students achieved a H3 or higher. This compares to 45.6% achieving the same level in Biology, followed closely by Physics 43.7% but Agricultural science students did not perform as well, 36.8% achieved H3 and above.
With regards to failure rates, Science subjects were top of the leader board for 2018. The top four subjects at Higher Level with the highest ‘nil points’ H8 grades all go to science: Physics and Chemistry (10.1%), Physics (7.8%), Chemistry (7.4%), Biology (7.1%) while Agricultural Science (4.9%) was further down the board behind Accounting and Classical Studies.
Click here for a detailed breakdown on how students performed in Leaving Cert Exams in 2018.
Overall, there isn’t a huge difference recorded in how students perform in the Science subjects. Agricultural Science showing the greatest degrees of separation from the other three. Therefore the vastness of the subject may be the real reason why so many students are attracted to studying biology both at second and third level.
How Many are Taking Biology at Third Level?
We know that Biology is a big hit at second level but it is interesting to see how many Biology Leaving Cert students are inspired to continue studying in the field. Looking at CAO figures can give us an indication of what’s happening.
CAO applications to Biological and Related Sciences increased by 14% in 2018 amongst students’ first preferences for level 8 courses. There has been significant growth in this sector in recent years with many biopharma companies choosing to locate to Ireland. Projected levels of employment in biopharma are very promising and it is anticipated that employment in the biopharma industry will reach 33,200 in 2020. The growth in this sector may have strongly influenced the surge in CAO applications.
Looking at vocational courses such as Veterinary, Medicine and the broad area of healthcare paints a different picture. The applications to all the areas mentioned above were down. Applicants to nursing went up marginally in 2018 by 2%.
What Opportunities are there to Study Biology at Third Level?
If you are an enthusiastic Leaving Cert Biology student and want to pursue your studies further you may need to do some soul searching and work out what elements of the course interest you most. The area of Biology is so vast that you will not find a course entitled ‘ Biology.’ So start thinking about what elements of the Biology course really interest you. If human anatomy and physiology is your passion you may want to consider some of the following healthcare professions: Nurse, Doctor, Dentist, Optometrist, Physiotherapist.
Biology studies encompass careers in the agricultural, food and animal sector. Career sectors to consider include: Veterinary Science, Marine Science, Equine, Horticulture, Food Science and Botany amongst many others.
If you are interested in laboratory research you might consider microbiology, biotechnology, biochemistry or genetics.
A general Science degree will enable you to sample several different subjects and specialise later.
What to do when you have graduated. . .
A student with a degree in a biology related subject without any clear vocational direction may find themselves wondering what will I do now? Truth is, science graduates develop skills that are transferable and will open up doors in a variety of workplaces. Below is just a sample of some of the many opportunities open to you.
Further Study: A biology related degree can be a great platform for further study with many students opting to take on postgraduate studies. Graduates may also wish to compete for graduate entry into courses such as Veterinary Science or Medicine.
Research: Many graduates will find themselves going into employment in research. Scientific research is crucial within society and it is a very stimulating career. Researchers help to develop knowledge areas, scientific researchers can be found in universities, in hospitals, research institutions, medical facilities, and also within business and industry.
Education: There are several biology and education degrees that equip student to enter into education professions at second level. Graduates with a biology related degree may be entitled to apply for the Professional Masters in Education and gain entry to teaching that way.
Sales Representative: Pharmaceutical companies are eager to hire science and biology graduates to sell and promote the latest breakthroughs in the drugs industry. Your scientific knowledge will enable you to understand the benefit and impact of such drugs.
The CareersPortal Team