Biological Systematics

Biological systematics uses data analysis methods for studying the development of life within the field of biology. Learn about degree programs and career options in this field, and check the salary potential.

Is Biological Systematics for Me?

Career Overview

Biological systematics is the study of the morphological and molecular data of many kinds of organisms. Students often use various kinds of computer software to analyze data pertaining to topics such as molecular evolution, coevolution, conservation biology and biogeography. Job responsibilities may include maintaining lab records, conducting experiments and analyzing data. Common tools include pipettes, spectrophotometers, cyclers and computational software. A systematics biologist skilled in speaking, listening and writing on this topic may find a job as a postsecondary biology instructor to be a good fit.

Employment

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) doesn't specify earnings for biological systematics scientists, but O*NET OnLine reports that biological scientists in general made a median annual wage of $69,850 as of May 2012 (www.onetonline.org). Jobs in this field are expected to increase at a slower than average rate of 3%-7% from 2012-2022, per O*NET OnLine.

Postsecondary teachers in the field of biology earned median pay of $74,180 in 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS, www.bls.gov). The BLS also reports that jobs in this field are expected to increase 19% from 2012-2022.

How Can I Work in Biological Systematics?

Education

Completion of classes in biology, zoology, ecology, chemistry, mathematics and computers at the high school level can prepare students for relevant college programs. Next, you could pursue a bachelor's degree in biology or systematic biology, where available. Classes at this level can involve studying topics such as mammalogy, herpetology, microbiology, plant biology, spider biology and marine biology. You may have opportunities to conduct research with professors in hands-on field scenarios.

Most careers in biological systematics require a graduate degree. Master's and Ph.D. degree programs are both available in the field of biological systematics. Courses at the graduate level can include evolution, biogeography, systematics, zoology, statistics, paleontology, genomics and informatics. Most programs require comprehensive examinations and original research. In doctoral programs, you could also be required to student teach, write a dissertation and defend it.

Many professionals within the field of biological systematics go on to pursue post-doctoral research before starting professorships or jobs with governmental or non-governmental agencies. As a professor, you could divide your time between teaching, researching and conducting field work. Career advancement may be more likely for systematic biologists who contribute significantly to professional literature and understanding in the field.

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