Possible Careers with a Biology Degree

Biologists study the world of living things.
Biologists study the world of living things. | Source

A Fascinating Subject

Biology offers a wide range of fascinating and often exciting careers for people who are interested in the living world. Biologists study nature in the field and in the laboratory. They carry out research, protect and manage living things, educate the public and discover new facts about animals, plants, microorganisms and the functioning of the human body.

Biology is a broad subject that can be subdivided into many different topics, giving students a large choice of concentration areas. Biologists may focus on one group of animals, plants or microorganisms, such as mammals if they are zoologists, flowering plants if they are botanists, or bacteria if they are microbiologists. They often specialize further within their chosen group. A mammologist may study only primates instead of all mammals, for example.

Biologists may decide to study a certain aspect of living things, such as their genetics, embryology, physiology, behaviour, biochemistry, or ecology. Some researchers study the organisms in a particular environment. Marine biologists explore life in the ocean, for example. Others, such as cell biologists, study a particular level of body organization. There is a huge number of specialties to choose from in biology.

A Research Career in Marine Biology

Opportunities for Biologists

People who have a biology degree can work in research, environmental management, conservation, education or technology. They may find work in an interdisciplinary area such as biostatistics, epidemiology or bioinformatics, depending on the courses that they've taken in addition to biology. Some biologists enter the field of scientific writing or scientific illustration. Others may get a job in business, working in marketing or sales of items related to biology. A biology degree is also excellent preparation for careers that require further training, such as medicine, dentistry, or veterinary science.

Centropyxis aculeata is an amoeboid protist found in damp soil around mosses and in the mud of ditches and lakes.
Centropyxis aculeata is an amoeboid protist found in damp soil around mosses and in the mud of ditches and lakes. | Source

Biologists whose research concentrates on microorganisms, mosses or aquatic environments may all study Centropyxis aculeata. Different subtopics of biology often overlap.

Research Biologists

Research biologists study nature in the field and in the laboratory. They carefully design experiments, make detailed observations, record data, analyze the data and then report their findings. Biology labs have sophisticated tools and computer software programs to help researchers do their jobs. Portable electronics are very useful for collecting data in the field and even for doing some analysis. A research biologist may work as a member of a team instead of on their own.

Researchers work for government agencies, private companies and industry. Some educational organizations such as museums, zoos and aquariums also hire biology researchers. University professors carry out research as well as teach.

People with a bachelor's degree in biology may be able to get a job in biology research, but the jobs that involve more responsibility and offer more potential for career advancement require a master's degree or a PhD. Some students work in a research lab when they get their bachelor's degree in order to gain some experience (and money) and then go to graduate school later.

A Wildlife Management Career

Wildlife Conservation and Management

Conservationists work to protect endangered animal and plant populations. They try to solve conflicts between humans and wildlife and help people live in peace with their animal neighbours. They also try to find solutions to problems of habitat destruction and fragmentation. Conservationists monitor the status and health of vulnerable animal or plant communities and attempt to stop the spread of disease through a population. Education of the public is a big part of a conservationist's job.

Wildlife management is not the same as wildlife conservation. Managers are concerned about the health and status of wildlife populations, but they also look at issues of animal overcrowding, interference with human activities and human use of animals. They try to balance the needs of animals with the needs of humans.

Wildlife managers deal with topics such as controlling pests, determining the number of animals that can be hunted without endangering a population and improving habitat to support the lives of certain animals. They may recommend wildlife culls if they think they are necessary.

As in biology research, a bachelor's degree in biology may be useful in a wildlife conservation or management job, but an advanced degree would give more career choices.

Examples of Biotechnology

A Biotechnology Career

A major goal of biotechnologists is to change the genome (the complete genetic information) of a living thing in order to benefit humans. Microbes are often used as the experimental organisms, but plants or animals may be used as well. An organism which contains a gene or genes from another organism is said to be transgenic and the creation of the transgenic organism is known as genetic engineering.

Some results of genetic engineering are the production of bacteria that make human insulin for diabetics, the production of plants that produce their own insecticides and the production of cows and goats that contain human medicines in their milk. The number of biotechnology applications is growing rapidly, although the creation of transgenic organisms is often controversial.

A bachelor's degree might allow a person to get a job as an assistant in biotechnology. As in many areas of biology that involve research or practical applications, however, a graduate degree is preferable for people who want to work in biotechnology.

Biostatistics: Making Sense of Data


Computers are useful in any biology job, but there are some careers in which a knowledge of biology, computer science and math is vital.

Biostatistics, which is sometimes called biometrics, is the use of statistical methods to analyze large amounts of data in areas such as public health, medicine, forestry, agriculture, fisheries, and other topics related to biology.

