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Career Opportunities and Work Life

LMC biology classDepending on your career goals, different levels of education are required.

Associate's degree
A two-year degree is sufficient for a slim selection of careers. Medical assistants and veterinary technicians positions are available, but many are beginning to require a higher educational background.

Bachelor's degree
Some students are able to enter the workforce after completing their bachelor's degree. Entry-level positions are found in government and business. Many graduates go on to become secondary school teachers.

Master's degree
If you decide to further your education, more career opportunities are available. A master's degree prepares you to enter the technical field where advanced scientific research and experiments are conducted. Other careers include secondary school teachers, community college instructors, or laboratory technicians working with government, business, or universities. Governmental agencies are major employers of biologists.

Business positions involving biology are primarily administrative. These positions require management, computer, communication, and leadership skills. Biologists in business, industry and government are often in positions that utilize both scientific knowledge and office management skills.

The agriculture, biological testing, biotechnology, food/health, drug development, and pharmaceutical industries often employ administrative staff that specialize in biological knowledge.

Ph.D. degree
If your career goals include contributing to scientific and technical knowledge, then a Ph.D. is required. Another career avenue includes teaching at the college or university level. At this level you are eligible to conduct research as well as instruct coursework.

Postdoctoral Study
If scientific research is your goal, it is necessary to spend one or more years beyond your Ph.D. work in postdoctoral studies. The research field is very competitive and it is common to have several postdoctoral positions before a research positions can be obtained.

Depending on your interests, biologists can conduct basic or applied research.

  • Basic research is conducted to answer how organisms function or evolve. This curiosity-driven research often produces new knowledge and facts. Basic research is viewed as the framework for further scientific experiments.
  • Applied research applies scientific concepts and is driven by the need to solve problems. Much of this research is intended to answer questions concerning society, medicine, or industry.

Students who complete graduate studies must have a strong commitment to the science field. With heavy competition for grant money, you must have a passion for learning, solving, and discovering new scientific theories and ideas.

New Biological Career Directions
A combination of biological knowledge and other professional training has lead to the development of new careers.

  • Environmental lawyers work to protect endangered species.
  • Regulatory affairs personnel gather scientific data to ensure approval of goods for customer usage.
  • Scientific journalists write about scientific advances. Understanding the scientific terms allows journalists to accurately portray new facts and theories.
  • Policy analysts develop science-based legislation for government agencies.
  • Bioinformatics utilize computing technology to manage large data bases of biological information such as DNA and protein sequences.  

Employment Outlook

According to the U.S. Department of Labor, career opportunities in most biology-related jobs are expected to increase at the national level by 2020.

A few include:


Percent Increase

Biochemists and biophysicists 31%
Postsecondary biology teachers 17%
Agricultural and food science technicians 7%
Environmental scientists & specialists 19%
Microbiologists 13%


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