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Can't decide between Natural Sciences, Biomedical Sciences, or a Maths course.

I'm in year 12 doing Maths, Further Maths, Biology, and Chemistry A-Levels. Further Maths and Biology are my favourites, and I'm predicted A*s in all of my subjects.
I can't decide which course would suit me best; I'm looking at Oxford/Cambridge at the minute, and for the last few months I've been leaning towards Natural Sciences at Cambridge, but I'm not sure.
(Does anyone know the main differences between Cambridge's (biological stream) Natural Sciences and Oxford's Biomedical Sciences? And how many maths modules are available in the Natural Sciences course?)

Context: At the start of the year, I chose Maths, Further Maths, Physics, and Computer Science. I swapped Computer Science for Biology after one lesson, and swapped Physics (which I really didn't like) for Chemistry (which I dislike less) around 9 weeks in to the term.

Anyway, I was sort of certain that I wanted to do something related to biological sciences. Then the other day my maths/further maths teacher said he thinks I'm going to change my mind and end up doing maths (I've had him for six years, he knows me very well, and he was being genuine), and it's made me think about things a bit more. Before I wasn't even considering it, but now I think that I should at least consider it a bit so I don't end up regretting my choice later. It also seems like I'm mostly only doing maths-related extracurriculars at the minute (tutoring maths, maths problem-solving courses, maths ambassador at school). I have been shortlisted for a biology research placement in the summer though, so hopefully that should help me become more certain about if a lab-based course is for me.
I really like further maths, I got a 9 in maths and further maths at GCSE (and all my other GCSEs), and I'm good at it - but I don't know if I'm *Oxbridge* good at it. Like, I don't do maths much in my spare time, I'm not really passionate about it in the way some people are, and I don't know what you can really do with it in the future besides finance and stuff (I'm definitely not interested in a career in finance). I prefer pure maths to the applied topics, and I'm not sure how pure maths would relate to a job.
Would a biology or maths course lead to a higher salary?
I think if I end up picking a biological science related course, I'll definitely miss maths, but if I pick maths I'll miss biology, which makes it tricky. I don't know which I would miss more. I don't know what university maths would be like, and how it would differ from A Level maths.
I'm also autistic, which makes deciding extra hard because I'm never completely certain about how I feel about things (so I don't know which I prefer).
The thing to know is that maths degree maths is very, very different to A-level Maths (and FM) both in style and content - very abstract, much of it proof based. The best thing would probably be to look at some kind of introductory real analysis or (abstract) linear algebra textbook and see what you would actually be doing in a maths degree!

Biomedical sciences at Oxford is probably not too dissimilar to doing NatSci and picking all biological options then doing PDN or pathology for your Part II (third year) subject, in overall content, although the general structure will differ and NatSci will give you some more flexibility to slightly change your direction as you go. So the overall experience will likely differ somewhat.

In terms of maths modules/papers in NatSci at Cambridge, you have to take one in Part IA (first yea)r and then depending which of the first year maths options you took, you can take one in Part IB (second year) as well potentially (normally taken by those doing physics and sometimes other physical sciences subjects, I gather).

Also incidentally the Part III Astrophysics papers have several shared with Part III Maths as I recall. Although since you aren't doing physics I think it would be unlikely you end up doing the relevant Part IA paper and Part IB papers to do that?
Original post by connor.h
I'm in year 12 doing Maths, Further Maths, Biology, and Chemistry A-Levels. Further Maths and Biology are my favourites, and I'm predicted A*s in all of my subjects.
I can't decide which course would suit me best; I'm looking at Oxford/Cambridge at the minute, and for the last few months I've been leaning towards Natural Sciences at Cambridge, but I'm not sure.
(Does anyone know the main differences between Cambridge's (biological stream) Natural Sciences and Oxford's Biomedical Sciences? And how many maths modules are available in the Natural Sciences course?)

Context: At the start of the year, I chose Maths, Further Maths, Physics, and Computer Science. I swapped Computer Science for Biology after one lesson, and swapped Physics (which I really didn't like) for Chemistry (which I dislike less) around 9 weeks in to the term.

Anyway, I was sort of certain that I wanted to do something related to biological sciences. Then the other day my maths/further maths teacher said he thinks I'm going to change my mind and end up doing maths (I've had him for six years, he knows me very well, and he was being genuine), and it's made me think about things a bit more. Before I wasn't even considering it, but now I think that I should at least consider it a bit so I don't end up regretting my choice later. It also seems like I'm mostly only doing maths-related extracurriculars at the minute (tutoring maths, maths problem-solving courses, maths ambassador at school). I have been shortlisted for a biology research placement in the summer though, so hopefully that should help me become more certain about if a lab-based course is for me.
I really like further maths, I got a 9 in maths and further maths at GCSE (and all my other GCSEs), and I'm good at it - but I don't know if I'm *Oxbridge* good at it. Like, I don't do maths much in my spare time, I'm not really passionate about it in the way some people are, and I don't know what you can really do with it in the future besides finance and stuff (I'm definitely not interested in a career in finance). I prefer pure maths to the applied topics, and I'm not sure how pure maths would relate to a job.
Would a biology or maths course lead to a higher salary?
I think if I end up picking a biological science related course, I'll definitely miss maths, but if I pick maths I'll miss biology, which makes it tricky. I don't know which I would miss more. I don't know what university maths would be like, and how it would differ from A Level maths.
I'm also autistic, which makes deciding extra hard because I'm never completely certain about how I feel about things (so I don't know which I prefer).