A biostatistician formulates questions that need to be answered, decides how to collect relevant data, analyzes and interprets the data and publicizes the results so that they can be used by others. Some examples of questions that biostatisticians might consider are:

  • Does vitamin E improve memory in elderly women?
  • Do women who take a certain medicine during pregnancy have babies with a lower birth weight?
  • Does eating a certain food additive raise LDL cholesterol?

Biostatisticians use computer software to store data, help them analyze the data and publish their conclusions. Biostatisticians with a biology degree need to know how to use a computer effectively and must have a very good knowledge of math. Some students approach the career from a different direction, getting a math degree and taking biology courses as well. Many (but not all) biostatisticians have an advanced degree.

The microscope is a popular and useful biology tool.
The microscope is a popular and useful biology tool. | Source


Epidemiology is the study of the distribution of diseases and health problems within populations. Epidemiologists try to find out why an infection or a particular health problem has appeared within a certain group of people. They also try to discover how the problem is spreading within the group. The epidemiologist's data and analyses are used to plan intervention, management and prevention strategies.

Epidemiologists need to have a math background. They use computers in their work, including biostatistics software and software that creates mathematical models. An example of a model that might be created is one that predicts the spread of a disease.

Just as in the preparation for a biostatistics career, students majoring in biology as undergrads need to make sure that they take computer science courses and lots of math courses if they are thinking of becoming an epidemiologist. A student will need to obtain a master's degree in epidemiology once he or she has a bachelor's degree in biology. Some epidemiologists are medical doctors, but many aren't.

Epidemiology in Action


Bioinformatics is the use of computers in the acquisition, storage, management and analysis of biological and medical data. It's frequently used in the fields of molecular biology and genetics. Huge databases of biological information are being created. With the aid of computers, people who are interested can access these databases and make use of the information. By examining and analyzing the information they sometimes discover new facts about biological and medical processes.

Students who plan a career in bioinformatics need to study computer science and statistics as well as biology. They will also need to study for a master's degree in bioinformatics after getting a bachelor's degree in biology. As in most careers that are related to biology, a PhD degree will offer the best career opportunities. Some universities now offer a bachelor's degree in biostatistics or bioinformatics, which provides another route of entry into these careers.

The Importance of Bioinformatics

Teaching and Education

Biologists are hired by universities to teach students and do research. Colleges and high schools also require biology teachers. Naturalists and park rangers teach the general public. Museums, zoos, aquariums, and conservation organizations hire people to educate their visitors. They sometimes send biologists into schools and libraries to make presentations.

University professors generally need to have a PhD degree. College professors need a PhD or a master's degree. Potential high school biology teachers need a good knowledge of general biology. They should also have a general science background in case they are asked to teach other science subjects in addition to biology. In most cases, they will need to take a teacher training course after obtaining their bachelor's degree in biology.

Some high school lab stations have an electrical outlet, a gas hookup and/or a water source at the places where students sit, while others have them at different areas in the lab.
Some high school lab stations have an electrical outlet, a gas hookup and/or a water source at the places where students sit, while others have them at different areas in the lab. | Source

Science Writing

Science writing is another way to inform or educate people about biology. Someone with a goal of becoming a science writer should have an intense curiosity about biology or another science and also needs great research skills.

Potential science writers should take English or writing courses during their university studies. Science training is also necessary. For some positions an advanced degree is useful. Students should also make sure that they take courses that qualify them for another biology career in case they can't get a job as a science writer or in case they can only find part time work in this area.

Science writers work for textbook publishers, magazines and newspapers. They may write for both print and online versions of these publications. They also work in museums, environmental or health organizations as well as in industry and private companies. Some work on a freelance basis. They create articles for lay people or for professional scientists.

A Scientific Illustrator Discusses Her Work

Although the word "science" refers to more than just biology, the term "scientific illustration" generally refers to biological illustration.

Scientific, Medical and Natural History Illustration

Scientific, medical or natural history illustration can be a wonderful career for someone who likes both biology and art. If you are planning a career as an illustrator, after getting your bachelor's degree in biology you will probably need to apply to a specialized program that will teach you scientific illustration skills. You might be able to get a job without this program, but the extra study will be a great help. It may be possible for you to take a continuing education course instead of a full time program.

You will need an art portfolio to enter a postgraduate certificate, diploma or degree program or to show to a potential employer. During your undergraduate studies you should practice drawing, painting and the creation of digital art regularly and take classes in these areas if possible.

Scientific illustrators work in many different media and use digital art tools, including 3D software, as well as traditional tools. They are sometimes required to create animations. They're employed by textbook publishers, universities, museums and research organizations.

