Biologist: Career Definition, Job Outlook, and Education Requirements

Explore the career requirements for biologists. Get the facts about degree requirements, salary and job outlook to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Does a Biologist Do?

In general, biologists study organisms and their environments by collecting and analyzing data, though they frequently specialize in a sub-field. They often work with computers and other scientific lab equipment to process and analyze their data. Biologists must communicate well and prepare reports to present their results to a variety of audiences, likely including the government, the public or various organizations. This also aids in building working relationships with agencies and other groups of people to help solve or study different issues. These professionals may oversee the work of fellow scientists and technicians in the field. Learn about the degree requirements, along with career information, as outlined in the table below.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree for entry-level work; master's or doctoral degree preferred for research and management positions
Education Field of Study Biology or closely related field
Key Skills Research, analysis, problem-solving, writing
Job Growth (2018-2028)6% for all biological scientists*
Median Salary (2018) $79,590 for all biological scientists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Is the Career Definition of a Biologist?

Biologists, or biological scientists, work with and research living organisms. As a biologist, you'll use your knowledge and research of living organisms to try to find out what they're composed of and their relationship to what's around them. You may also use this information to develop and improve medical, industrial and agricultural procedures. In some positions, you'll spend time researching and developing new ways to use information from living organisms to improve health problems and cure diseases. A few areas of biology you might specialize in include botany, biochemistry, aquatic biology, microbiology, physiology, zoology and ecology.

Biologists usually work 40 hours per week in offices and laboratories where they spend time researching and analyzing data. In some jobs, you may have to work overtime for certain research projects in order to meet deadlines. If you work in a laboratory, you'll have to follow very precise safety procedures when handling hazardous substances.

What Is the Job Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), about 42,640 biological scientists worked in the country as of May 2018. The majority of biologists worked for the government or with professional, scientific and technical services at that time. In 2018, the BLS estimated that biological scientists earned an annual median salary of $79,590. An average outlook of 6% was expected from 2018-2028, according to the BLS.

What Are the Education Requirements?

Biologists must have a 4-year undergraduate degree, such as a Bachelor of Science in Biology, for entry-level research positions. A few classes you may take are microbiology, anthropology, biochemistry and molecular biology. Most employers prefer biologists with a master's degree in biology or in any of the life sciences to work in applied research, product development, management or teaching at the high school level. If you wish to conduct independent research or teach in a university setting, you must have a doctorate degree in biology or a closely related field.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Other related jobs that require a bachelor's degree include those of microbiologists, environmental scientists and specialists, and biological technicians. Microbiology is a field of biology that focuses on microorganisms like bacteria or fungi. Microbiologists study these microorganisms and their environment. Environmental scientists and specialists work to protect the environment and human health. Biological technicians perform lab tests and experiments to help biological or medical scientists.

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