Considering majoring in biology? If so, you’ve chosen a field with lots of room to specialize within a very wide variety of job settings.
In any case, with so many options to put your education to use, pursuing a degree in biology may a wise career move. Plus, the mean salary for biologists is around $77,000, with top earners making as much as $116,000, according the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
So is a career in biology right for you? Let’s dig into what you can expect if you major in biology, and what your career path might look like after graduation.
What is Biology?
At the most basic level, biology is the study of living things. That’s a pretty wide definition, which explains why biology is a career field with such vast possibilities.
Your biology program of study is likely to include a mix of coursework and lab work. In other words, be prepared to get your hands dirty. You should also have a high level of comfort working with both plant and animals.
You’ll learn methods of scientific observation and data collection, and how to write reports about your findings. Expect to study concepts such as genetics, evolution, microbiology, anatomy, and zoology.
What jobs can I get with a degree in Biology?
Biologists may do research, work with plants, animals, or people in a hands-on way, develop new drugs, or apply their scientific knowledge in any number of related fields.
Ten of the best-paying jobs for people with biology degrees include:
- Research biotechnology scientists, who study living organisms with the goals of creative useful products
- Hydrogeolists, who study groundwater
- Research scientists, who typically work in academic settings
- Geologists, who study earth processes and natural resources such as metals, minerals, oil, and natural gas
- Chemists, who study chemical processes in various settings; chemists may specialize in areas such as research, analytics, or quality control
- Biochemists, who work in biomedical research
- Wildlife biologists, who study how animals interact with their ecosystems
- Microbiologists, who study microorganisms such bacteria and fungi, for use in pharmaceutical or other settings
- Genetics counselors, who help people determine risks associated with genetic disorders
- Physician’s assistants or nurse practitioners, who assess and treat patients in hospitals or clinical settings
What's the future of Biology?
Climate change may be one of the biggest factors impacting the field of biology. As weather patterns change, biologists are likely to be challenged with finding ways to grow sustainable crops in challenging environments. Certainly, many biologists are already studying the impact of climate change on plant, animal, and insect species.
The aging population will also place a greater demand on any biologists who work in fields related to health or medicine.
Some scientists are preparing for what they call a “data tsunami” to sweep the field of biology. Advanced computing systems are already causing massive shifts in genomics. That same wave is expected to impact other sub-specialties as well.
What does that mean for biologists? One prediction is that massive stores of public information may change the way that scientists conduct research. That is, instead of starting with a hypothesis and then doing research, scientists may instead start with questions and then seek the answers. It may sound like a subtle distinction, but it could signal a major shift in the established scientific method.
How to begin your studies in Biology?
To make sure you’re taking your first step toward your future career in a financially sound way, it’s a good idea to make sure you’re familiar with the cost of a biology degree at the different schools you might considering.
Check out our free NitroScore tool to compare your different options. Then, talk with your parents or guardians about you can start creating your college funding plan.