Degrees in biology can lead to a wide variety of interesting and impactful career opportunities. Those who choose to study this subject generally gain knowledge and skills that can be applied to many different sub-fields. Students often have numerous chances to specialize their education in order to better prepare for certain types of work. Programs vary but can allow those enrolled to learn about countless topics, from the human genome and medicine to plant engineering and deep-sea creatures. While education level typically dictates which jobs are attainable, graduates are usually prepared for entry-level employment and/or further instruction in the field.
A natural science, biology investigates how living organisms function and interact with their surroundings. The impact this field has on the nation and world as a whole is incredibly significant, with discoveries and advancements literally changing the way society functions. There are many ways to utilize a biology degree and all of them have the potential to be meaningful within the medical and science industry.
As mentioned above, biology encompasses numerous related disciplines. Some common examples include biochemical sciences, physiology, microbiology, and molecular biology. Those who study topics within this field may pursue various jobs, but many find work in healthcare, management, educational instruction, business, and the sciences.
Some level of higher education is generally required to obtain a career in biology. A limited number of entry-level opportunities may be available in the science industry without academic degrees, but these positions can be difficult to attain and often offer much lower salaries by comparison.
The lowest level of higher education is an associate degree in biology. These programs are typically offered by community colleges, which are notable because they tend to charge less in tuition and fees than traditional colleges and universities. An associate biology degree generally consists of 60 credit hours of coursework that take students approximately two years to complete. It’s important to realize, however, that the knowledge and skills gained through this instruction is often quite basic. Students typically gain a foundation in life sciences and mathematics in preparation for more advanced coursework later. They may also study topics in research, testing, and data collection. In most cases, this type of degree is only helpful to those seeking entry-level employment or preparing for more education.
Most individuals interested in this field begin by earning a bachelors in biology degree or a related field. These programs usually consist of 120 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately four years to complete. They are typically designed to help students develop a comprehensive understanding of biological organization. Students often participate in various experiential learning opportunities and focus their efforts on advanced problem-solving techniques. Most colleges and universities also allow those enrolled to select specializations in the field. Graduates may qualify for some entry-level employment, but this type of degree is frequently used as a steppingstone for further learning.
While a bachelor’s biology degree can lead to biology jobs as human biologists, marine biologists, and molecular biologists, many professionals in the field opt to continue their education by enrolling in graduate programs. Those who possess a master’s biology degree is generally considered better qualified candidates for a wide variety of occupations in the field. In addition to having more employment opportunities, they are also likely to earn higher salaries.
The majority of master’s biology degree programs are comprised of between 30 to 60 credit hours of coursework that take full-time students approximately two years to complete. Curriculums vary but students can generally expect to build on laboratory and research skills previously learned. Classes on cellular biology, forensic anthropology, and mathematical modeling are usually available. Instruction in investigation and analysis is also common, with most institutions incorporating teaching components and/or fellowships. These give those enrolled opportunities to gain hands-on experience. Additionally, thesis and research projects are frequently required prior to graduation.
It’s important to realize that an undergraduate degree in biology majors can prepare graduates to study other related specializations as well. The program selected should be based on ultimate career goals. Those interested in medical work, for example, may benefit more from pursuing a degree in healthcare, medical science, or managing animal health care. Those interested in crime analysis or pharmaceuticals, on the other hand, should strongly consider enrolling in a biotechnology instead.
Those seeking even more advanced positions in the field may benefit from enrolling in doctorate or PhD programs. These degrees generally consist of between 90 and 120 credit hours and take full-time students four to seven years to complete. Notably, this level of education is most useful to individuals seeking to become tenured professors, research scientists, and senior consultants. Candidates must usually have extensive experience in research to even be considered for enrollment.
A degree in biology is generally considered a good investment for those who want to enter and/or advance in this field. As mentioned above, these programs are extremely diverse. As a result, earning potential can vary significantly depending on the type of work performed. It’s worth noting, however, that biology is the number one bachelor’s degree aspiring doctors choose to earn prior to beginning medical school.
Individuals who possess a natural curiosity about the living world will find a degree in biology particularly fascinating. These programs are also known to help students develop strong work ethics, as well as acute analytical skills. They are especially beneficial to those who want to learn how to synthesize and analyze large amounts of data.
Ultimately, the worth of a degree in biology is determined most by a person’s ultimate career goals. Ideally, prospective students should research their intended professions to determine whether or not a foundation in this field is useful.
Overall, the outlook for biology professionals is average. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), employment for life, physical, and social science occupations is projected to grow by 7% nationwide from 2021 to 2031. However, the majority of biology majors actually seek jobs as healthcare practitioners. Employment for these occupations is projected to increase by 13%, which is much faster than average.
Notably, projected employment for biology professions varies by occupation. Some occupations are likely to do better than others. For example, growth for conservation scientists and foresters is expected to be only 5%, while epidemiologists are expected to see an increase of 26%. As a result, prospective professionals should research their specific area of interest for more accurate projections.
With so many potential career outcomes available to biology majors, the first step to preparing to work in this field should be identifying the type of occupation you are most interested in. Every profession has different education, training, and experience standards for job candidates. As a result, it’s important to consider options carefully and research typical qualifications thoroughly. Not only does this ensure you select the right type of higher education, but it will also help when selecting major and minor areas of study, elective courses, internships positions, extracurricular activities, and/or professional certifications. Overall, taking time to determine your ultimate goals will make it easier to chart a viable pathway to career success.
There are many biology career options with high salary potential. As mentioned above, however, pay can vary quite significantly across the field.
The following are some of the top-income careers available:
Individuals with an education and background in biology have the knowledge and skills necessary to pursue many different professions. Some jobs are closely related to natural sciences, while others are only tangentially connected to the field. While the following occupations have lower average salaries than those above, they may serve as good options for those seeking entry-level employment.