Top jobs: biology degree guide

Last updated: July 22, 2024
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Eleana Bowman
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Top jobs: biology degree guide
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A biology degree will look good on your resume and open up a wide range of career opportunities, including roles in research, education, healthcare, and environmental management.

The life sciences isn't a field for everyone. But if you're interested in biology, you'll have a rewarding career.

Whether you already have a biology degree or you're considering pursuing one, it's time to think about jobs.

In this guide, we'll share our list of top biology degree jobs. From working in a laboratory to investigating crime scenes, there's an option to suit you and your education.

Additionally, you'll learn about average salaries so you can compare multiple career options side by side.

What is a biology degree?

Before we jump into our list of top jobs, let's chat about biology degrees. Your coursework will focus on living things, including animals, cells, and plants.

There are different options to choose from, but the most common is a four-year bachelor's degree. Depending on your interests, you may enroll in a Bachelor of Arts (BA) program or a Bachelor of Science (BS) program with a biology major. A BA in Biology is geared towards more public professions while the BS in Biology is the pathway to graduate degrees which emphasize math and science.

Or, if you want a quicker pathway, you can enroll in a two-year associate's degree program. Examples of jobs you can get with this type of degree include research assistants, plant science technicians, or medical assistants.

You can also enroll in additional training by completing a master's degree in biology. This is a two-year program completed after a bachelor's degree. Doctoral degrees are also available.

Universities that offer biology programs can have minimum GPA scores and require a high school diploma or equivalent. If you did well in high school science courses, you will have an advantage.

1. Wildlife biologist

Wildlife biologists study animals and their habitats. They focus on different behaviors, diseases, and population growth.

For example, if an animal is endangered, a wildlife biologist may track them to find out why their numbers are declining. Wildlife biologists can also oversee breeding programs.

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Wildlife biologists collect samples and conduct experiments. They create plans and goals to improve the natural environment. They educate the public, write reports, and make presentations.

You can find wildlife biologists in a range of settings, including national parks, laboratories, government offices, and remote regions. Alternatively, you can focus on ocean life with a marine biology career.

This role can involve travel, and you'll need to feel confident working independently. Wildlife biologists also need excellent problem-solving skills, analytical skills, and computer skills.

A bachelor's degree in wildlife biology is a common pathway. Or you can complete a general biology degree.

How much does a wildlife biologist make?

The average salary for a wildlife biologist in the US is $64,650 per year or $31.08 per hour. This is a stable career choice, with a 1% expected job growth rate over the next 10 years.

2. Biology teacher

If you want to share your knowledge, you can use your degree to become a biology teacher.

There are opportunities to teach a range of courses from introductory to Advanced Placement (AP) or IB (International Baccalaureate) levels. In a high school setting, biology teachers may have to juggle multiple classes.

Biology teachers write lesson plans and follow curricula, covering a range of life science topics. They supervise students, mark homework, and manage behavior.

As science and health educators, biology teachers work in a traditional classroom and a laboratory. They communicate with parents, students, and school leaders. This role is usually Monday to Friday.

To be successful, you'll need technical skills, leadership skills, and communication skills. Teachers also need to be organized with excellent time management skills.

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School biology teachers need a degree in the biology field as well as teacher training.

How much does a school biology teacher make?

The average salary for a school teacher in the US is $61,820 per year. This role is in demand, with an expected 5% job growth rate over the next 10 years.

You can boost your income as a high school teacher by acquiring a master’s degree in education or biology. You may also study to become a postsecondary education biology teacher. The average salary for this role is $79,640 per year.

3. Forensic science technician

Forensic science technicians help investigators solve crimes. They visit crime scenes and look for evidence. These techs take photos and scan crime scenes for fingerprints.

They also flag and collect evidence relevant to the crime, such as weapons, computers, and blood samples.

Forensic science technicians keep detailed written reports and share their findings with the investigative team. This role can involve time working outdoors, travel, and unusual hours.

Some forensic science techs work in laboratories. They analyze evidence and try to find clues. For example, they may look at DNA to narrow down a list of suspects.

Forensic scientists need strong analytical skills, attention to detail, and critical thinking skills. You should also be comfortable looking at crime scene photos.

