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.

portrait of Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.
by Genevieve Carlton, Ph.D.

Published October 25, 2022

Edited by Margaret Weinhold
Share this Article
Requirements for a Career in Biological Sciences
Image Credit: Hinterhaus Productions / DigitalVision / Getty Images


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).

www.bestcolleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

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.

Related majors include molecular biology, plant biology, conservation biology, biology education, and marine biology. With these degrees, you can pursue focused career paths.

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)
Biological Technician $48,140 9%
Microbiologist $79,260 9%
Zoologist and Wildlife Biologist $64,650 1%
Biology Teacher $61,820 5%
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.

Associate Degree

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:

Bachelor's Degree

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:

Master's Degree

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:

Doctoral Degree

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:

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.

BestColleges.com is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Compare your school options.

View the most relevant school for your interests and compare them by tuition, programs, acceptance rate, and other factors important to find your college home.