Top 20 Highest Paying Biology Jobs

highest paying jobs with a biology degree

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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.

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How to Prepare for a Biology Career

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.

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Is a Degree in Biology Worth It?

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.

Job Outlook in Biology

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.

How to Get a Job in Biology

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.

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Top 20 Well-Paying Biology Careers

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:

  • Oncologist - $303,716
    Oncologists diagnose and treat cancer patients. They are typically responsible for a variety of duties including collecting medical history information, performing physical tests, and conducting diagnostic procedures. These professionals may also make referrals to other medical therapists.
  • Surgeon - $299,705
    Surgeons are physicians who perform medical surgeries. While it is possible to specialize in a particularly type of procedure, this is not always the case. Responsibilities include diagnosing medical problems, planning surgeries, performing surgeries, and providing follow-up assessments to ensure proper recovery.
  • Neurologist - $242,856
    Neurologists are physicians who provide neurological care to patients. These professionals have the knowledge and skills needed to treat a variety of issues including sleep disorders, central nervous system injuries, genetic abnormalities, and neurological diseases. They regularly perform thorough examinations, diagnose conditions, and make referrals for additional medical care.
  • Physician - $201,775
    Physicians provide primary medical care to patients. They are capable of treating various health problems but usually focus their efforts on common conditions. These professionals spend a lot of time performing initial examinations, making diagnoses, and maintaining patient records. When necessary, they will also make referrals to other medical specialists.
  • Dentist - $146,651
    Dentists provide medical services pertaining to the teeth and mouth. They work with patients to prevent dental issues, but they also diagnose and treat various conditions, injuries, and malformations that occur. These professionals spend a lot of time discussing symptoms with patients, examining x-rays, and performing procedures. In some cases, they may offer cosmetic services as well.
  • Podiatrist - $146,651
    Podiatrists are physicians who specialize in foot conditions. They regularly examine, diagnose, and treat problems pertaining to feet. This can range from addressing bunions to treating broken bones. These professionals may also refer patients for orthopedists and/or other medical experts for additional care.
  • Pharmacist - $117,662
    Pharmacists dispense drugs to patients after receiving prescriptions from medical professionals. They often work in pharmacies, drugstores, hospitals, and clinics. These professionals are also responsible for deciding whether or not medications are appropriate for individuals. This entails ensuring no errors were made, as well as reviewing other medications prescribed.
  • Optometrist - $116,935
    Optometrists are medical providers who focus their efforts on eyes. They regularly conduct vision tests, as well as diagnosing and treating sight problems for their patients. These professionals also spend a lot of time producing reports, providing advice, and writing referrals to other specialists.
  • Physician Assistant - $103,215
    Physician assistants are licensed medical professionals who perform a variety of routine activities in order to assist doctors. They are capable of providing diagnoses and writing prescriptions for patients. These professionals typically handle simpler sickness and injury cases but refer more serious situations to full physicians.
  • Postsecondary Biology Professor - $99,954
    Professors of biology design and administer academic curriculums intended to foster student learning relevant to the field. They strive to develop engaging coursework, stimulate class discourse, and promote engagement among those enrolled. These professionals also maintain class records and assess student work. In some cases, they may provide tutoring academic counseling as well.
  • Computational Biologist - $99,246
    Computational biologists utilize biological data in order to develop models to better understand biological systems. They often use computational, mathematical methods, and large data sets when performing analyses.
  • Veterinarian - $92,746
    Veterinarians perform various services to assess, maintain, and improve animal health. They regularly perform routine check-ups and vaccinations, but may also administer medicines and conduct surgeries. These professionals are also typically responsible for various management duties, such as supervising assistants and ensuring daily facility tasks are properly completed.
  • Pharmaceutical Sales Representative - $92,171
    Pharmaceutical sales representatives coordinate the sale of medicine with medical providers. They regularly seek out new clients, call existing buyers, obtain orders, maintain sales records, and implement various brand strategies. These professionals spend a lot of time meeting with healthcare personnel and resolving customer complaints and concerns.
  • Statistical Geneticist - $87,213
    Statistical geneticists develop statistical methods used to understand the genetic basis of various human diseases and traits. They often collaborate with other experts conducting studies on cancer, heart disease, diabetes, respiratory disease, psychiatric disease, and other health-related behaviors.
  • Medical Scientist - $82,658
    Medical scientists work to better understand human diseases. They study these conditions in a variety of ways, analyzing data obtained from clinical trials and other investigative methods. These professionals primarily conduct research that is meant to improve overall human health.
  • Pharmacologist - $80,771
    Pharmacologists study and report on how medicines and drugs interact with humans and animals. This generally entails assessing reactions at every level, from cells and tissue to organ systems and the entire body. These professionals spend a lot of time designing and conducting experiments and trials, as well as providing expert input about clinical research and pharmacology data.
  • Biostatistician - $80,350
    Biostatisticians work as part of scientific teams to analyze various biology-related topics. They regularly assist with experimental design and help determine the most appropriate study methods. These professionals may also be responsible for assisting with grant applications, as well as analyzing data and interpreting research results.
  • Genetic Counselor - $79,348
    Genetic counselors provide a wide variety of services related to human genetics. They often work with couples trying to having children, as well as individual patients diagnosed with genetic conditions. These professionals spend most of their time identifying possible genetic defects and providing advice to other medical professionals.
  • Physical Therapist - $74,344
    Physical therapists help patients regain the ability perform basic daily activities after illness or injury. They may assist with recovery after a wide range of issues, from simple sprained ankles to complicated heart surgery. These professionals work in many different settings with patients of all ages.
  • Conservation Scientist - $73,025
    Conservation scientists manage the land quality of forests, parks, rangelands, and other natural resources. They are generally responsible for ensuring that activities on these lands comply with government regulations pertaining to habitat protection, as well as negotiating terms and conditions for harvesting or land use contracts.

