This certificate of higher education has one stage, comprising 120 credits.
- In Stage 1, you’ll begin with a 60-credit introductory science module followed by another 60-credit core science module.
Optional Access module – visit Entry requirements to find out about starting this course with a preparatory Access module.
Stage 1 starts with an introductory science module in which you’ll investigate a series of questions that will teach you scientific thinking.
Next, you’ll have to think about whether you intend to continue with broad-based science or focus on physical science. Especially if you plan to continue to the Diploma of Higher Education.
- If you intend to continue with broad-based science (which includes biology, chemistry, earth sciences and environmental science), study a module that focuses on further key ideas in science.
- If you intend to focus on physical science (which includes physics and astronomy and planetary science), study a mathematics module and a physics and space module.
We regularly review our curriculum; therefore, the qualification described on this page – including its availability, its structure, and available modules – may change over time. If we make changes to this qualification, we’ll update this page as soon as possible. Once you’ve registered or are studying this qualification, where practicable, we’ll inform you in good time of any upcoming changes. If you’d like to know more about the circumstances in which the University might make changes to the curriculum, see our Academic Regulations or contact us. This description was last updated on 17 March 2020.
We make all our qualifications as accessible as possible and have a comprehensive range of services to support all our students. The Certificate of Higher Education in Natural Sciences uses a variety of study materials and may include the following elements:
- studying solely online material – online learning resources may include websites, audio/video media clips, and interactive activities such as online quizzes
- using mathematical and scientific expressions, notations and associated techniques
- undertaking practical work or using an online laboratory
- using and/or producing diagrams and/or screenshots
- using specialist software
- working in a group with other students
- finding external/third party material online.
For more detailed information, see the Accessibility Statements on individual module descriptions. If you feel you may need additional support, visit Disability support to find more about what we offer. Contact us as soon as possible to discuss your individual requirements, so we can put arrangements in place before you start.
Learning outcomes, teaching and assessment
This qualification develops your learning in four main areas:
- Knowledge and understanding
- Cognitive skills
- Practical and professional skills
- Key skills
The level and depth of your learning gradually increases as you work through the qualification. You’ll be supported throughout by the OU’s unique style of teaching and assessment – which includes a personal tutor to guide and comment on your work; top quality course texts; elearning resources like podcasts, interactive media and online materials; tutorial groups and community forums.
Read the detailed learning outcomes here
On completion of this undergraduate course, we'll award you the Certificate of Higher Education in Natural Sciences.
As a student of The Open University, you should be aware of the content of the qualification-specific regulations below and the academic regulations that are available on our Student Policies and Regulations website.
Check you’re ready for Questions in science (S111) with our self-assessed quiz. We’ve study resources to help you prepare.
How much time do I need?
- Most of our students study part time, completing 60 credits a year.
- This will usually mean studying for 16–18 hours a week.
Find out if you have enough time to study with our time planner
Preparing for study with an Access module
If your study skills are a bit rusty or you want to try out Open University study before committing yourself, don’t worry! The OU offers Access modules designed to introduce the subject area, build your confidence and prepare you for further study, and you may be eligible to study an Access module for free! You'll get:
- a personal tutor providing regular feedback with one to one telephone tutorials
- support from a dedicated team throughout your study
- detailed written feedback.
For this qualification we recommend:
Science, technology and maths Access module
What you will study
This multidisciplinary module is an ideal starting point if you have little or no previous knowledge of the sciences, technology and mathematics. It'll help develop your study skills in advance of your OU qualification, and you get to explore a number of STEM subjects including science, engineering and design, environment, mathematics, and computing and IT.
View full details of Science, technology and maths Access module
Skills for career development
In addition to specific learning outcomes, this certificate develops a variety of transferable skills that are highly valued in the labour market, such as analytical, numerical, IT and communication skills; teamwork, and problem solving. It will also help you develop critical thinking and independent research skills, and the ability to take the initiative – all valuable assets in today’s competitive environment. Many of these translate very smoothly into the modern workplace, which is increasingly concerned with knowledge management and the effective communication and presentation of ideas and arguments. You’ll also have a good understanding of where your strengths and interests lie, and be well prepared for your next step – whether it’s further study or training, or employment.
Scientists are in demand in the jobs market, particularly if they also have good interpersonal skills and some workplace experience. The logical, reasoned approach needed for science study is relevant to many roles in the financial, business and public sectors – and employers in all fields put a high value on anyone who can deal competently with a large amount of complex information and turn it to good use. The ability to select and analyse relevant data and to present conclusions concisely and logically is essential in most lines of work, as is the ability to communicate clearly both orally and in writing.
Exploring your options
Once you register with us (and for up to three years after you finish your studies), you’ll have full access to our careers service for a wide range of information and advice – including online forums, website, interview simulation, vacancy service as well as the option to email or speak to a careers adviser. Some areas of the careers service website are available for you to see now, including help with looking for and applying for jobs. You can also read more general information about how OU study enhances your career.
In the meantime if you want to do some research around this qualification and where it might take you, we’ve put together a list of relevant job titles as a starting point (note that some careers may require further study, training and/or work experience):
- science teacher
- water quality inspector
- countryside manager
- forensic scientist
- biomedical researcher
- environmental engineer
- marine biologist
- forensic scientist
- scientific journalist
- technical consultant
- industrial researcher