This degree has three stages, each comprising 120 credits.
- You’ll start Stage 1 with two 60-credit introductory science modules.
- At Stage 2 you’ll study a 60-credit earth sciences module and choose a further 60 credits from a range of science modules.
- At Stage 3, you’ll study a 60-credit earth sciences module, choose a further 30-credit module and complete your degree with a 30-credit project module.
Optional Access module – visit Entry requirements to find out about starting this course with a preparatory Access module.
Stage 1 includes an introductory broad science module in which you’ll investigate a series of questions that teach scientific thinking. You’ll also study another broad science module that focuses on further key ideas in science and includes distinct practical blocks.
In Stage 2, you’ll learn about earth's structure, why volcanoes and earthquakes occur, how plate tectonics have shaped earth, and the structure and geological history of rocks and minerals. You’ll then choose from a broad range of modules in science or mathematical methods.
In Stage 3, you’ll explore societally relevant topics in earth science and key events in the history of earth. Then you’ll take a wide-ranging module examining contemporary areas of science, finishing with a project investigating a topic in geosciences such as geohazards or past environmental change.
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 BSc (Honours) Natural Sciences uses a variety of study materials and has the following elements:
- studying a mixture of printed and 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
- working with specialist reading material such as scientific journals
- using specialist software
- working in a group with other students
- using and/or producing diagrams and/or screenshots
- 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.
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 materials; elearning resources like podcasts, interactive media and online materials; tutorial groups and community forums.
Read the detailed learning outcomes here
If you have already studied at university level, you may be able to count it towards your Open University qualification – which could save you time and money by reducing the number of modules you need to study. At the OU we call this credit transfer.
It’s not just university study that can be considered, you can also transfer study from a wide range of professional or vocational qualifications such as HNCs and HNDs.
You should apply for credit transfer before you register, at least 4 weeks before the registration closing date. We will need to know what you studied, where and when and you will need to provide evidence of your previous study.
For more details of when you will need to apply by and to download an application form, visit our Credit Transfer website.
Classification of your degree
On successfully completing this course, you’ll be awarded the BSc (Honours) Natural Sciences degree. You’ll have the opportunity to attend a degree ceremony. If you choose to specialise – for example, in chemistry, your degree title will be BSc (Honours) Natural Sciences (Chemistry).
The class of degree (first, upper second, lower second or third class honours) depends on your grades at Stages 2 and 3.
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.
There are no formal entry requirements for this qualification; however, to get the best from it you’ll need some knowledge of science concepts and mathematical skills, and the ability to read and write to a good standard of English.
Check you're ready for Questions in science (S111) with our self-assessed quiz.
If you’re thinking about choosing physics or astronomy and planetary science, check you’re ready for mathematical study at this level by visiting our MathsChoices website.
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
By the time you achieve your qualification, you’ll be an adaptable graduate with a range of transferable skills that are highly valued in the labour market – such as analytical, numerical and communication skills, teamworking, problem solving and proficiency in using computers. 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 employment.
Employers also look for evidence of experience of the workplace to support the skills gained through the degree. To succeed, graduates will need to be flexible and multi-skilled, with the ability to work in a multidisciplinary environment.
Science graduates are well placed to enter both scientific and non-scientific jobs. The logical, reasoned approach needed for science study is relevant to a wide range of financial, business and public sector employment, so science graduates – particularly those who have good communication and interpersonal skills – are in demand.
Employers include central and local government, the NHS, the water industry, food and drink companies, media and communications, the horticultural industry, multinational oil companies, the pharmaceutical industry, conservation bodies and universities – in roles such as:
- research and investigation
- product design and development
- analysis and diagnostics
- science information management
- science communication
- scientific sales
- exploration and extraction of natural resources
- health and healthcare related professions
- waste management, recycling and sustainability
- environmental management, protection and conservation
- teaching (science is a shortage subject at secondary school level, so there may be incentives to train as a physics, chemistry or maths teacher).
Growth areas are predicted to be: environment, energy and sustainability; biotechnology and biomedical engineering; healthcare; telecommunications; pharmaceuticals; bioinformatics; and technology transfer (transfer of scientific expertise to commercial products).
Biology route to the BSc (Hons) Natural Sciences only
This programme has been awarded interim accreditation by the Royal Society of Biology. Degree accreditation by the Royal Society of Biology acknowledges academic excellence in the biosciences, and highlights degrees that educate the research and development leaders and innovators of the future. The accreditation criteria require evidence that graduates have met defined learning outcomes, including gaining substantial research experience. Following a successful demonstration to the Society that these graduate attributes have been attained, and graduation of the first cohort of students from the programme, the programme may be awarded full accreditation.
Physics route to the BSc (Hons) Natural Sciences only
This degree has been accredited by the Institute of Physics provided that your choice of modules meets their requirements, as detailed in their Membership and Open University degrees document.
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 beyond your degree):
- science teacher
- countryside manager
- science administrator or manager
- technical writer
- laboratory technician
- analytical scientist
- science communicator
- technical consultant
- industrial researcher.