Postgraduate study
Edinburgh: Extraordinary futures await.

Data Science for Biology MSc

Awards: MSc

Study modes: Full-time

Funding opportunities

Programme website: Data Science for Biology

Biological Science is being transformed by a range of high-throughput technologies that generate vast amounts of data. These technologies include high-throughput genomic sequencing, imaging, screening and proteomics.

The result of this is that skills that equip scientists and researchers with the expertise to extract biological meaning from this data are in high demand.

This programme uses concepts from data science to train students in a generic set of skills that can be adapted to solve problems in a flexible way across different types of data. The intention is to complement and extend existing approaches, especially those from bioinformatics, with data science, to build highly adaptable skill sets for modern biological research.

Is this MSc for me?

The University of Edinburgh has a thriving data science community, which you would become part of. Based in the School of Biological Sciences, ranked in the top 5 for the UK for research power (REF 2022), you will be deeply focused on applying data science concepts within the domain of biological sciences.

On completion of this programme you will be well equipped to undertake further studies, or to work in industry.

The MSc comprises two semesters of taught courses followed by a research project and dissertation.

Semesters 1 and 2 include 60 credits each of a mixture of compulsory and optional courses.

The research project and dissertation is also worth 60 credits, giving a total of 180 credits for the year.

The programme is designed to provide training in statistics, Python, R programming and data analysis, all tailored specifically to biological examples. Teaching is through lectures, tutorials, seminars, computer practicals and lab demonstrations.

Compulsory courses:

  • Statistics and Data Analysis (Semester 1, 20 credits)
  • Biological Databases (Semester 1, 10 credits)
  • Using R for Data Science (Semester 1, 10 credits)
  • Introduction to Python Programming for Data Science (Semester 2, 10 credits)
  • Research Project Proposal (Semester 2, 20 credits)
  • Project Dissertation (Semester 2, 60 credits)

Available recommended and optional courses include:

  • Information Processing in Biological Cells (Semester 1, 10 credits)
  • Practical Systems Biology (Semester 2, 20 credits)
  • Foundations in Responsible Research and Innovation (Semester 1, 10 credits)
  • Functional Genomic Technologies (Semester 2, 10 credits)
  • Bioinformatics Algorithms (Semester 2, 10 credits)
  • Introduction to Website & Database Design (Semester 2, 10 credits)
  • Social Dimensions of Systems and Synthetic Biology (Semester 2, 10 credits)


Your research project, is a key element in deciding how your career should develop further, and is carried out independently during the summer.

Working under the guidance of a supervisor from one of our world leading laboratories you will present your results in a dissertation.

A wide range of projects is available through both the School of Biological Sciences and from other University of Edinburgh schools and they may also be available from industry.

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
MScData Science for Biology1 YearFull-timeProgramme structure 2024/25

By completing this programme, you will:

  • acquire a set of skills necessary for the analysis and interpretation of complex biological data (these skills may be sufficiently generic so that they can be applied across multiple different types of data)
  • acquire skills that might be used to make new discoveries from data
  • learn how to develop new software and database components using a variety of programming languages
  • learn how to interpret existing scientific literature and design experiments

This programme will equip you with the quantitative skills that employers are looking for in:

  • programming
  • statistics
  • data analysis and interpretation

The programme will also give you the skills to work within the developing area of data science. Alongside data science, you will have a mixed portfolio of skills from established fields such as systems biology, bioinformatics and genomics.

As a Data Science for Biology MSc graduate, you will have a wide range of career options. You might work in:

  • industry
  • a diverse range of bioscience companies
  • academic labs

Equally, you will be well-prepared for a career in academic research and we expect many of our students to continue to PhD level.

Our Careers Service will support you throughout your time studying with us and for 2 years after graduation. 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

We invest in your future beyond the end of your degree. 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 an area of biological sciences. You must have a strong background in molecular biology, biochemistry or related sciences and some experience of computer science, including programming (Python, Perl, C/C++, Java or R.), and statistics. This programme is aimed primarily at biological science graduates.

We may also consider your application if you have a background in physics, computing, mathematics or engineering and some experience of biological sciences. Your application must show that you are keen to learn data science from a biological perspective.

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. We do not accept IELTS One Skill Retake to meet our English language requirements.
  • 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 five years old* at the beginning of your programme of study. (*Revised 05 March 2024 to extend degree validity to five years.)

Find out more about our language requirements:


If you receive an offer of admission (either unconditional or conditional), you will need to pay a deposit to secure your place.

  • £1,500 (this contributes towards your tuition fees)

Find out more about tuition fee deposits:

Tuition Fees

AwardTitleDurationStudy mode
MScData Science for Biology1 YearFull-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:

  • School of Biological Sciences
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh

Due to high demand, the school operates a number of selection deadlines.

We strongly recommend you apply as early as possible. Applications may close earlier than the published deadlines if there is exceptionally high demand.

We will make a small number of offers to the most outstanding candidates on an ongoing basis, but hold the majority of applications until the next published selection deadline. We aim to make the majority of decisions within eight weeks of the selection deadline.

Applicants who are not made an offer at a specific selection deadline will either be notified that they have been unsuccessful in securing a place on the programme, or if they do not hear then they are still being considered and their application will be carried forward to the next selection deadline for further consideration at that time.

Selection Deadlines

Round Application Deadline Decision made or application rolled to next deadline
1 15 December 1 March
2 31 March 31 May
3 31 May 31 July

You must submit one reference with your application.

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

Further information

  • School of Biological Sciences
  • The King's Buildings Campus
  • Edinburgh