Postgraduate study
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Animal Breeding and Genetics MSc, PgDip

Awards: MSc, PgDip

Study modes: Full-time, Part-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Animal Breeding and Genetics

We offer a suite of programmes to deliver the knowledge and skills required to:

  • apply quantitative genetic theory to practical problems in both the biomedical and animal science industries.
  • undertake research in a wide range of fields such as evolutionary genetics, animal breeding, human genetics and genome analysis

All our programmes offer the same core content, but you can tailor your degree to reflect your interests.

This programme is specifically for those interested in the application of quantitative genetics to animal breeding. If you are interested in other applications you could consider our alternative programmes in:

  • Quantitative Genetics and Genome Analysis
  • Evolutionary Genetics
  • Human Complex Trait Genetics

Why study animal breeding and genetics?

This degree could be for you if you are interested in:

  • food security
  • the health of companion animals
  • the conservation of animals in the wild

We will provide you with the theory and knowledge of analytical tools so that you can tackle a wide range of problems.

This programme provides essential skills in:

  • quantitative genetics
  • population genetics
  • data analysis
  • statistical methods
  • genome analysis

As an Animal Breeding and Genetics student, you will focus on the application of quantitative genetics to animal breeding.

You will learn about the:

  • structure of breeding programmes for the improvement of production and health-related traits
  • genetic evaluation of livestock and the role of genomic information
  • use of new technologies, such as metagenomics and gene editing

The core course of this specialism is Animal Genetic Improvement, which is taught by colleagues from Scotland’s Rural Colleges (SRUC) and the Roslin Institute as well as having industry input.

Additional courses can be selected from any offered within the suite to build a degree to suit your interests.

Why study here?

Our programme offers a small course experience taught by active members of the quantitative genetic research community.

We are based in the Institute of Ecology and Evolution, part of the School of Biological Sciences, and for this programme we bring together expertise from across the University and SRUC.

We will cover applications to various livestock and aquaculture and look at health and production traits. In addition, this programme will emphasise the conceptual underpinnings of the field, with rigorous training in statistical genetics and exposure to other applications of quantitative genetics.

You will study alongside students with a broad spectrum of interests using quantitative genetic tools, including human genetics and evolutionary biology. Likewise, the staff involved in teaching will come from different disciplines.

The University has an international reputation as a leader in quantitative genetics. The first genetic department was set up in the University of Edinburgh in 1919, and the postgraduate Diploma in Genetics was offered to students beginning in 1949, with a substantial component of quantitative genetics. The MSc in Animal Breeding started in 1975 through a collaboration with the Agriculture Department.

Edinburgh continues to be at the forefront of research in the genetics of animal breeding, evolution, and human health. Many past students hold positions within the animal breeding industry.

The MSc programme consists of two semesters of taught courses followed by a research project leading to a dissertation. You would usually complete this within one academic year, however, there is the option to apply for a part-time programme, taken over two years.

The Postgraduate Diploma (PgDip) completes after the two taught semesters and does not include the research project.

Full-time MSc programme

The full-time programme takes one year to complete. You will start in September and end in August of the following year.

Two semesters of taught courses totalling 120 credits underpin a three-month research project for an additional 60 credits.

Part-time MSc programme

You may opt to take the programme over two years.

In Year 1, you attend in Semester 1 only and take compulsory courses totalling 60 credits.

In Year 2, you attend in Semester 2 and Summer only. You will take compulsory and optional Semester 2 courses totalling 60 credits, then complete a research project for an additional 60 credits.

It is important to note that the part-time programme requires full-time attendance, but for only part of each academic year.

Full-time PgDip programme

This programme takes nine months to complete. It comprises the two semesters of taught courses for 120 credits.

Taught courses

Semester 1 provides core material on population genetics, quantitative genetics and statistics and data analysis, delivered through three compulsory courses.

Semester 2 provides further compulsory courses, including Animal Genetic Improvement. You will also select one 10 credit course.

Dissertation

If you successfully complete the taught component of the MSc Programme, you will progress to complete a research project and dissertation.

Projects are decided by the end of Semester 1 and during semester 2 you will develop the project to prepare a research proposal, which is carried out during the summer.

Potential projects are offered by research groups throughout the University or Scotland’s Rural Colleges (SRUC). You select your top choices and once all preferences are recorded, projects are allocated.

Alternatively, if you have a clear idea of a project you wish to undertake you can source your own project. We have links with industry and can help organise research projects with industry involvement. The Programme Directors will offer support and ensure the project will fulfil the requirements of the Programme. All projects must have one supervisor based within the University of Edinburgh or SRUC.

How will I learn?

Our courses are taught through a range of styles, including:

  • traditional lectures
  • recorded material
  • interactive sessions
  • paper discussions
  • computer practicals

Please note that this degree does not include any wet lab experience.

