Biology, the study of life, is a scientific field that encompasses many subfields and specializations, including biochemistry, genetics, and evolutionary biology. The diverse subtopics in biology offer students an array of career opportunities, from the classroom to the medical industry. The first step to working in one of these jobs is earning a biology degree. Nearly every school offers a degree in biology, which means selecting a program that meets your requirements for cost, modality, and curriculum should be relatively straightforward.
Should I Get a Bachelor's in Biology?
Whether you just graduated high school or are looking to start a new career, a biology degree offers job versatility. Recent high school graduates may prefer on-campus programs, which provide structure and opportunities to interact with peers and faculty. However, students returning to school after time away may benefit from online programs, which are flexible and allow students to continue working as they study. It's important to note that many careers in the field require graduate degrees, so if your career goals require a master's, doctoral, or medical degree, seek out biology bachelor's programs where a high percentage of students go on to graduate school.
Many biology programs stress cross-curricular instruction, with classes in physics, chemistry, and advanced math to teach students about the intersections between sciences. In addition to learning foundational information about biology, students hone their analytical and research skills.
Although online education boasts many benefits, do not overlook what an on-campus biology degree offers. Networking opportunities with professors may connect you to internship opportunities in your school's laboratories. As you approach graduation, you can use your school's career resources to find a job, workshop your resume, and practice for interviews. Finally, determine if schools have cachet with local businesses that hire biology graduates. Graduating from a well-known school may shorten your job search or land you a more lucrative position.
What Can I Do With a Bachelor's in Biology?
Researching potential jobs prior to enrolling may be beneficial, as there are a variety of employment options post-graduation. Determining a career path will help you select programs with coursework designed to prepare you for your chosen profession.
- Environmental Scientist and Specialist
Environmental scientists and specialists analyze the ecosystem's health and advocate for environmental protection. In the field, they collect and analyze data and, using the research skills they developed in the classroom, craft technical documents detailing their findings.
Median Annual Salary: $69,400
Projected Growth Rate: 11%
- Occupational Health and Safety Specialist and Technician
These specialists and technicians ensure that workplaces are safe for employees. If they discover a hazard, they work with company managers to implement solutions. They also educate employees and employers on safety best practices.
Median Annual Salary: $67,720
Projected Growth Rate: 8%
- High School Teacher
High school biology teachers must plan lessons, grade assignments, and communicate with parents about student progress. Many teachers participate in extracurricular activities by mentoring clubs or coaching sports. Most states require biology teachers to hold a bachelor's in biology.
Median Annual Salary: $59,170
Projected Growth Rate: 8%
- Biological Technician
Major testing labs employ biological technicians to test samples like blood, cultures, and agricultural products. On the job, technicians use advanced equipment to run these tests. After running tests, technicians write detailed reports for their employers and their employers' clients. A degree in biology prepares graduates to safely work with biological samples and interpret scientific results.
Median Annual Salary: $43,800
Projected Growth Rate: 10%
How to Choose a Bachelor's Program in Biology
Choosing a bachelor's program in biology begins with extensive research. If you have determined a career path, find schools offering courses that align with your job goals.
Consider whether online or on-campus learning works best for you. Online biology programs appeal to students wishing to study part time. If you select an on-campus program, you may need to relocate to attend school, so research factors like cost of living and post-graduation employment opportunities. Examine each biology degree's curriculum to see if they offer internship or practicum opportunities, which can lead to employment offers after graduation.
Programmatic Accreditation for Bachelor's Programs in Biology
As you research potential schools, make sure they are accredited. All reputable schools possess regional accreditation from one of the seven regional accrediting bodies in the United States. Accreditation ensures that a school and its course offerings meet nationally recognized standards of excellence.
Some independent agencies also offer programmatic accreditation, which evaluates the curriculum of a particular department to ensure coursework appropriately prepares students for professions in the field. Though the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology offers programmatic accreditation for the biochemistry and molecular biology subfields, there is no organization that provides programmatic accreditation for biology degrees more broadly.
Bachelor's in Biology Program Admissions
As you research biology degrees, make a list of 3-5 to apply to, including a mix of safety and reach schools. Most schools have similar requirements for applications. Applications are completed mostly online, though you may need to mail certain documents, like transcripts or letters of recommendation, in hard copy.
- Minimum GPA: The most competitive colleges and universities seriously consider applicants who possess a 3.0 high school GPA or higher. Less selective schools may only require a 2.5 GPA.
- Application: Many schools allow undergraduate applicants to use the Common App, which allows you to apply to multiple schools using a single application. Even so, completing an application may take up to one week or longer, especially if schools require essays or personal statements.
- Transcripts: Your high school guidance office must send official transcripts to colleges and universities to which you apply.
- Letters of Recommendation: Most schools ask undergraduate applicants to submit 2-3 letters of recommendation, preferably from high school teachers. Depending on the school, you may be able to submit a letter from a work supervisor. Ask your recommenders a few weeks in advance of the deadline.
- Test Scores: Schools usually require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores. Though schools typically do not maintain a minimum required score, they often offer information about accepted students' average scores.