It's very important to prepare for another biology career as well as for an illustration career during your undergraduate studies, since jobs in scientific illustration are limited. Many illustrators work on a freelance basis, so networking and self promotion are important skills to develop.

Which biology career interests you the most?

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Career Planning

There are many possible careers for someone who has a biology degree. Someone planning a biology career should do further research to discover the current possibilities offered by a B.Sc, M.Sc and PhD degree. These may vary in different countries. Students should also identify the types of undergraduate courses that will be most useful to them.

Research tools and techniques are improving rapidly, enabling biologists to make some fascinating and very important discoveries about human biology and the biology of other organisms. It's a great time to be a scientist.

© 2012 Linda Crampton

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Comments 16 comments

teaches12345 profile image

teaches12345 4 years ago

Interesting career options for those who have the credentials. I would like to know the results of the study on Vitamin E and women. Voted up.

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thanks for the comment and the vote, teaches. Yes, it would be interesting to learn more about the effects of vitamin E on our bodies. It's an interesting nutrient!

jimmylesaint profile image

jimmylesaint 4 years ago from Metropolis of Life

I would say vitamin E does improve memory in older women, especially if they are suffering from vascular dementia in one form or another. Not only does Vitamin E clear out blood vessels but also mops up free radicals in the brain. One must take natural Vitamin E and probably in doses of 800iu or more and of course with other vitamins and minerals in orthomolecular doses to get the best results.

Good hub!

GoodLady profile image

GoodLady 4 years ago from Rome, Italy

Very informative and useful to students or people who need to know what their choices are and what they can achieve with their biology degree.

Wonderfully presented information.

I have two nieces with degrees in biology; one is now a conservationist, the other is a doctor (a General Practitioner) almost.

Conversations round the table sometimes get into bizarre discussions...once we all analyzed why chocolate was in fact very good for me!!!


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Hi, GoodLady. Thank you very much for the comment and the vote! Your conversations with your nieces sound very interesting. I love chocolate, so I'm glad that it has health benefits!

livingpah2004 profile image

livingpah2004 4 years ago from USA

Well written tutorial on Biology subject. Nice job.

Voted up and shared!

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you for the comment, livingpah2004. It's nice to meet you! I appreciate the vote and the share.

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you for an interesting comment, jimmylesaint. I was using the vitamin E question simply as an example of the type of question that a biostatistician might ask. The safe use of vitamin E supplements, their possible health benefits and their potential dangers would make a separate hub!

There is some evidence that vitamin E helps to prevent certain forms of memory loss, but not all experimental results agree with this conclusion. As you say, though, the results may be different if someone takes a natural vitamin E supplement instead of synthetic vitamin E or if a balanced range of supplements are taken instead of just one form of vitamin E on its own. Supplement use is a complex topic!

I recommend that anyone who wants to take vitamin E supplements to treat or prevent a disease consults with their doctor, especially if they want to take a daily dose as high as 800 IU.

drbj profile image

drbj 4 years ago from south Florida

Fascinating material, Alicia, as usual. And written with your accustomed and finely honed research skills. Thank you.

As a postscript, you might be interested to learn that most of the physicians I know began their careers with degrees in biology or chemistry, or both.

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the comment, drbj. As always, I appreciate your visit. Thank you for the information, too. Biology and chemistry would certainly be useful for people who plan a career in medicine.

Ahmed Foyez profile image

Ahmed Foyez 4 years ago from sylhet


AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you for the visit and the comment, Ahmed.

phriot profile image

phriot 4 years ago

Great Hub AliciaC! I think that this overview was well-written and would have been really useful to someone interested in science and just starting their college career.

I have just a couple suggestions for if you come back to edit this Hub.

1) I think it might be useful to mention in the "Research Biologists" section that those with advanced degrees in public settings will need to spend at least some time applying for grant funding.

2) In the section on teaching section, you mention that a Master's Degree is the qualification for teaching at the college level. It's been my experience that, while it is possible to get a position as an adjunct professor with this degree, most 4-year colleges and even community colleges are trending toward hiring mostly PhDs.

3) While you did imply that programming skills are necessary for bioinformatics, your article might be improved by stating this explicitly.

I also liked the touch of adding so many relevant videos. I haven't watched them, but I will do so in the future. Thanks again for an excellent Hub!

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 4 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you very much for the comment, the information and the suggestions, phriot, which I will certainly consider! I appreciate your visit.

Elena Minova profile image

Elena Minova 2 years ago from Skopje

Thanks for this great article. I'm at the door of being a graduated Biologist, and just started a research of possible careers with a Biology degree. It will help a lot!

AliciaC profile image

AliciaC 2 years ago from British Columbia, Canada Author

Thank you so much for the comment, Elena! I hope the hub does help you. Good luck with your career.

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