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Career Opportunities

A M.S. or Ph.D. degree in the Biological Sciences qualifies students for a variety of different careers, including positions at Universities or Colleges, with state or federal agencies, and for jobs in industry. University or college faculty positions generally require a Ph.D. degree. Employment of biological scientists is projected to grow 21% from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations, as biotechnological research and development continues to drive job growth.

Research

Many biologists perform basic or applied scientific research at colleges and universities to gain a better understanding of fundamental life processes. The goal of basic research is to expand human knowledge and to advance our knowledge of living organisms to e.g. develop solutions for human health problems or to increase environmental sustainability. Whereas applied research is directed towards solving specific problems and to develop for example new drugs or treatments, increase agricultural productivity or to develop new biofuels. Faculty members in the biological sciences, work on research projects and teach classes in their area of expertise and train undergraduate and graduate students. Biological scientists often work in teams and interact regularly with scientists of other disciplines, and technicians. Research biologists are also employed by industry and work for example in the field of biotechnological or medical research. Biologists are also hired in industry as production managers and quality control technicians to monitor on-site production. Biologists with research positions at government agencies typically work on projects to protect or to restore the environment, or related to human, animal or plant diseases, and on drug and food safety evaluation. Laboratory technicians in this area normally also have a biology degree and support with their experience the research that is performed in the laboratory.

Salary Range

Median annual wages of microbiologists were $64,350 in May 2008. In the Federal Government in March 2009, microbiologists earned an average annual salary of $97,264; ecologists, $84,283; physiologists, $109,323; geneticists, $99,752; zoologists, $116,908; and botanists, $72,792.The middle 50 percent earned between $48,330 and $87,040. According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, beginning salary offers in July 2009 averaged $33,254 a year for bachelor's degree recipients in biological and life sciences.

Applied and Field Biology

Applied biologists enter into many different professions, including horticulturists, fisheries biologists, botanical technicians, and zookeepers, all of which must be well trained in the life sciences. Employers in these areas are typically found in private companies and federal and state agencies or in the not-for-profit sector.

Education

Biologists with a teaching interest, normally seek positions at the primary, secondary, and collegiate levels, and can also find positions at museums, zoos, and nature centers and for example interact with visitors,  and plan and carry out exhibitions or educational programs, or teach specialized classes.

Business and consulting

In some industries scientists are employed as consultants. Businesses that for example sell environmental products, drugs, or other biological products hire sales associates or regulatory affairs persons and management with degrees in biology.

Bioinformatics - Biology and Computers

Advances particularly in the molecular biological sciences has opened up a new field for biological scientists that couples computer training with a strong biological background - bioinformatics. These biologists are involved in scientific programming, or create web sites or servers for scientific companies and institutions.

More helpful information about career opportunities in the biological sciences can be found on the following pages:

  1. American Institute of the Biological Sciences
  2. Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology
  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics