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Biology majors fill important roles behind the scenes in industries such as health care, agriculture, food systems and pharmaceuticals. They can concentrate in several areas of the discipline, sometimes crossing over into different fields, such as chemistry or wildlife. Below are some specialized careers that students with a biology degree may pursue:

  • Microbiologist
  • Biochemist
  • Biophysicist
  • Zoologist
  • Wildlife biologist

Biologists' responsibilities depend on their specialization, but here are a few that are common across the board:

  • Collecting data or biological specimens for field or laboratory analysis
  • Isolating, maintaining and monitoring microorganisms for study
  • Analyzing research findings to present in technical reports or papers
  • Developing plans to prevent, limit or address pollution and other environmental hazards

Coursework in Biology Degree Programs

Coursework varies by students' concentration and school, but there are several fundamental concepts that science programs in biology commonly cover. Below are some examples:

  • Organic chemistry
  • Cellular processes
  • Biochemistry
  • Physics
  • Genetics
  • Molecular biology
  • Developmental biology
  • Evolutionary biology
  • Biotechnology
  • Ecology and conservation

Qualifying for a Career in Biology

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), students generally need a bachelor's degree in biology to qualify for an entry-level career in the life and physical sciences, including microbiology and zoology, though an advanced degree may be required for advancement. Professionals who want to conduct independent research or teach at a college usually need a PhD.

Career Outlook for Biology Professionals

Biology majors may qualify for a wide range of positions, each with their own job outlook figures and salary expectations. For example, the BLS expects the need for new preventative and traditional medicine for aging baby-boomers to drive demand for biochemists and biophysicists. Zoologists and biologists, on the other hand, may be needed to deal with the environmental problems, such as climate change and pollution, that come with increased human activity.

Salary information also varies by specialization, location and level of expertise. The BLS provides 2013 median annual wage data and 2012-22 national growth projections for several biology and related careers:

  • Biochemists and biophysicists: $84,320, 19 percent national job growth
  • Microbiologists: $67,840, 7 percent
  • Zoology and wildlife biologists: $57,430, 5 percent
  • Food scientists and technologists: $59,630, 9 percent
  • Conservation scientists and foresters: $61,220, 3 percent
  • Environmental scientists and specialists: $65,090, 15 percent

Students looking for more information on biology degrees and careers and their concentrations can contact schools directly or visit the BLS online.

Sources:
Agricultural and Food Scientists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, January 8, 2014, www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/agricultural-and-food-scientists.htm
"19-1012 Food Scientists and Technologists," Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 6, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes191012.htm
Biochemists and Biophysicists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, January 8, 2014, www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/biochemists-and-biophysicists.htm
"19-1021 Biochemists and Biophysicists," Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 6, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes191021.htm
Conservation Scientists and Foresters, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, January 8, 2014, www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/conservation-scientists.htm
"19-1031 Conservation Scientists," Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 6, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes191031.htm
Environmental Scientists and Specialists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, January 8, 2014, www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/environmental-scientists-and-specialists.htm
"19-2041 Environmental Scientists and Specialists, Including Health," Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 6, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes191031.htm
Microbiologists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, January 8, 2014, www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/microbiologists.htm
"19-1022 Microbiologists," Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 6, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes191022.htm
Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists, Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2014-15 Edition, January 8, 2014, www.bls.gov/ooh/life-physical-and-social-science/zoologists-and-wildlife-biologists.htm
"19-1023 Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists," Bureau of Labor Statistics, June 6, 2014, http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes191023.htm

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