- Application Fee: Budget $50-$65 to apply to a single school. Some schools offer fee waivers to students who demonstrate financial need.
What Else Can I Expect From a Bachelor's Program in Biology?
As you research potential schools for your biology degree, determine whether biology departments allow undergraduate students to select a concentration. Completing an in-demand concentration can make you more attractive to graduate schools and employers.
|Anatomy, Physiology, Biomechanics||In this concentration, students focus on the intersection of physics and biology. Specialized courses include physics, human embryology, and primate sexuality.||Paleontologist; physical therapist; sport coach|
|Animal Behavior||Students who choose this concentration learn how evolution and environment determine animal behavior. Course topics include animal evolution, mammal biology, animal psychology, and behavioral ecology. Students who plan to work with animals often concentrate in animal behavior before earning an advanced degree.||Animal trainer/breeder, veterinarian; animal behavior specialist|
|Biochemistry||In this track, students typically take introductory biochemistry courses, select electives in molecular biology, and complete extensive independent study programs. Graduates often pursue advanced degrees to work in healthcare.||Research scientist; biotechnologist; forensic scientist; medicinal chemist|
|Cellular and Molecular Biology||Cell and molecular biology students focus on how cells interact within organisms and with the outside world. Cellular and molecular biology appeals to students who intend to pursue graduate coursework in medical research.||Pharmaceutical scientist; molecular biologist; governmental adviser|
|Ecology||Ecologists study how organisms interact with each other and with their environment. Topics include ecology and human health, marine ecology, and conservation policy. Some programs offer courses on climate change's evolving impact on the global ecosystem. Students working in ecology often perform fieldwork.||Field technician; research assistant; park naturalist; wildlife specialist|
Courses in a Bachelor's in Biology Program
As you research biology programs, you may discover that every program offers a similar, generalized curriculum. Students wishing to take more targeted classes should take advantage of specializations or minors offered by their school.
- Cell Biology
In this course, students learn about cells' structure and function. Topics include organelles, mitosis, and cell mutations. Scientific researchers regularly test drug treatments on cell cultures.
Once students master cell biology, they move onto genetics: how DNA determines inheritance. In the course, students study advanced topics like sex linkage, gene testing, and even genetic engineering.
- Organic Chemistry
Organic chemistry introduces students to chemical influences on the biological process. Organic chemistry challenges students to synthesize their knowledge of chemistry, biology, and even advanced mathematics. Nearly all biology majors take at least one organic chemistry course.
In this course, you learn about the history of evolution and the biological processes that drive natural selection. Many introduction to evolution courses ask students to analyze how biological traits have changed over time.
Nearly every college and university requires biology majors to take at least one year of advanced math. In calculus courses, students learn about limits, derivatives, integration, and other advanced topics.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Bachelor's in Biology?
Undergraduate programs typically require four years to complete, as students must complete approximately 120 credits. Full-time students who enroll in summer classes or accelerated programs can graduate more quickly, while part-time students can expect to graduate in five or six years.
How Much Is a Bachelor's in Biology?
At a public, in-state university, expect to pay around $11,000 in tuition each year for your biology degree. Out-of-state and private tuitions often cost significantly more, sometimes upwards of $40,000 per year. Many schools offer scholarships and financial aid, and students may also attend community college, which are typically inexpensive, to complete general education requirements and save on tuition. Include housing costs in your calculations: on-campus housing can cost thousands of dollars per academic year.
Beyond tuition and housing, colleges often assess students other charges: as a biology major, expect to pay lab and equipment fees. Textbooks in the science field are often quite costly: a single biology textbook can cost upwards of $200 if purchased new. You should also account for transportation costs if you plan to commute to campus or travel for an internship.
Certifications and Licenses a Bachelor's in Biology Prepares For
- Postbaccalaureate Premedical Certificate Program
Although many biology graduates enroll immediately in medical school, others require extra training. These certificate programs appeal to college graduates who did not get into medical school on their first try or who did not take all prerequisite courses. Students spend approximately 2-3 years earning a certificate. Tuition can exceed $10,000/year.
- State Teaching License/Certificate
To become a qualified high school biology teacher, you must hold a bachelor's degree in biology. Depending on your state, you may also need to complete a teacher education program that includes a student teaching component. States with teacher shortages may waive these requirements for recent college graduates.
- Registered Biosafety Professional
Biology students who go on to work as safety specialists can earn a certification in biosafety through ABSA International. The program requires an application and professional development coursework.
Resources for Biology Students
This list of internships updates regularly. You can filter results by location, company, and job type. Consider using this resource if your college or university does not offer undergraduate internships.
ActionBioscience offers a host of scholarly articles on all things biological science. Reading such content ensures that biology students are aware of new developments in the field from reputable professionals and professors.
Khan Academy offers a wealth of free resources for biology students, including biology reviews, quizzes, and progression trackers to monitor your performance on the site.
Professional Organizations in Biology
As a member or professional organizations, you gain access to invaluable resources like job boards, forums, and networking events.