Field Biologist: Salary and Career Facts

A field biologist studies the relationships between the environment and living things. As a field biologist, you could perform research or become a consultant. You could also teach or contribute to technical journals. If you'd like more information about becoming a field biologist, including job duties and salary figures, read on. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Field Biologist?

A field biologist may study plants, animals or other living organisms in their natural environments. Their work may involve conducting extensive research projects, collecting specimens, analyzing data and recording observations out in the field. A field biologist may use their findings to increase conservation efforts for a particular species, advise policy makers concerning the biological effects of different laws or improve the environmental health of different ecosystems. Field biologists, like other scientists, present their findings in research papers and/or presentations that are available to other scientists and the public.

Below is a chart with important information about working as a field biologist.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree for some positions; master's or Ph.D preferred
Education Field of Study Zoology, biology, botany
Key Duties Study nature, living things and the environment; solve environmental problems
Job Growth (2014-2024) 4%* (for all zoologists and wildlife biologists)
Mean Salary (2015) $77,190* (biological scientists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

What Educational Training Will I Need For a Career as a Field Biologist?

There are some career opportunities for field biologists with 4-year bachelor's degrees, but many field biologists have acquired either a master's degree or a Ph.D. in this field. Therefore, to increase your competitive edge as a field biologist, you might give some thought to pursuing a graduate degree. Additionally, if you'd like to work in research or administrative positions, a Ph.D. will be necessary. Bachelor's and master's degrees may qualify you for certain positions in applied research, or for jobs in product development or management.

There are no degree programs specific to field biology, but undergraduate programs in areas such as zoology, biology or botany may serve as particularly relevant preparation for field biology positions. Zoology degree programs might offer classes in calculus, general chemistry, biology, genetics laboratory, and zoology and morphology electives. A biology degree program may include classes in biology laboratory, physics, biochemistry, animal science and cell biology. If you pursue a botany major, you'll study subjects such as algae biology, plant taxonomy, evolution and vascular plant anatomy.

Should you decide to acquire a master's degree in biology or a related field, you'll take courses focusing on ecology, cellular biology or molecular biology. It may be necessary to complete a thesis. A master's degree program can be completed in about two years.

In order to obtain a Ph.D. in biology, which can take more than five years, you may be required to participate in research laboratories and scientific writing lecture courses. You'll take classes and examinations on the fundamentals of biology. During the Ph.D. program, you must demonstrate your ability to teach and submit a dissertation.

What Are Some Job Responsibilities?

Your job as a field biologist will entail using complex equipment and research techniques to study animals, plants and microorganisms and their surroundings. Research findings might help to solve environmental problems. If you choose to become a teacher, you can instruct students in entomology, ecology, plant taxonomy, wildlife management, and many other subjects. You could become a wildlife or fishery biologist and work for federal, state or local agencies to develop and assess environmental laws.

What Salary Could I Expect to Earn?

As noted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, biological scientists earned an average salary of $77,190 in 2015 (www.bls.gov). Employees of diagnostic and medical laboratories earned average yearly salaries of $73,530. PayScale.com reported that wildlife biologists earned middle-range annual salaries of $33,352 to $78,827 as of October 2016.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Microbiologists are similar and require a bachelor's degree. These biologists specialize in studying various kinds of microorganisms and their environments. Veterinarians, biochemists and biophysicists are also related, but require a doctoral or professional degree. Veterinarians practice medicine for animal patients. They diagnose and treat an array of injuries and illnesses in all kinds of different animals. Biochemists and biophysicists tend to work in lab settings as they study the physical and chemical properties of different living things.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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