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Additional Career Options

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.

  • Medical and Health Services Manager - $72,702
    Medical and health services managers plan, direct, and coordinate medical and health services. They may manage entire facilities, specific clinical areas, or entire medical practices. These professionals also help ensure all healthcare laws and regulations are properly followed.
  • Agricultural Engineer - $72,323
    Agricultural engineers attempt to solve agricultural problems concerning power supplies, the efficiency of machinery, the use of structures and facilities, pollution and environmental issues, and the storage and processing of agricultural products. They often test equipment, oversee construction operations, and coordinate with contractors.
  • Biomedical Engineer - $71,118
    Biomedical engineers combine engineering principles with science to design and create equipment, devices, computer systems, and software. They are often responsible for training clinicians on the proper use of such equipment, as well as providing technical support when needed. These professionals also prepare procedures and write technical reports.
  • Registered Nurse (RN) - $70,881
    Registered nurses provide patient care in a wide variety of medical settings. They work with other medical professionals to fulfill treatment plans, often monitoring and recording condition changes. These professionals also help to educate the public regarding various treatments and medications used.
  • Food Scientist - $70,634
    Food scientists work in various settings to assist with food production, testing, and consumption. They often perform routine checks of products to ensure they are prepared correctly, as well provide advice to improve production. These professionals may also develop new techniques to improve and streamline processes.
  • Biochemist - $70,342
    Biochemists work with various molecules and compounds to study the ways cells interact. They use the information collected to help make more effective medications, produce healthier foods, and better diagnose diseases. In order to conduct their studies, these professionals often utilize centrifuges, microscopes, and chemical spectrometers.
  • Epidemiologist - $68,049
    Epidemiologists study communicable diseases, as well as their relationships with various cultures and vectors as they spread. They spend time assessing a variety of factors, from diet and hygiene habits to genetics. These professionals may collect data through observation, as well as experimentation.
  • Molecular Biologist - $65,392
    Molecular biologists use various methods to investigate the structure, function, process, regulation, and evolution of biological molecules and their interactions. They regularly utilize laboratory equipment and troubleshoot minor technology breakdowns.
  • Chiropractor - $65,281
    Chiropractors provide physical rehabilitation services. They often work with patients suffering from injuries, chronic pain, and various health conditions. These professionals spend time performing examinations, diagnosing problems, performing chiropractic procedures, and maintaining treatment records.
  • Biologist - $61,837
    Biologists research and analyze living organisms. While they typically work in laboratory settings, some projects require field work. In addition to conducting experiments, these professionals may also map land areas, gather samples, and perform surveys. It’s common for biologists to work with other researchers.