What Can I Do with a Degree in Biology?

Learn more about what you can do with a degree in biology. Find information on biology careers, job outlook, salary, and recommended schools. View popular schools that prepare students for careers in biology.

Overview

Biology is the study living things. For individuals that enjoy this type of study, a career in biological sciences may be a perfect match. Biological scientists not only research living things, but also these professionals study the natural environment of living things to better understand how organisms interact with the environment, how changes in the environment impact organisms and how man’s impact on the environment can impact other life forms. Research conducted in these areas has profound implications for all life on planet Earth.

While many biological scientists conduct research to better understand the science of life, others utilize their knowledge to develop new advancements in medicine and technology. Biological scientists have been instrumental in the development of products such as biofuels and new fertilizers to protect crops from insect infestation. Because of the nature of their jobs, most biological scientists work in laboratories and are responsible for keeping detailed research notes and working with teams to formulate problem solutions. Some biological scientists may work directly in the field. Ecologists, for instance may work in the natural environment to observe the impact of man on a specific plant or animal species. Professionals in these jobs typically require a bachelor’s degree or higher to obtain employment. Professionals seeking to work on independent research projects will require a doctorate degree.

Careers

Careers for biological scientists are typically based on areas of specialization for the professional. While there are a myriad of areas for specialization, some of the most common are reviewed here.

Biochemists: Biochemists investigate the living things to better understand their chemical composition. Study of chemical reactions involved in metabolism and growth provides valuable insight into how life occurs.

Microbiologists: Microbiologists focus on the biology of microscopic organisms such as bacteria and algae. Research conducted in this area is vital to protecting humans, animals and plants from disease.

Botanists: Botanists study all aspects of plant life and the impact of the environment on plant functions such as photosynthesis and pollination.

Zoologists: Zoologists study animals in their natural surroundings, observing the impact of environmental change on animal behavior. Some zoologists dissect animals to better understand their biological structure.

Aquatic Biologists: Professionals working in this field study aquatic life and the impact of environmental change on aquatic plant and animal species.

Salary

Due to the education, knowledge and training that is needed for professionals in the biological sciences, salaries for professionals in this filed are quite generous overall. While salaries in this field will vary based on the area of specialization for the professional, median annual wages for biological scientists was $82,840 in 2008. For those with Doctoral Degrees at the top of their profession, median annual salaries can be as high as $139,440. For professionals at the lowest end of the profession, median annual wages were $44,320 in 2008. Entry level positions for individuals with a Bachelors Degree in life sciences had median annual starting salaries of $33,254 in 2009. Biological scientists working for the federal government will be able to command higher wages than professionals working in the private sector. Advancement in the field can include supervision of research activities. Generally speaking, professionals working in supervisory positions will command higher salaries.

Job Outlook

Employment opportunities in the biological sciences field is expected to grow at a pace of 21 percent through 2018. This growth is higher than what is expected for most occupations. Much of the growth in the profession will be generated by an increased demand for professionals working in biotechnology. Research undertaken in this field over the last decade has resulted in the marked advancement of biological sciences. In order to further use these advancements, more professionals will be needed for research and development (R&D) and application. Demand for professionals in environmental science will also increase in coming years. Biological scientists employed in these positions will be responsible for evaluating how changes in technology impact the environment. Jobs for biological scientists in government may decrease in demand over the coming years due to current budget issues facing the federal government. Fields with smaller sizes including botany, zoology and marine biology will have limited numbers of job openings in the coming years.

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