We also use a range of assessment styles including:

  • in-course essays
  • problems and data analysis
  • formal exams

Find out more about compulsory and optional courses

We link to the latest information available. Please note that this may be for a previous academic year and should be considered indicative.

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScAnimal Breeding and Genetics1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2023/24
MScAnimal Breeding and Genetics2 YearsPart-timeProgramme structure 2023/24
PgDipAnimal Breeding and Genetics9 MonthsFull-timeProgramme structure 2023/24

As a result of studying on the Animal Breeding and Genetics Programme you will

  • acquire an understanding of the general concepts in population and quantitative genetics and genomics and a solid grounding in the statistical methods required
  • obtain an in-depth knowledge of their application in animal improvement and complex trait analysis
  • develop research skills
  • be given the opportunity to develop oral presentation skills through student seminars and scientific presentations and scientific writing skills, through essays and report writing
  • gain expertise in generic skills including computing and IT, communication of ideas and the ability to work both independently and in collaboration

Many of our graduates go on to work in the animal breeding industry, and some choose to follow the MSc with further study to obtain a PhD before pursuing a career in industry.

You will find our graduates in leading roles in major breeding companies, charities and organisations. Other graduates choose to further their career within academia.

Our Programme provides a high level of statistical and computational experience and some of our graduates choose to look for employment outside the animal breeding sector using these skills.

Our Careers Service will support you throughout your time studying with us and for 2 years after your course finishes. They can provide:

  • tailored advice
  • individual guidance and personal assistance
  • internship and networking opportunities (with employers from local organisations to top multinationals)
  • access to the experience of our worldwide alumni network

Studying at the University of Edinburgh will lay the foundations for your future success, whatever shape that takes.

These entry requirements are for the 2024/25 academic year and requirements for future academic years may differ. Entry requirements for the 2025/26 academic year will be published on 1 Oct 2024.

A UK 2:1 honours degree, or its international equivalent, in biological or biomedical sciences, medicine, agriculture, or animal sciences, or a degree in mathematics, statistics, or physics from applicants intending to transfer into the biological sciences.

We will also consider your application if you have less than the minimum qualification but can show sufficient additional relevant experience such as significant work history in a related discipline.

Your application must show evidence of an interest in genetics alongside quantitative skills.

Students from China

This degree is Band C.

International qualifications

Check whether your international qualifications meet our general entry requirements:

English language requirements

Regardless of your nationality or country of residence, you must demonstrate a level of English language competency at a level that will enable you to succeed in your studies.

English language tests

We accept the following English language qualifications at the grades specified:

  • IELTS Academic: total 7.0 with at least 6.0 in each component.
  • TOEFL-iBT (including Home Edition): total 100 with at least 20 in each component. We do not accept TOEFL MyBest Score to meet our English language requirements.
  • C1 Advanced (CAE) / C2 Proficiency (CPE): total 185 with at least 169 in each component.
  • Trinity ISE: ISE III with passes in all four components.
  • PTE Academic: total 70 with at least 59 in each component.

Your English language qualification must be no more than three and a half years old from the start date of the programme you are applying to study, unless you are using IELTS, TOEFL, Trinity ISE or PTE, in which case it must be no more than two years old.

Degrees taught and assessed in English

We also accept an undergraduate or postgraduate degree that has been taught and assessed in English in a majority English speaking country, as defined by UK Visas and Immigration:

We also accept a degree that has been taught and assessed in English from a university on our list of approved universities in non-majority English speaking countries (non-MESC).

If you are not a national of a majority English speaking country, then your degree must be no more than three and a half years old at the beginning of your programme of study.

Find out more about our language requirements:

Tuition fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScAnimal Breeding and Genetics1 YearFull-timeTuition fees
MScAnimal Breeding and Genetics2 YearsPart-timeTuition fees
PgDipAnimal Breeding and Genetics9 MonthsFull-timeTuition fees

Featured funding

UK government postgraduate loans

If you live in the UK, you may be able to apply for a postgraduate loan from one of the UK’s governments.

The type and amount of financial support you are eligible for will depend on:

  • your programme
  • the duration of your studies
  • your tuition fee status

Programmes studied on a part-time intermittent basis are not eligible.

Other funding opportunities

Search for scholarships and funding opportunities:

  • Biology Teaching Organisation
  • School of Biological Sciences
  • James Clerk Maxwell Building
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3FD

We encourage you to apply at least one month prior to entry so that we have enough time to process your application. If you are also applying for funding or will require a visa then we strongly recommend you apply as early as possible.

You must submit one reference with your application.

Find out more about the general application process for postgraduate programmes:

Further information

  • Biology Teaching Organisation
  • School of Biological Sciences
  • James Clerk Maxwell Building
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh
  • EH9 3FD