Biology in the heart of Europe

Biology is by nature a multifaceted science. Today’s biologists face a growing number of research challenges, such as the link between global change and the ongoing biodiversity crisis, or the emergence of multidrug-resistant bacteria. Such topics require integrative approaches, combining elements from different scientific domains. The Master of Science in Biology at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel includes five graduation options. Each of these allows you to specialise in your research field of interest, while a broad range of electives provide the opportunity to maintain and develop a multidisciplinary scope.

5 graduation options, 5 ways to start your scientific career

• Ecology & Biodiversity

• Molecular & Cellular Life Sciences

• Herpetology

• Human Ecology

• Erasmus Mundus Masters Course in Tropical Biodiversity & Ecosystems

We also offer a Master of Science in Marine and Lacustrine Science and Management.

Regardless of the graduation option you choose, our primary goal is to provide you with the best preparation for your scientific career. Therefore, our graduation options share a number of course units to develop your skills in indispensable aspects of scientific research:

• Master’s Thesis Biology

• Project Writing

• Professional Internship

• Integrated Practicals and/or Field excursions

Claudia Parra Paitan, alumna

"After I finished my Bachelor in Biology in Peru, I have been working 4 years in the interface between policy-making and research. However, I decided to scale up my knowledge to be able to contribute better to society. When I came across the Master in Human Ecology, it was love at first sight as the programme combines basic science, applied science and policy. The international environment was fascinating to me. To have the possibility to learn from the experience of people from Madagascar, Ethiopia, Vietnam, Samoa, Denmark, etc. was truly amazing. I especially liked the courses about statistics, impact assessment, agroforestry, biotechnology and fisheries, and was impressed with the passionate and knowledgeable professors. I would strongly recommend this programme to all students who think science should be used to promote sustainable development. To those who believe understanding human society is crucial to maintain healthy environments where humans receive the benefits of nature, but also provide the conditions to maintain nature."

Dr. Philippe J. R. Kok, Amphibian Evolution Lab

"Like many scientists, my life has been greatly influenced by reading of adventurers' stories while I was a child, dreaming of exploration and discovery of unknown fabulous animals in untouched places and impressive landscapes. Since 2007 my main research project focuses on the tepui ecosystem in northern South America where I am trying to disentangle the processes behind the evolution of organisms in these islands in the sky. Rising hundreds of meters vertically from the surrounding savannas and forests, the summits of individual tepuis are known to harbor high percentages of endemic species of plants and animals that have evolved in isolation over millions of years. My coworkers and I helicoptered on to the summits of 17 tepuis to take tissue samples from amphibian species for genetic analysis. The genetic data suggest that substantial elements of the fauna may be less than 1 million years old - far less than the forbidding nature of the tepuis would seem to predict."


Sciences and Bioengineering Sciences

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Which path do you choose?

5 excellent ways to start your career as a biologist...

Graduation option 1: Ecology and Biodiversity

This option allows students to gain experience in the research methods used to study the ecology and evolution of organisms found in terrestrial, freshwater and coastal ecosystems. Expert staff teaches up-to-date knowledge on individual organisms, populations, species, communities and ecosystems, backed up by their active research experience in biodiversity, vertebrate and invertebrate ecology, evolutionary ecology, biogeography, plant ecology, plant-animal interactions, conservation genetics of populations and nature management. Students are introduced into ecological research by means of practical field training and excursions in Belgium and abroad. Master’s Thesis research happens on any continent.

Take a look at an example of your future timetable.

Graduation option 2: Molecular and Cellular Life Sciences

This option introduces students to the study of animal and plant development, microbiology, cell signaling pathways, cancer biology, stem cell biology, human biology, virology and immunology. Courses of this profile span multiple levels of biological organisation, from whole organisms down to the molecular level. Students choosing this profile not only gain detailed insights into these topics but also acquire the laboratory skills required to engage in cutting-edge research. The presence of a highly experienced research staff and state-of-the-art equipment ensures an ideal training ground, and excellent opportunities to enter a PhD programme after graduation or to join the biotechnological or pharmaceutical industry.

Take a look at an example of your future timetable.

Graduation option 3: Herpetology

Some of the world’s finest herpetologists have joined forces to organise this unique programme in Herpetology, the study of amphibians and reptiles. Though organised in the capital of Europe, ecological and herpetological field courses in European and tropical countries form an important part of the programme. As a student, you will be in a stimulating environment, with fellow students and visiting top scientists sharing your passion for amphibians and reptiles. The goal of this programme is to prepare you in a unique way for a professional career in herpetology, but due to the integrative approach and embedding of this option in a standard Biology programme, your degree leaves doors open for any other career in Biology.

Take a look at an example of your future timetable. For more information about the programme, application procedure, additional costs and teaching staff, go to the Herpetology website.

