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Can I do science without a degree?

Lab workAlthough most science careers require a degree, there are options that don’t and plenty of alternative courses.

Alternative science courses

If you’re not getting a degree, there are other qualifications available, especially if you have a particular career in mind.

HNDs and HNCs

HNDs and HNCs are vocational courses, with an HND considered equivalend to two years of degree study.

There are a number of science-based courses, including forensic science, applied biology and biomedical sciences. You can find courses using the UCAS course search tool.

Once you’ve completed a course, if you do decide to move on to a degree you may be able to skip one year with an HNC or two with an HND.


Although there aren’t any specifically scientific apprenticeships, engineering apprenticeships come close, covering jobs from metal processing to decomissioning nuclear power plants.

Find out more about engineering apprenticeships.


An NVQ is a qualification which teaches you to learn a specific kind of job.

There are also related qualifications you can apply for, such as the Certificate/Diploma in Pharmaceutical Science

Find out more about NVQs or search for courses

Working in the lab without a degree

You’re unlikely to be doing serious scientific research without a degree, but that doesn’t mean you won’t be in the lab. Lab assistants check equipment, make up solutions and process data. In some cases, this may require an HND or HNC, but not always: you can become an NHS lab assistant with a good set of GCSEs or A-levels, as all training is on the job.

A school technician does similar work for school labs, setting up equipment and making up solutions for school science experiments.

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