If you do a Math BSc, it's much easier to take a Biology MSc than taking a Biology BSc and then going for Math MSc.

Although uni maath is much different than math for sciences, so try some real analysis aand see how well you do. If not great at it, maybe should go for bio/nat sci rather than a math degree.
(edited 10 months ago)
Reply 3
Natural Sciences is a useful first degree as it is inter-disciplinary and allows you to study several sciences in depth and, importantly, the connections between them.

Depending on their own science specialisms, each Uni's Nat Sci program structure, and available subject pathways, will be slightly different, so you need to check Uni course pages and go to Open Days to find out if each course/Uni right for you and your academic interests. If you can find one that suits you that includes either study abroad or an industry placement then that's even better as either will add heaps to your gradate CV.

Examples :
Cambridge - https://www.undergraduate.study.cam.ac.uk/courses/natural-sciences
Lancaster - https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/natural-sciences/
Nottingham - https://www.nottingham.ac.uk/naturalsciences/index.aspx
York - https://www.york.ac.uk/natural-sciences/undergraduate-study/
Bath - https://www.bath.ac.uk/courses/undergraduate-2024/natural-sciences/
Original post by connor.h
I'm in year 12 doing Maths, Further Maths, Biology, and Chemistry A-Levels. Further Maths and Biology are my favourites, and I'm predicted A*s in all of my subjects.
I can't decide which course would suit me best; I'm looking at Oxford/Cambridge at the minute, and for the last few months I've been leaning towards Natural Sciences at Cambridge, but I'm not sure.
(Does anyone know the main differences between Cambridge's (biological stream) Natural Sciences and Oxford's Biomedical Sciences? And how many maths modules are available in the Natural Sciences course?)

Context: At the start of the year, I chose Maths, Further Maths, Physics, and Computer Science. I swapped Computer Science for Biology after one lesson, and swapped Physics (which I really didn't like) for Chemistry (which I dislike less) around 9 weeks in to the term.

Anyway, I was sort of certain that I wanted to do something related to biological sciences. Then the other day my maths/further maths teacher said he thinks I'm going to change my mind and end up doing maths (I've had him for six years, he knows me very well, and he was being genuine), and it's made me think about things a bit more. Before I wasn't even considering it, but now I think that I should at least consider it a bit so I don't end up regretting my choice later. It also seems like I'm mostly only doing maths-related extracurriculars at the minute (tutoring maths, maths problem-solving courses, maths ambassador at school). I have been shortlisted for a biology research placement in the summer though, so hopefully that should help me become more certain about if a lab-based course is for me.
I really like further maths, I got a 9 in maths and further maths at GCSE (and all my other GCSEs), and I'm good at it - but I don't know if I'm *Oxbridge* good at it. Like, I don't do maths much in my spare time, I'm not really passionate about it in the way some people are, and I don't know what you can really do with it in the future besides finance and stuff (I'm definitely not interested in a career in finance). I prefer pure maths to the applied topics, and I'm not sure how pure maths would relate to a job.
Would a biology or maths course lead to a higher salary?
I think if I end up picking a biological science related course, I'll definitely miss maths, but if I pick maths I'll miss biology, which makes it tricky. I don't know which I would miss more. I don't know what university maths would be like, and how it would differ from A Level maths.
I'm also autistic, which makes deciding extra hard because I'm never completely certain about how I feel about things (so I don't know which I prefer).


Hi there!

I have just graduated from Lancaster University with a Natural Sciences BSc so thought I could give my experience with the degree as it sounds like it could be something that could work well if you chose to study biological sciences and maths alongside each other. Natural Sciences degrees tend to vary by university, so it's definitely worth having a look around to see what course is right for you. At Lancaster, the degree is very flexible, you can choose 3 pathways out of a possible 21. The subjects range from maths, biology, biochemistry, physics, computer science, engineering, earth sciences, and more, so there are many different possible combinations! The complete list of different pathways is in the brochure which can be found here - https://www.lancaster.ac.uk/study/undergraduate/courses/natural-sciences-bsc-hons-gfc0/ .

Overall, I would say you will get the most out of the course that you enjoy. I also really struggled to choose just one subject for my degree, I applied for pure Maths degrees as well as Natural Sciences. The pathways that I chose were Mechanical Engineering, Maths, and Physical Geography as part of my Natural Sciences degree. I had lots of people asking how they fit together but those were the subjects that I loved! In the end, I found the crossover in my subjects, renewable energies and climate change, which is now the sector that I have found a graduate scheme in!

