Requirements for a Career in Biological Sciences
Biology professionals work in laboratories, classrooms, and the field. Learn more about the requirements for pursuing a career in the biological sciences.
- A biology degree can prepare you for a variety of careers in the biological sciences.
- Biology careers include jobs in laboratories, classrooms, and many other settings.
- For most jobs, you need a college degree, experience, and relevant skills.
- Internship experience and a strong resume can help you land jobs.
The biological sciences examine living organisms, from the cellular level to complex ecosystems. And within the biological sciences, you can pursue various career paths.
Popular biological sciences careers include biological technician, microbiologist, biology teacher, and research scientist. These growing fields report salaries above the median annual wage for all occupations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).
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Ready to start your journey?
But what are the requirements for a career in biology? Keep reading to learn about common careers, earning potential with a biology major, and degree requirements for different career paths.
What Are Common Biological Science Careers?
A major in biological sciences can help you break into many different biology careers.
For example, a biology major prepares graduates for roles like medical laboratory scientist, biological technician, or microbiologist. In these roles, professionals use their biological sciences training to analyze samples, conduct clinical trials, and research medical advances.
Careers in biology include options in laboratory science, like technologist and technician positions. But a biology major can also lead to opportunities such as a laboratory or research scientist.
And many biological sciences majors also pursue public health or education careers. If you choose a career in teaching, you can help educate future generations in the biological sciences.
The earning potential with biology careers varies widely. Several factors influence salaries, including degree level, industry, job responsibilities, and location.
The table below introduces common job titles, median pay, and job growth data for careers in biology.
|Job Title||Median Pay (2021)||Job Growth (2021-2031)|
|Zoologist and Wildlife Biologist||$64,650||1%|
|Natural Sciences Manager||$137,900||6%|
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)
What Degree Should You Get to Work in Biological Sciences?
Many careers in biology require a college degree. Before you declare a biology major, consider the career paths and degree requirements for different roles. For example, some roles benefit from a master's degree.
This section introduces undergraduate and graduate biology degrees, including common career paths you can take with each.
A two-year associate degree introduces you to core principles in biology and the natural sciences. In addition to biology courses, you may also complete classes in chemistry, physics, and math.
With an associate degree, you can enter the workforce or transfer into a bachelor's program. Many biology careers require at least a bachelor's degree.
Associate in biology degree jobs include:
- Agricultural and food science technician: These technicians analyze food quality, conduct laboratory tests, and collect agricultural samples. Agricultural and food science technicians made a median annual salary of $44,700 in May 2021, according to BLS data.
- Chemical technician: Chemical technicians analyze materials in laboratory settings. They operate equipment and record results. These workers earned a median salary of $48,990 per year in May 2021, according to BLS data.
A bachelor's degree in biology is the minimum education requirement for many biology careers. During a four-year bachelor's program, you complete lower-division natural sciences courses along with specialized upper-division biology classes.
These courses allow you to focus your skills on specific career paths.
Bachelor's in biology degree jobs include:
- Biological Technician: Biological technicians assist biologists in laboratories. They operate equipment and analyze samples. These biology workers reported a median annual salary of $48,140 in May 2021, as per BLS data.
- Medical Laboratory Scientist: Also called clinical laboratory technologists, medical laboratory scientists collect samples, perform laboratory tests, and interpret the results. These roles reported a median annual pay of $57,800 in May 2021, according to BLS data.
- Biology Teacher: Biology teachers educate middle schoolers and high schoolers in the biological sciences. They typically need a teaching license. Biology teachers earned a median annual salary of $61,820 in May 2021, according to the BLS.
A two-year master's degree provides advanced training in biology specialties. Students can choose focused programs in microbiology, epidemiology, or other subfields to advance their careers.
Master's in biology degree jobs include:
- Microbiologist: Microbiologists examine microorganisms to understand their properties. The BLS reports that these workers earned a median annual pay of $79,260 in May 2021.
- Zoologist and Wildlife Biologist: Zoologists and wildlife biologists examine animals in their ecosystems. This category includes marine biologists. These roles made a median pay of $64,650 per year, according to May 2021 BLS data.
- Epidemiologist: Epidemiologists research infectious diseases and other threats to public health. The BLS reports that these professionals made a median pay of $78,830 per year in May 2021.