Graduation option 4: Human Ecology

This option deals with the interaction between humans and their natural environment. The increasing impact of the human population on ecosystems worldwide stresses the urgent need for researchers with a multidisciplinary background that engage in developmental plans for a durable use and management of natural resources. This programme addresses an international audience of students and offers a course programme that, as well as scientific topics, addresses methodological, socioeconomical and political aspects. It provides the ideal basis for young scientists who would like to play a key role in dealing with human ecological challenges in their home countries.

Reduced programme (60 ECTS)
Candidates with a Master degree of a five-stage programme in Biology from an EEA (European Economic Area) university can apply for the reduced Master programme and can be exempted of 60 ECTS of the regular 120 ECTS programme. Applicants should have gained an equivalent of 60 or more relevant ECTS in their previous training. The relevance refers to statistical analyses, knowledge of various ecosystems, aspects of molecular biology and the conductance of a Master thesis. Applications are evaluated on an individual basis.

Take a look at an example of your future timetable.

Graduation option 5: Erasmus Mundus Masters Course in Tropical Biodiversity and Ecosystems

TROPIMUNDO is an EC-funded and excellence-labeled Erasmus Mundus Masters Course in Tropical Biodiversity and Ecosystems. We bring together top institutes and universities, with long-standing worldwide expertise in tropical rainforests and woodlands and in tropical coastal ecosystems. Students can focus on botany, zoology and integrative ecosystem approaches in institutions worldwide in two Master years, of which an entire semester is spent in the tropics.

TROPIMUNDO candidates can apply for an EC scholarship, which is limited by a number of criteria. Only candidates who have applied to and have been accepted by the TROPIMUNDO consortium in accordance with its specific students' application and selection criteria, are eligible. For more information, check the programme website.

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Learning outcomes

Learning outcomes describe the intended knowledge and understanding, skills and attitudes that you must master after completing your studies.

Do you want to know more about the specific learning outcomes of this programme? Click here for more information.

Practice makes perfect

During your studies you will gain a lot of (international) practical experience, both in research labs and in the field. Ecological excursions in Belgium, abroad (Northern France and Southern Europe) and possibly even at sea help you to broaden your horizon.

You can do part of your study programme abroad through the well-known Erasmus+ programme, but there is also a whole range of other possibilities both inside and outside of Europe. You might choose to study a semester at another European university, or you can do your entire master's thesis or the fieldwork for your thesis abroad. Alternatively, you can also opt for an international internship.

You can go on Erasmus+ exchange to:






For more information, don't hesitate to contact the faculty exchange coordinator.

They did it!

Do you want to know how Pieter-Jan experienced his semester in Lisbon? Or are you more interested in Simon's adventures in Vienna?
Read their testimonials and start dreaming of your own Erasmus+ adventures.

What's next?

A master degree opens doors in many different branches and sectors. You will be able to work in the private sector, (non-) governmental organisations, or continue your academic career as a PhD researcher. Not sure what your next step should be? The VUB helps you with your first steps on the job market.

Start your scientific career in Brussels

A Master of Science in Biology, is a gateway to jobs in a wide range of sectors. Most graduates begin their a career in research, at a university, a specialised research institute such as nature conservation, environmental protection, natural history musea, public health institutes and hospitals, or in industry at a pharmaceutical or agricultural company. In addition, biologists are involved in environmental policy and governance work at regional, national or international level. And, many biologists have a vocation to pass their knowledge on to others, and start teaching either at high schools, colleges, or educational centers. Regardless of your career choice, the knowledge and skills that you acquired during your master’s programme in Brussels will be a major asset.



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Francisco Benitez Capistros, PhD student

"Biologists will usually see and understand things in a unique perspective: from systems to units, from macro to micro, from global to local. We generate this perspective throug study, reflections, observations and fun. However, outside this community of biologists, views and perspectives can be very different. Human thoughts and actions are linked and they have an effect on our surrounding systems. Over the past years I’ve been studying these linkages in one of the most well-known natural wonders of the world: The Galapagos Islands of my home country Ecuador. I use a set of methods both from the social and ecological fields, to understand the dynamics that are taking place in Galapagos: environmental impacts and perceptions, conservation discourses, human-wildlife conflicts and decisions analysis for conservation-sustainability management options. Our research has produced interesting results; such as for example that a farmers’ direct actions against giant tortoises is associated to crop and fence damages in the agricultural areas, but not to the negative perception of this iconic species. This information can be used to identify risk areas to mitigate socioecological conflicts and to move towards better conservation and sustainability objectives in the archipelago."

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Admission criteria

The Master of Science in Biology is open to holders of a Flemish Bachelor degree in Biology. For other academic bachelors in science, applied science and life sciences, equivalency will be evaluated based on scientific competences and skills of the students by the Master of Biology Steering Committee.


Admission is based upon acceptance of the application (proof of meeting the academic and language requirements, satisfactory background,...). All necessary information regarding the admission requirements, deadlines and application forms can be found on the application page

For more details on admission requirements and application

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