How learned societies can help you

Learned societies bring together people who are actively interested in a particular academic discipline. Some societies are open to any interested individual whereas others have entry requirements; for a few of the very old societies, such as the Royal Society founded in 1660, membership is an honour bestowed by election.

Membership to a learned society can prove valuable in many ways:

  • It allows you to keep up to date with developments in your area of interest through newsletters and meetings.
  • It puts you in touch with a network of other people actively engaged in your discipline of interest, which can be beneficial on a purely personal level but also when it comes to finding placements or jobs.
  • Many societies vigorously support those at the start of their career with bursaries, careers advice, professional development courses and access to job adverts and other opportunities.
  • Membership of a learned society demonstrates your commitment to that subject, which may prove useful on your CV at interview.


This is a list of learned societies with a focus on biology and biochemistry.

We have recommended some learned societies with a particularly good offer for undergraduate students.


Recommended Societies

Biochemical Society

The Biochemical Society aims to promote the advancement of the science of biochemistry within the context of cellular and molecular life sciences. They have over 6,000 members worldwide, including a significant proportion of plant scientists.

Student membership to the Biochemical Society provides you with access to range of educational and careers information aimed at undergraduate to post-graduate level, plus student travel grants and more.

  • Undergraduate membership costs £10


British Ecological Society

The British Ecological Society has an international reputation for promoting the science of ecology through the Annual Meetings, symposia, grant-giving and its activities in the policy and education sectors.

Members benefit from all this plus the quarterly magazine, the Bulletin, which includes features on operational aspects of ecology and updates of the BES activities as well as an international events diary.

The BES has a particularly strong student section, including a yearly careers conference.

  • Students receive one year free membership, and £20 annual membership for the rest of their studies.


British Science Association

The British Science Association seeks to advance the public understanding, accessibility and accountability of the sciences and engineering. The British Science Association organises a number of major initiatives across the UK, including the annual Festival of Science, National Science and Engineering Week, programmes of regional and local events, and an extensive programme for young people in schools and colleges. You can get involved in the British Science Association’s diverse range of activities by volunteering, which is a great way to get some hands-on science communication experience.

  • Membership of the British Science Association is free and open to all.

Botanical Society of the British Isles

The Botanical Society of the British Isles is the biggest and most active organisation devoted to the study of botany in the UK, with a mix of both professional and amateur members.

The Society especially welcomes beginners and helps them get high quality botanical training. Grants are available to those wishing to improve their plant identification skills while special Study Grants are available to botany students.

The BSBI also contributes significantly to conservation of native flora by producing national Atlases and county Floras of the distribution of plants. These are constantly updated and improved by the BSBI’s networks of volunteers, county recorders and referees, and are used by scientists, conservationists and governmental bodies for determining the abundance, range and change of vascular plants and charophytes in the British Isles. Many maps are available on the Society’s webpage, where you can even create distribution maps of any British species using Google Earth.

  • Student membership costs £12


British Society for Plant Pathology

The British Society for Plant Pathology (BSPP) was founded in 1981 for the study and advancement of plant pathology (plant diseases). The BSPP welcomes members from all over the world and from all branches of plant pathology and supports the professional interests of plant pathologists worldwide.

Students get online access to BSPP journals, and receive a regular newsletter with updates on activities, information on meetings etc. Student members may attend BSPP scientific meetings and other functions at members rates, and apply for travel and study grants.

  • Student membership costs £25 (includes online access to one journal and all other benefits – you can also pay £50 for two journals)

The Linnean Society

The Linnean Society of London is the world’s oldest active biological society, and has a particular focus on evolution, taxonomy, biodiversity and sustainability.

Members are called ‘Fellows’, and with its 2,000 Fellows drawn from all walks of life, ranging from leading professional scientists to amateur naturalists. The Society welcomes anyone interested in natural history, in all its forms. The Society holds meetings on a wide variety of subjects relating to natural history and these are open to all – both Fellows and the general public.

  • Student membership costs £10

More Learned Societies

American Society of Plant Biologists

The American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) plays a key role in uniting the international plant science disciplines with a membership of 5,000 spanning six continents. Founded in 1924 the ASPB is devoted to the advancement of all aspects of plant science including physiology, molecular biology, environmental biology, cell biology, and biophysics of plants. It publishes 2 high-impact journals – ‘Plant Physiology’ and ‘The Plant Cell’ – organises conferences, and is involved in a host of other activities that are key to the advancement of the science.
Members come from diverse areas such as academia, government laboratories, industrial and commercial environments. The Society also has a large student membership with a special discounted student rate.

  • Undergraduate membership costs $35


Association of Applied Biologists

The Association was founded in 1904 and has as its objectives “To promote the study and advancement of all branches of Biology and in particular (but without prejudice to the generality of the foregoing), to foster the practice, growth and development of applied biology, including the application of biological sciences for the production and preservation of food, fibre and other materials and for the maintenance and improvement of earth’s physical environment”.

Members receive student travel grants, a newsletter and more.

  • Student membership costs £20



Botanic Gardens Conservation International

BGCI was founded in 1987 to link botanic gardens and create a global network for plant conservation. The BGCI’s membership ranges from whole botanic gardens to interested individuals.

BGCI members receive regular journals and discounts on BGCI congresses and publications. They also get to be part of the world’s largest plant conservation network. Inside news, views, contacts, encouragement, advice and support can all be important for anyone thinking about working in the conservation of living plants.

  • Membership costs £80


British Bryological Society

The Society promotes a wider interest in all aspects of bryology, which include mosses, liverworts and hornworts. It has a worldwide membership, both amateur and professional, and is actively engaged in field studies as well as laboratory-based subjects. Members’ interests cover all aspects from taxonomy and ecology, to physiology, cyto-genetics and molecular biology.

