Biology is the study of living organisms at the cellular, molecular, and group levels. Students who study this field will learn about the whole life cycle, from turning food into energy to reproduction and death. Students of biology also look at how different kinds of organisms, like bacteria, viruses, animals, and humans, interact with each other. Some biologists will study population patterns by looking at the levels in ecosystems that cause the number of species to go down or up.
Biology majors can work in various settings as lab technicians or scientists after they graduate. Governments need biologists to study organisms that affect farming and control diseases in people. Doctor’s offices use biology and health sciences labs to test blood and tissue samples from patients. And food companies need biologists to try and improve their products to make the safest and healthiest food possible. Scientists can use their skills in many different fields, making biology interesting to work in.
As undergraduates, students who take biology courses will first look at organisms at the cellular and molecular levels to learn about some of the smaller parts of life. Most students move on to biological classification systems, the theory of evolution, the history of species, and the biology of infectious diseases. Students will study many different living things in their first few years of biology, such as plants, insects, bacteria, fungi, and humans. Some of the more advanced topics are how organisms work in systems, such as ecology, population patterns, disease pathologies, and outbreak epidemiology.
At the undergraduate level, students who want to go on to become doctors can choose to specialize in health and human biological sciences. Another option is to get a degree with a focus on education. This prepares biology students to teach at the high school level. As students move up to graduate school, they can choose to focus on classes like microbiology, biotechnology, molecular biology, or immunology. There are many different ways to specialize in biology, and what each school has to offer depends on its resources.
Types of Degrees
Students can get degrees in biology at all levels, from an associate’s to a Ph.D. After getting one of these degrees, you’ll have more job options.
Students only have enough time in this two-year program to learn about the basics of biology. Most community colleges offer this degree option so that students can learn about the field, choose a specialty, and then transfer the credits to a bachelor’s program. Most entry-level biology jobs wouldn’t consider someone with an associate degree qualified.
Students in this four-year program will learn about the most important ideas in biology and some specialized topics. Bachelor’s degree holders can work as health lab technicians, biology scientists, food quality controllers, environmental technicians, or vet technicians.
When students get to the graduate level in biology, they often choose to focus on something like microbiology, biology, or ecology. Before enrolling in a graduate-level program, students should check out the quality of the labs at the schools they are considering. This can affect the type of research they do. Master’s students can get jobs as teaching assistants as they finish their program. Researchers can find work in government, medical, and environmental offices after earning a master’s degree.
People who want to keep studying biology at the doctoral level might have to pass a qualification exam so that the faculty can make sure they meet the high standards of the program. Biology students will be expected to do guided research in their area of specialization. This research will be used in their Ph.D. dissertation, which is their final capstone project. Graduates with a Ph.D. can work as biological scientists in private and public health institutions, government labs, environmental jobs, and teaching.
Students should think about joining a national academic honors society like Beta Beta Beta (BBB) or Phi Sigma, which gives scholars a chance to network, learn more about biology research and development, and apply for merit-based funding. Professional organizations like the American Institute of Biological Sciences give students, and researchers access to special biology publications, conferences, and opportunities to meet and talk with other people in the field.
Ideal Biology Candidates
People who pay close attention will do well in a biology program. Students must carefully use powerful microscopes to study organisms and biochemical reactions at the cellular level. Students must also have a good eye for details and be good at taking notes and keeping records. Data recordings are an important part of any biologist’s research. Another important trait for a biologist is patience since they may have to wait for a long time to see behavior or reaction during an experiment. Researchers also need patience when they have to do things repeatedly, like studying the effects on several generations of fruit flies in the lab.
Biologists need to be process-oriented because breaking safety rules can put them in danger, especially when working with dangerous chemicals or pathogens. Workflows will be very helpful when it comes to finishing experiments. Scientists need to follow lab protocols carefully to avoid cross-contamination, inaccurate measurements, and other mistakes that could change the results of an investigation.
Pathways to a Career
Suppose you have a bachelor’s degree in biology. In that case, you can often find work as a biological lab technician in places like government offices, universities, chemical labs and factories, and medical facilities. The average salary for these workers is $39,750 per year or $19.11 per hour. From 2012 to 2022, jobs in this field will grow at 10%, which is average. These lab technicians look at samples, write down information, and help scientists with their research.
Those with a graduate degree can become biological scientists, who make an average of $76,220 a year or $36.64 an hour. These researchers work in government labs, pharmaceutical companies, and universities most of the time. Doctors rely on biological scientists because they can test blood, urine, and other samples from patients to make medical diagnoses.
Prospective biology students can get a good idea of their degree program options by talking to high school counselors, admissions offices, and faculty members. Honors societies, professional guilds, and career counseling offices on campus ensure that biology students have access to resources for school and work even after they graduate.