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Biology Careers

Career Description

Biologists study living organisms and their relationship to the environment. They perform research to gain a better understanding of fundamental life processes or apply that understanding to developing new products or processes. Most specialize in one area of biology, such as zoology (the study of animals) or microbiology (the study of microscopic organisms).

Common Work Tasks

  • Conduct research on living organisms such as bacteria and other infectious agents
  • Submit grant proposals to obtain funding for projects
  • Use knowledge gained by basic research to develop new drugs, treatments, and medical diagnostic tests, increase crop yields, and develop new biofuels
  • Conduct research in laboratories using a wide variety of equipment
  • Conduct experiments involving animals or plants
  • Manipulate the genetic material of animals and plants, attempting to make organisms more productive or resistant to disease
  • Analyze how vari­ous policy ideas and proposals could affect the problem and suggest solutions
  • Work on various genome projects to isolate genes and determine their function

Other Job Titles

Biologists are also known by other titles, including:

  • Physiologist
  • Zoologist
  • Ecologist
  • Biotechnologist
  • Botanist

Education,  Training, and Experience

Education and Training
A Ph.D. degree usually is necessary for independent research, industrial research, and college teaching, as well as for advancement to administrative positions. A master’s degree is sufficient for some jobs in applied research,  product development, management, or inspection; it also may qualify one to work as a research technician or a teacher. The bachelor’s degree is adequate for some non-research jobs. For example, graduates with a bachelor’s degree may start as biological scientists in testing and inspection or may work in jobs related to biological science, such as technical sales or service representatives. Some work as research assistants, laboratory technicians, or high school biology teachers.

Biologists should be able to work independently or as part of a team and be able to communicate clearly and concisely, both orally and in writing. Those in private industry, especially those who aspire to management or administrative positions, should possess strong business and communication skills and be familiar with regulatory issues and marketing and management techniques. Those doing field research in remote areas must have physical stamina. Biologists also must have patience and self-discipline to conduct long and detailed research projects.


The median annual salary for a Biologist is $63,000. The top 10 percent earn more than $98,000, and the lowest 10 percent earn less than $37,000.  Median earnings in the industries employing the largest number of biologists are:

  • Federal Executive Branch - $68,520
  • Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools - $52,790
  • Scientific Research and Development Services - $75,300
  • Pharmaceutical and Medicine Manufacturing - $70,740
  • State Government - $57,340

Job Outlook

  • 2006-2016 Employment growth:  9%
  • Number of new jobs created 2006-2016: 8,000
  • Employment 2006 : 87,000
  • Employment 2016:  95,000
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