The subjects you choose to study for GCSE, or Standard Grade, will determine which A levels or Highers you can take, and this then affects which university courses and jobs you can apply for. As it is hard to ‘pick up’ a subject in the future that you’ve dropped, making the right choices at this age is very important.
In England and Wales most students are encouraged to study at least two science GCSEs, and from 2016 this will be compulsory. Most schools and colleges will not allow you to study any science subject at A-level (even Sports Studies or Psychology) if you haven't got two GCSEs in Science. Increasingly schools also offer 'triple science', meaning you will sit individual GCSE exams in each of Biology, Chemistry and Physics. This is thought to be the best preparation for A-levels in these science subjects.
Some schools also offer Diplomas or BTEC Applied Science courses. These more skill-based (vocational) courses are designed to help you gain practical skills, and are good preparation for the Applied Science A-level and Apprenticeships in science and engineering.
However it is important to check that the qualification you get from this course will be enough to allow you to go on to study what you want post-16. If you think you might want to go on to university, it's important to check the university entrance requirements, as not all universities accept these qualifications.
Take a look at the Ways in – England and Wales chart to see all the different routes into a career in the pharmaceutical industry.
In Scotland the choice is just between Biology, Chemistry and Physics Standard Grade. If you think you might want to study science beyond age 16, you should try to continue to study all three science subjects. This chart shows the different ways into the pharmaceutical industry in Scotland.
Most schools require you to have at least a C grade (and often higher) at GCSE to be allowed to study a science A level. Getting a good grade in science will also help when applying for an Apprenticeship.
If you need help studying science, have a look at the resources available on our Resources for Schools website.