Some people find it harder to study different subjects in different fields because you have to switch between different ways of working but I actually enjoyed the variety in types of work - for example worksheets in maths, reading in geography, and labs in engineering, it kept things far more interesting for me. In terms of a higher salary, I would say that studying something that you enjoy tends to mean you do better in that subject, and doing better in the subject tends to improve your job prospects. My advice is therefore always study what you enjoy, and if you enjoy both biological sciences and maths then potentially a course that covered both would be a good option.

Best of luck with all of your decisions, if you have any further questions, feel free to let me know!

- Bethan (Lancaster University Student Ambassador)
Original post by connor.h
I'm in year 12 doing Maths, Further Maths, Biology, and Chemistry A-Levels. Further Maths and Biology are my favourites, and I'm predicted A*s in all of my subjects.
I can't decide which course would suit me best; I'm looking at Oxford/Cambridge at the minute, and for the last few months I've been leaning towards Natural Sciences at Cambridge, but I'm not sure.
(Does anyone know the main differences between Cambridge's (biological stream) Natural Sciences and Oxford's Biomedical Sciences? And how many maths modules are available in the Natural Sciences course?)

Context: At the start of the year, I chose Maths, Further Maths, Physics, and Computer Science. I swapped Computer Science for Biology after one lesson, and swapped Physics (which I really didn't like) for Chemistry (which I dislike less) around 9 weeks in to the term.

Anyway, I was sort of certain that I wanted to do something related to biological sciences. Then the other day my maths/further maths teacher said he thinks I'm going to change my mind and end up doing maths (I've had him for six years, he knows me very well, and he was being genuine), and it's made me think about things a bit more. Before I wasn't even considering it, but now I think that I should at least consider it a bit so I don't end up regretting my choice later. It also seems like I'm mostly only doing maths-related extracurriculars at the minute (tutoring maths, maths problem-solving courses, maths ambassador at school). I have been shortlisted for a biology research placement in the summer though, so hopefully that should help me become more certain about if a lab-based course is for me.
I really like further maths, I got a 9 in maths and further maths at GCSE (and all my other GCSEs), and I'm good at it - but I don't know if I'm *Oxbridge* good at it. Like, I don't do maths much in my spare time, I'm not really passionate about it in the way some people are, and I don't know what you can really do with it in the future besides finance and stuff (I'm definitely not interested in a career in finance). I prefer pure maths to the applied topics, and I'm not sure how pure maths would relate to a job.
Would a biology or maths course lead to a higher salary?
I think if I end up picking a biological science related course, I'll definitely miss maths, but if I pick maths I'll miss biology, which makes it tricky. I don't know which I would miss more. I don't know what university maths would be like, and how it would differ from A Level maths.
I'm also autistic, which makes deciding extra hard because I'm never completely certain about how I feel about things (so I don't know which I prefer).

I second everything @artful_lounger said!

Maths, Further Maths, Bio, Chem sounds like a very NatSci subject combo (just based on the number of people I know who did it), rather than maths.

Maths can have overlap with biology in later years depending on your options, but that would be very much applied maths (and you'll still have to do a lot of everything else first).

Also, what counts as pure maths at A level counts as applied maths at uni, pretty much.

In terms of salaries, there's no way of predicting. If you do maths, you could end up in finance and get rich quick. Or software development - also a not uncommon destination! You could also end up in academia, in which case lol no. Same with bio/bionatsci. And it's not just the degree, also general work experience, extracurriculars, etc. I know people studying degrees like Land Economy who will definitely earn more than most people I know studying maths. If you do a STEM degree at a RG uni, you'll be fine.

NatSci specific stuff - Astro have lots of shared Maths papers in part III, Physics also have a few (Quantum Field Theory is the first that springs to mind). There are a few general interdisciplinary ones, but they're not that maths-y from what I've heard. They've been rolling out lots of new mathematical biology stuff - they have a (very new!) mathematical and computaional biology course in second year, which is pretty much what the name says, and there's a fourth year course called systems biology that's a more maths-y version of bio.

Second year maths is, like they said, mostly physicists, but also the occasional chemist doing double chem and maths! Physics at uni is a lot of maths, but also the fun science, whereas maths is mostly just, um, maths. And often very abstract.

Most of my extracurriculars were also maths (pretty much the same as yours, except with more maths), partially because they were the most common and I really got along with the department, and partially because I actively considering studying maths (until the start of September right before I applied in October). Basically, I loved maths (and still do, unsurprisingly enough), and found the maths a levels the most interesting.

I do physics, so a lot of maths, and my attitude is more "thank G*d I didn't do maths maths, because I get to do maths and also all the fun stuff". Biology is not that much maths, but with NatSci, you can also keep doing maths, and it is easy to switch later on to most science options (physics is the strictest).

And with that essay, I should probably go back to revision, as my exams aren't going to pass themselves and I need that first. 😭

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