Zoology is the study of animal life and the vital role that animal behaviour and species interactions play in conservation, biodiversity and tackling disease.

Zoology Alfred Denny Museum students

About Zoology at Sheffield

Our Zoology courses span invertebrates, birds, fish, humans and other mammals: how they evolved, how they behave, and how they respond to global change. You’ll cover three main themes at Sheffield: animal behaviour, conservation and animal ecology - how animals interact with their environment and each other, evolutionary biology - how animals adapt to their environment, and comparative physiology - the functional characteristics of animals.

1st in the UK for overall satisfaction for Zoology

National Student Survey 2019

All of our courses start with an essential set of core modules designed to give you specialist zoological knowledge and the skills that every professional biologist needs. Alongside these you'll have the opportunity to study optional modules that span ecology and conservation biology and plant sciences. You can mix and match these modules so you specialise as much or as little as you like, covering physiology, genetics and speciation to behaviour, food-webs, biodiversity and conservation, underpinned by the latest research discoveries from our experts.

Our courses are designed for students who have a passion for animals and their interactions with both their environment and humans, who also want the opportunity to study topics across the full breadth of biologyYou might even choose to add an extra year of research experience as part of your studies with our integrated masters programme, or gain valuable work experience with a placement year


As a zoology student you'll learn in lots of different ways, from lectures and small group tutorials where our world-leading academics will share their latest research findings with you, to learning by doing during research projects, practical lab sessions, and field trips. You’ll gain lots of scientific skills as you study everything from an animal’s genetic makeup to its behaviour and interactions with other species and the climate.

Explore the course structure and content

Our staff are committed to great teaching and you'll have lots of opportunities throughout your degree to be creative, think independently, and express your ideas. You’ll be building your knowledge and capacity to do science during research projects, exploring local green spaces applying your new skills, embarking on once-in-a-lifetime field courses, and getting the opportunity to share your knowledge with the general public through modules in science communication. All giving you plenty of chances to gain new skills and experience to put on your CV.

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Field courses

All of our zoology students get to go on an optional two-week long field course between second and third year in order to cement what you've learnt during lab practicals and field trips. We give you a choice of fascinating habitats to explore, from dramatic landscapes in remote corners of the globe, to complex ecosystems operating right under our noses where you'll design and conduct your own research linked to evolution, behaviour, conservation and ecosystems. We also offer field courses in the lab if you're interested in exploring cells, genetics, physiology or other topics tied to laboratory research.

You won't have to wait until third year to get out in the field though - there's also lots of field work built into the rest of your degree. All of our students spend the first week of first year on a field trip exploring Sheffield's green spaces, learning observation and research skills. There are regular visits to zoos, aquariums and nature reserves too.

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Ireland field course image

Research projects

Project work is built into our degrees from the beginning, from field courses, to research projects based around first and second year modules on genetics, computer modelling, behaviour, species interactions, conservation and climate change.

In your third year, you'll get the opportunity to complete a major research project and dissertation in an area of zoology that interests you. Conducted under the supervision of one of our world experts, you'll work in a small group to define questions, develop experimental protocols, conduct the research, analyse the data and ultimately produce a written report in the form of a scientific publication. Example research projects include:

  • Actively restoring environmental and economic resilience in logged tropical forests;
  • Abundance, species richness and mass of earthworms along an urban-rural gradient;
  • How does familiarity and conspecificity influence alarm call responsivity in the mallard duck (Anas platyrhynchos).

Our integrated masters course allows you to complete a further in-depth research project whilst embedded in one of our specialist research groups.

APS students in the lab (15724)

Talking the Talk: Getting Science on Film

Many of our students are inspired to study biology by seeing the natural world captured on screen. Our Talking the Talk: Getting Science on Film module gives zoology students the chance to make your own factual science documentaries, with support and advice from professional filmmakers.

Science communication is a popular career route for many of our graduates and this is just one way that you'll be able to gain experience in this area.

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Spend a year on a work placement

Our BSc and MBiolSci Zoology with Placement Year degrees allow you to do a year-long, paid work placement between your second and third year, applying your scientific knowledge and transferrable skills in a workplace environment. You'll pay reduced fees for the year you're on placement and you'll still have access to your tutor and the support you need from the university. Most students earn salaries during their placements too.

Our students have done their placements at organisations that include:

  • Newquay Zoo;
  • Centre for Integrated Research, Conservation and Learning (Flamingo Land and the University of York);
  • EMEC Ecology.

Placements aren't guaranteed – it’s your responsibility to secure one but we’ll do everything we can to help.

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Fiona Shuttle student profile

During my placement I conducted a range of ecology surveys such as bat surveys, vegetation surveys, and translocation of many reptile and amphibian species, which was all invaluable experience. I learned about various protected species and habitats and also assisted to write ecological reports and analyse data in the office.

Fiona Shuttle

BSc Biology with Placement Year at Mott MacDonald

Integrated masters

Our four-year integrated masters courses (MBiolSci) are designed for students who want to pursue a career in industrial or academic research or where understanding the process of research is vital to success. The first three years of your course will have the same structure as the BSc, with the fourth year devoted to a major research project designed to equip you with the advanced laboratory skills you’ll need for a successful and rewarding career in science. You'll be embedded within one of our specialist research groups, conducting your own independent research and interacting with academics and lab staff as a professional scientist. All of our courses are available as a three-year BSc degree, or a four-year MBiolSci degree.

Example research projects include:

  • Knowledge and conservation importance of local bird diversity in urban green space visitors;
  • Do foraging waterfowl conform to the predictions of IFD theory?
  • The ideal free distribution in a population of wild waterfowl.

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Photo of Chris Butler

One of the reasons I would recommend the integrated masters course here at Sheffield is that students will be exposed to both learning and doing science. I have quickly realised that the two involve very different skills, and I believe that having experience of both was crucial in allowing me to secure a PhD in genetics next year at the University of East Anglia.

Chris Butler

MBiolSci Zoology

Your career

The demand for skilled zoologists has expanded in recent years within industry, research, education and beyond. Our graduates go into careers across conservation, research, marketing, human resources, science communication and teaching, using their sought after transferrable skills in data analysis, project management and teamwork to thrive in a range of organisations. Each year our graduates join conservation and environmental consultancies, wildlife trusts, museums, hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and local, national and international government. Many also go on to do PhDs. 

You'll get lots of support to help you work out what you want to do after graduation, and the steps you need to take to get there. Your personal tutor will be on hand to provide careers advice throughout your course, and with training and events, from our annual employability day tailored to specific biology degree pathways, to mock assessment centres and portfolio building workshops, you'll be well equipped to plan your career and find a great job after you've finished your degree.

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Our courses

Zoology courses – 2020 entry

The content of our courses is reviewed annually to make sure it is up-to-date and relevant. Individual modules are occasionally updated or withdrawn. This is in response to discoveries through our world-leading research, funding changes, professional accreditation requirements, student or employer feedback, outcomes of reviews, and variations in staff or student numbers. In the event of any change we'll consult and inform students in good time and take reasonable steps to minimise disruption. 

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