Why would you choose to pursue a degree in pure sciences?
For some science enthusiasts, fields like engineering or medicine, despite persistent persuasion from relatives, are arguably not a good fit. For such souls, furthering the cause of science and watching its mysteries unfold is a greater purpose than tackling the problems posed by technology.
If you can relate to this, higher education in pure sciences could prove to be a fulfilling experience for you. Having been such a person, I intend to shed light on the various aspects of why, how, and what one would need to know before they decide to pursue pure sciences after class 12th, through this article!
What are the Pure Sciences?
Science has only scratched the surface of the mysterious principles governing the world. Unlike students of applied sciences, who solve specific current day problems, the joy of discovery is a strong driving force common to all successful scientists.
There are many programmes in India that cater to higher education in science but are conventionally divided into two broad categories for most state/central Indian universities – courses in “physical sciences” or “natural sciences”. An age-old classification that truly means less now that research is becoming interdisciplinary, this divides pure science courses into a mix of either life sciences (mainly biology and chemistry) or physical sciences (mainly physics and math) according to the syllabus.
Courses like B.Sc. Life Sciences and B.Sc. Physical Sciences are the oldest among the general courses. But one could also choose to go for honours courses (BSc (Hons.)) in physics, chemistry and streams of biology – botany, zoology, microbiology, food technology, agriculture, biomedical sciences, etc.
What you learn during your studies will obviously matter more than the name of the degree, so choose wisely!
How Should You Choose the Right Pure Science Course?
Your choices may be shaped by which subjects you enjoyed learning in school out of biology, mathematics, physics or chemistry. Or, the scope of the subject – maybe you can see yourself working in a lab/classroom, or an office, or an NGO or the government, (perhaps even in a forest!) and will thus use your instinct to decide the discipline you would like to pursue.
Note: Worry not, there is plenty of potential to move from one to the other in the future!
Once that is decided, selecting a programme becomes far easier depending on the repute of the college and the course.
Pure Science Courses in India and their Admission Criteria
The way the B.Sc. programmes are structured can vary quite a lot among the top state or central universities. Kolkata, Chennai, Delhi, Pune, Chandigarh and Bombay have the colleges with the best infrastructure.
Some leading colleges for pure science degrees in India are:
- Hindu College, Delhi
- Miranda House, Delhi
- Stephen’s College, Delhi
- Loyola College, Chennai
- Madras Christian College, Chennai
- Hansraj College, Delhi
- Christ University, Bengaluru
- Stella Maris College, Chennai
- Mount Carmel College, Bengaluru
- Xavier’s College, Mumbai
Note – This is just an indicative list of colleges, and is not meant to be exhaustive or reflect rankings of institutes.
The selection criteria for admission continues to largely be based on the marks scored in board exams, however some autonomous colleges, like St Xavier’s College (Mumbai) and St Stephen’s College (Delhi), also have an entrance exam or additional interview round. I would suggest that as a prospective student, you go through the curriculum of the courses and decide based on whichever seems most attractive. Every college has specific strong departments, it is thus a good idea to go to the colleges before admissions begin, talk to the students and the faculty, and make an informed choice.
Various IITs also have joint BS-MS programmes (dual degree programmes) for different streams which would require qualifying JEE with a decent rank. For example, IIT Madras and IIT Kharagpur have dual degree programmes in Physics and IIT Kanpur has an interesting one in Earth Sciences! Indian Institute of Space Science and Technology also offers a dual degree programme in Engineering Physics.
There are also more rigorous joint BS-MS or four year BS(Res) programmes at IISERs and IISc, respectively, which have a focus on research in addition to academics. The admission process for these programmes is multichannel and highly competitive, since these are the most revered institutes in the country, with the best infrastructure and a strongly-structured curriculum.
An additional upside to these programmes is also the financial support offered by INSPIRE or KVPY to the students.
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Some other off-beat choices are the courses offered by ICAR in agriculture and allied sciences. There continues to be a constant demand for individuals from such backgrounds in respective industries and thus acquiring a job right after bachelor’s is much easier.
Recommended Read: 9 Upcoming (and Promising) Careers In Agriculture
Among the private universities, BITS has a variety of different specialisations offered under the umbrella of their integrated degree (M.Sc. (Hons.)) programmes. Another interesting choice might be Ashoka University’s UG programme, which can lead to earning pure or interdisciplinary majors in one of the many streams they offer.
Higher Education Opportunities in Pure Sciences
Usually, a B.Sc. is a mix of many sub-fields in of any stream. For example, in biology, it can cover sub-fields like biochemistry, zoology to agriculture or neuroscience. So, it is expected to help students recognise their sub-field of interest and pursue it further with a master’s.
With an increasing number of graduates every year, it is important to consider the job opportunities and competition before entering a field. Since a master’s degree is often a minimum requirement in pure science fields, you’d like to invest in a field that both interests you and also opens doors to jobs you’ll enjoy holding.
Going for broader curriculums which cover more sub-fields would thus be advantageous to converge on a specific field of interest, but a more specific course, like B.Sc. in food technology or computer science/instrumentation, would help you secure an entry-level job right after bachelor’s in the respective industry.
The prospect of pursuing a master’s can also help you branch out of pure sciences at a later stage. For example, programmes in public health and health care management, environmental sciences, resource policy and governance, wildlife and ecology, etc., which merge the basic knowledge of science to help hone skills needed to work at the grassroot or administrative levels. If one’s calling is thus to work with the United Nations/WHO or become a writer/educator for popular science, such programmes would be good prospective choices for their future.
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Overseas Education Opportunities in Pure Sciences
For those students with financial sponsorship, considering science education abroad would be a feasible option too. And for those with a glorious CV and good percentages and SAT scores, many scholarships are available (so fret not, you talented young science nerd!).
Although fees at the bachelor’s level abroad are much higher than in India, so is the quality of education. An advantage is that you do not have to select a stream right after class 12, but can take varied courses and select a major/minor later on in the program. A similar implementation is found at IISc’s UG programme and IISERs’ BS-MS programme but with a special focus on research.
What are the Career Opportunities After a Pure Science Degree?
There are many career opportunities post an education in the pure sciences other than teaching and research – a.k.a academia.
To keep this article concise (and a solemn wish to present information sensibly) I would be doing a separate article on the same. Keep watching this space for the 2nd article in the series!
As a conclusion, I would recommend you follow not only your heart and instinct, if deciding on pursuing pure sciences.
Many students get heartbroken over not doing well in competitive exams after 12th grade because they believe it is the only gateway to entering a science-related field. Many of my present-day colleagues went through the same, but in the long run, our curiosity and love for science gave us freedom from what may have otherwise been a mundane and monotonous life. Every day we go to work, we learn something new; from both our failures and our successes, and of those before us!
For more information about the next steps after B.Sc. in pure sciences, read my next article.
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