A doctorate prepares graduates for the highest-level roles in the biological sciences, including as research scientists or biology professors. Graduate students spend around five years earning a Ph.D. in biology, which includes research training.
Doctorate in biology degree jobs include:
- Medical Scientist: Medical scientists conduct research in laboratory settings, which can include clinical trials. Their research focuses on ways to improve health. In May 2021, medical scientists earned a median annual pay of $95,310, according to BLS data.
- Biochemist and Biophysicist: Biochemists and biophysicists investigate biological processes that involve chemical and physical properties. According to the BLS, they earned a median pay of $102,270 per year as of May 2021.
- Biology Professor: Biology professors instruct undergraduate and graduate students in biology, genetics, and related topics in the biological sciences. College biological sciences instructors reported a median salary of $81,440 in May 2021, according to BLS data.
Professional Organizations Associated With Biological Sciences
AIBS publishes a scientific journal and offers professional development resources for scientists and students.
ASBMB dates back to 1906 and promotes research and education. The society offers career development tools for students at all levels.
ASHG promotes genetics and genomics research. The society provides career resources and a learning center for students.
ASM promotes the microbial sciences. The society offers career tools, professional development resources, and a career center.
NABT represents biology educators and offers classroom resources, networking events, and awards.
AAFS advocates for the forensic sciences and offers career resources, research, and conferences for students and professionals.
Internships in Biological Sciences
An internship can help you gain career-focused training. During an internship, students train in laboratories, healthcare organizations, and other biological sciences settings. Interns complete tasks and strengthen their hands-on skills.
Internship experience helps students focus their job search after graduation and expand their professional network. For example, interns connect with professionals in their field, which can lead to a job offer after completing a biology degree.
Many colleges and universities encourage students to complete an internship. Biological sciences departments can connect learners with internship opportunities. Students earning an online biology degree can also arrange internships locally.
If you're interested in an internship, you can contact your program or reach out to your school's career center to learn about openings. In addition to internships, you can consider a co-op program, experiential learning options, or an externship.
What to Include in Your Biological Sciences Resume
When applying for biological sciences jobs, your resume should showcase your strengths and skills. But what should you include on your resume?
A strong resume tells hiring managers about your track record and highlights your achievements. In addition to listing your biology degree, include professional experience, such as internships. Your resume should also incorporate key skills that the job posting lists.
Pro Tip: Consider catering your resume to each job posting or creating a separate resume for jobs in different industries.
Education: List your degrees and any concentrations or minors that relate to the job posting.
Experience: Include relevant experience, including work history, internships, and volunteering experience. Highlight transferable work skills and experience outside of the biology field.
Skills: A skills-based resume emphasizes your strengths, including attention to detail, communication, and teamwork.
Awards: List any awards, including work-related or academic awards. Merit-based scholarships or grants also fall into this category.
Frequently Asked Questions About a Career in Biological Sciences
What's the difference between biology and biological sciences?
Biology is an academic field dedicated to the study of life. And the biological sciences include life sciences such as biochemistry, genetics, zoology, ecology, and evolutionary science.
At many colleges, biology and the biological sciences are interchangeable terms. Students can major in biology or the biological sciences. At other schools, the biological sciences may include many majors, such as molecular biology, biochemistry, ecology, and genetics, in addition to biology degrees.
What can I do with a biology degree?
A biology degree can prepare you for many STEM careers and for careers in biology itself. Some of these roles, like lab technician or medical laboratory scientist, require an undergraduate degree.
Other career paths, like biologist, microbiologist, marine biologist, and zoologist, often require a graduate degree.
A biology degree also leads to opportunities in healthcare, education, business, and public health. For example, with a biology degree plus educator training, graduates can work as biology teachers.
Are biologists in high demand?
Within the life sciences occupations, several biology careers report projected job growth. For example, the BLS projects biological technicians to see a 9% job growth from 2021-2031.
One of the fastest-growing life science careers is epidemiology. The BLS projects the field to grow by 26% from 2021-2031.
When considering a biology degree, you should research job demand in your area for specific roles. By choosing an in-demand concentration or taking electives, you can prepare for a growing career.
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Bachelor's in Biology Degree Guide
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