Membership gives you the opportunity to benefit from a wide range of meetings, training workshops, field work trips, projects and publications.

  • Student membership costs £12.50


British Lichen Society

The Society focuses on the study of lichens, including meetings, workshops, publications and recording projects. They also offer small grants and scholarships to students.

  • Student membership costs £10


British Mycological Society

The British Mycological Society (BMS) supports research into, conservation of and knowledge of all sorts of fungi. It also covers fungal interactions with plants.

Membership is open to anyone with an interest in mycology, and the BMS has some 1400 members from around the world.

  • Undergraduate membership costs £10


British Phycological Society

The Society supports the study of algae and seaweeds, including support and funding for students, an Annual Meeting, recording projects, a journal, etc.

  • Student membership costs £10.50


British Pteridological Society

The British Pteridological Society focuses on the study of ferns, and their taxonomy, growth, distribution, conservation and ecology. It has an international membership, both amateur and professional, and including those interested in gardening, natural history and botany.

They have a lively website and presence on social media.

  • Student membership costs £12.50


British Society for Cell Biology

The British Society for Cell Biology supports research in all branches of cell biology and to fostering the interchange of information between cell biologists. The Society is run on a voluntary basis by a committee of scientists drawn from a wide range of Institutions within the UK. BSCB organizes and supports meetings and conferences relevant to cell biology and plays an increasing role in raising awareness of science policy issues in the UK. It offers educational materials for students, funding, and competitions for images and science writing.

  • Student membership costs £20


British Society for Developmental Biology

The British Society for Developmental Biology (BSDB) is a society open to all who have an interest in the science of Developmental Biology. The BSDB aims to represent developmental biology to external organisations in the UK and Europe, to organise high quality scientific meetings and offer limited travel grants to members and to negotiate reduced subscriptions to key developmental biology journals for members.

  • Student membership costs £15


Genetics Society

The Genetics Society acts to support and promote research and teaching of genetics in the UK.  It covers the study of genomes, genes and gene action, and embraces scales ranging from the molecular and cellular to the population and ecosystem level. We run two scientific meetings a year, and provide funding for undergraduate summer projects, fieldwork, training, specialist interest groups, scientific meeting organisation, conference attendance and travel.

  • Student membership costs £5


Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management

IEEM is the professional body that represents and supports ecologists and environmental managers in the UK and abroad. It provides a variety of services to develop competency and standards in ecology and environmental management. Established in 1991, IEEM has over 3,500 members drawn from local authorities, government agencies, industry, environmental consultancy, teaching/research, and NGOs.

  • Student membership costs £20


Plantlife International

Plantlife International is a UK charity dedicated exclusively to conserving all forms of plant life in their natural habitats. It was established in 1989 and now has 30 staff, 12,000 members and 23 nature reserves. Plantlife International acts as the ‘Lead Partner’ for 77 threatened plant species under the UK Government’s Biodiversity Initiative. Conservation of these species is delivered through the charity’s species recovery programme, which is jointly funded by Countryside Council for Wales, English Nature, Scottish Natural Heritage, charitable trusts, companies and individuals. Plantlife International involves its members as volunteers in delivering many aspects of this work.


Society of Biology

The Society of Biology was created to inform public policy and promote the advancement of the biosciences. It organises an annual Life Science Careers Conferences aimed at undergraduates through to postdocs. These one-day careers information conferences are normally held in November/December   each academic year and each conference includes a range of talks on career choices and further training, plus an exhibition. For more information, please see

A booklet produced by a number of Learned Societies entitled “Next steps; options after a bioscience degree” is also available.

Student Affiliate members receive the magazine The Biologist, and have access to travel grants. Email for membership.

  • Student membership costs £15


Society for Experimental Biology

Founded in 1923, the Society for Experimental Biology (SEB) is a multidisciplinary learned society with approximately 1500 members worldwide made up of plant, animal and cell research and PhD student biologists. The SEB is primarily a forum for communication for its members so that they can collaborate and discuss their research through international scientific conferences, journals and newsletter. The SEB owns three internationally renowned plant journals: the Journal of Experimental Botany, the Plant Journal and the Plant Biotechnology Journal which publish high quality research and review papers.

The website includes some particularly useful careers materials for undergraduate and graduate students.

  • Student membership costs £20


The Royal Society

The Royal Society is the independent scientific academy of the UK and the Commonwealth, and is dedicated to promoting excellence in science. It plays an influential role in national and international science policy and provides funding for over 1600 young scientists every year. It has a wide range of resources on its website for anyone interested in the current state of science in this country.

In addition, there is a video library of Royal Society lectures which has some very interesting talks by distinguished speakers available to view.


Further resources


Nature Jobs

The Nature Jobs website offers a wide range of supporting articles including current jobs news, Careers Expert Q&A Column, news of careers fairs and articles written by postdocs about their experiences in science.


New Scientist

New Scientist website lists the latest of its excellent feature articles on careers in science taken from the magazine. New Scientist also produces annual Graduate Specials and Careers Guides that are worth looking out for; the latter includes salary guides, topical articles and employer profiles.

Horticultural careers

A range of career opportunities in horticulture, including plant science, art and design, business, food and production, sports and leisure, heritage and conservation, health and well-being



While Vitae is not aimed at undergraduate students – its target group is researchers and employers – this website offers a lot of careers advice that is particularly relevant to students considering whether or not to carry on to do postgraduate research. Those that do choose the PhD route should definitely check out the ‘Postgraduate Research’ section as it provides excellent advice on how to avoid common research pitfalls and developing your career.