Should I study environmental science or biology?

Bio, environmental sciences

Biology is the science of living nature. It describes and examines the manifestations of all living things and their complex interplay. The environmental sciences, on the other hand, deal with the effects of human influences on the environment.

The field of study at a glance

Photo: Sebastian Kaulitzki | Federal agency for work

The life sciences deal with the processes or structures of living things. How does the human body work? How does the behavior of different animal species differ from one another? And how are plants structured? Biologists, for example, address these and many other questions. They observe, document, set up mathematical models and hypotheses and experiment in order to gain knowledge from the processes and phenomena of nature. Environmental scientists tend to work in an interdisciplinary manner, for example observing and examining the stresses on the natural cycle caused by humans.

This field of study is closely related to the other natural sciences. For example, biochemistry, biophysics, biomathematics and bioinformatics have emerged from common border areas. Biosciences can also be found in other courses of study as a basic science, e.g. in medicine, pharmacy, agricultural sciences or nutritional science.

Course offer

In principle, there are four major areas of study related to biology:

  • The classical biology researches the development, the blueprint and biochemical processes of living beings - from microorganisms (microbiology) to plants (botany) and animals (zoology) to humans (anthropology). One possible specialization is, for example, marine biology.
  • The Life sciences encompass several subjects and disciplines: They combine biological content with knowledge from other scientific disciplines in order to describe processes and natural laws that affect all living beings. These include cell biology, biophysics, biochemistry, pharmacy and nutritional sciences, or evolutionary biology, which looks at the origin and development of all living things.
  • The Environmental science, also “Life Sciences”, take a holistic look at different ecosystems. Specifically, it is about the effects of human activity on nature and how damage can be avoided or repaired. The study field environmental technology finds technical solutions for this (see "Environmental Technology").
  • The Bioengineering combine biology with engineering. These include, for example, bionics, which develops technical solutions based on models from nature, biomechanics, which examines the musculoskeletal systems of living beings according to the laws of mechanics, or biotechnology, in which living organisms are to be made usable through technical measures - for example through genetic engineering. Thanks to the high level of application, these areas are of great importance for industry or medicine.

Contents of the course

The basic biological studies (Bachelor) include modules such as cell and molecular biology, botany and botanical systematics, zoology, biochemical and biophysical basics, neurobiology, microbiology, cell biology, genetics, biodiversity of the animal and plant world, ecology, evolution and systematics of animals and plants , Morphology, developmental biology, plant physiology and biochemistry, behavioral biology. In the interdisciplinary courses in particular, the basic natural sciences are taught in the subjects of mathematics, physics and chemistry, and in some cases engineering or computer science.

Depending on the university, major subjects such as molecular biology / cell biology, biochemistry / biophysics, bioinformatics, biotechnology, biodiversity / ecology, parasitology / virology, physiology, neurobiology and developmental biology as well as environmental sciences are offered in the master’s program.

Admission criteria & application to study

Around three quarters of the bachelor's programs in biology are locally restricted. Some universities use the dialogue-oriented service procedure (DoSV) of the Foundation for University Admission to allocate their limited study places.

Career opportunities after graduation

Biologists without a teaching degree (for information on teaching positions, see "Teacher training in the federal states") are mainly employed at universities and research institutions. You also work in the pharmaceutical industry (e.g. as a pharmaceutical consultant or for the clinical testing of drugs), in the chemical and food industry, in medical technology, in brewing, for service providers in the field of documentation and research, and for authorities who deal with Deal with environmental and health protection laws. They can also find work with media companies as well as in training and further education.

The Study and professional guides "Your Future: Biosciences!" By the Association for Biology, Biosciences & Biomedicine in Germany (publisher), Munich 2018, can be downloaded free of charge as a PDF from the following address:

Online Study Guide "Bachelor in Biosciences"

of the Association of Biology, Biosciences and Biomedicine in Germany - VBIO,
can be contacted at:


The University of Duisburg-Essen's study selection & labor market information system provides information on developments in the individual study areas and sub-labor markets.