Evolutionary Biologist: Salary and Career Facts

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

What Is an Evolutionary Biologist?

Evolutionary biologists might try to discover the earliest ancestors of modern humans or analyze a flu virus to understand how it develops resistance to vaccines. Their main objective is to study the origin of a particular species as well as document how its traits have changed throughout multiple generations. To do this they may collect samples, analyze past research or conduct controlled experiments in a lab setting. Evolutionary biologists present their findings in scientific articles and technical reports that are available to other scientists, colleagues and the public. The following chart provides an overview of what you need to know about entering this field.

Zoologists & Wildlife Biologists Biochemists & Biophysicists Microbiologists
Degree Required Bachelor's degree to doctoral degree Bachelor's degree to doctoral degree Bachelor's degree to doctoral degree
Education Field of Study Zoology; ecology; biology Biochemistry Microbiology; cell biology
Key Responsibilities Experimental animal studies; manage plant & animal populations Research; synthesize biological molecules; write reports Drug development; I.D. and classify microorganisms
Job Growth (2014-2024) 4%* 8%* 4%*
Mean Annual Salary (2015) $64,230* $93,390* $76,230*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Might My Job as an Evolutionary Biologist Entail?

Evolutionary biology, which has roots in Charles Darwin's work in evolution, involves the study of organisms and their interaction with the world around them. As an evolutionary biologist, you'll most likely conduct research, though you may also teach or consult. You'll seek to understand the origin of organisms, their genetic variations over time and how they are currently adapting. You may focus your research within a subfield of evolutionary biology, such as human, animal disease or ecological evolution.

Your work may involve basic research, in which you seek to expand understanding, or applied research, in which you take knowledge and apply it to developing new products or tools. You may work in a laboratory conducting experiments with animals, plants, microorganisms or people. Or you may work in the field studying organisms in their natural environment. In most cases, you'll work in an office where you'll write reports and articles documenting your research.

What Salary Could I Earn?

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) provides salary statistics for many types of biologists, and evolutionary biologists are captured in a variety of fields (www.bls.gov). Zoologists and wildlife biologists, who study animals and wildlife, had an annual mean wage of $64,230 as of May 2015 according to BLS. In the same year, the BLS reported that microbiologists earned an average of $76,230 annually. Biochemists and biophysicists, who look at the chemical and physical make-up of organisms, made an average salary of $93,390 as of May 2015 per the BLS. According to the bureau, all other biological scientists had an annual mean salary of $77,190 in 2015.

What Type of Training Is Available?

You can find entry-level research technician jobs with a bachelor's degree. Many schools offer bachelor's degree programs in evolutionary biology or biology with a concentration in evolutionary biology. These programs will provide you with a foundational understanding of the field as well as a broad understanding of the major concepts of biology. Your coursework may include genetics, botany, biodiversity and climate change.

A master's degree can help you find more significant research roles, but most opportunities for independent research will require you to earn a Doctor of Philosophy. The graduate program often includes classroom lectures, laboratory sessions and research. You'll likely have the opportunity to complete field research where you can study concepts of evolution in nature. Many graduate programs in evolutionary biology are multidisciplinary, drawing upon departments such as ecology, molecular biology and zoology.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Conservation scientist and forester are related options that require a bachelor's degree. These professionals manage and protect natural resources and outdoor spaces, like forests. Veterinarian is an additional option, but requires a doctoral or professional degree. Veterinarians diagnose and treat various injuries and illnesses in animals. They may work with small companion animals (pets like dogs and cats), large animals (livestock, horses) or exotic animals (in a zoo setting).

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