A degree in biology or forensic science will prepare you for this job. You can also expect job training. A background in law enforcement will give you an advantage over other applicants.

How much does a forensic science technician make?

The average salary for a forensic science technician in the US is $61,930 per year or $29.78 per hour. Job opportunities are set to increase at a rate of 11% by 2031.

4. Genetic counselor

Genetic counselors are experts in the field of genetics. These medical professionals are often employed by hospitals or private practices.

Genetic counselors work with patients to understand their risk of developing certain genetic disorders and diseases. For example, someone may have a family history of cancer or diabetes, and a genetic counselor can advise them on the condition.

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Genetic counselors order a range of diagnostic tests and speak to patients about their medical histories. They keep accurate records and refer patients to other professionals, such as surgeons and physicians.

If a patient receives bad news, a genetic counselor can discuss their concerns with them. The counselor can also help patients find support groups.

Genetic counselors should be empathetic, with strong communication and technical skills.

If you want to work as a genetic counselor, you'll need to complete a bachelor's degree in biology and a master's degree in genetic counseling. Genetic counselor assistant roles are also available.

How much does a genetic counselor make?

The average salary for a genetic counselor in the US is $80,150 per year or $38.54 per hour. This is an in-demand industry, with job growth predicted to be 18% over the next 10 years.

5. Food scientist

Food scientists examine food quality and find ways to improve it. For example, they look at ingredients and where they come from.

These scientists test different foods to make sure they're safe to eat. They work with food manufacturers to research new ways to keep food fresh and how to package it.

Food scientists can be found in laboratory settings, as they spend their days testing food, conducting research, and writing reports.

Food scientists can also find employment at government agencies. In their role, they make sure restaurants and food producers are storing food safely and following all local laws.

Food scientists need analytical, research, and written skills.

Common pathways for this job type include a biology, agriculture, or chemistry degree. Job training may also be provided.

How much does a food scientist make?

In the US, the average salary for a food scientist is $74,160 per year or $35.66 per hour. The job outlook for this role is good, with demand expected to increase by 8% over the next 10 years.

6. Environmental scientist

Environmental scientists support the natural environment.

For example, if water or soil has been contaminated, an environmental scientist will try to find a solution. They will research the issue and create a report for the relevant government agencies.

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They offer suggestions, make presentations, and answer questions.

Environmental scientists collect samples from water, organic matter, soil, and air and bring them back to the laboratory for examination.

If they find a health or safety hazard for humans or animals, they'll make sure the local community is informed.

Environmental scientists need excellent observation and analytical skills as well as extensive scientific knowledge.

A degree in environmental biology or environmental science will help you get this job.

How much does an environmental scientist make?

The average annual salary for an environmental scientist in the US is $76,530 or $36.79 per hour. This is a stable industry, with expected job growth of 5% over the next 10 years.

7. Microbiologist

Microbiologists have extensive knowledge of microorganisms. They analyze bacteria, viruses, algae, and more.

As living things, microorganisms survive and grow depending on where they are. The role of a microbiologist is to research these changes and document their findings.

Microbiologists conduct experiments and tests to help medical professionals diagnose different illnesses.

They work in a team and support and train biological technicians. They often grow microorganisms in labs and study them to see how they behave.

These scientists keep detailed records and write reports.

Microbiologists pay close attention to detail and have strong interpersonal and research skills. Math skills and analytical skills are also important.

To gain employment as a microbiologist, you will need a degree in biology or microbiology. Experience as a biological technician will be an advantage.

How much does a microbiologist make?

In the US, the average annual salary for a microbiologist is $79,260 or $38.11 per hour. The expected job growth for this role is 9% by 2031.

8. Science writer

Science writers create technical articles, reports, and white papers. As experts in their field, they share their knowledge on a range of platforms.

For example, a science writer may work for a newspaper, magazine, or online media company. Some science writers work as freelancers.

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Science writers research different topics and use their computer skills to articulate their findings.

This role can vary, depending on the audience. For example, some science writers may put together detailed reports for other scientists. While other science writers may discuss science news and trends with the general population.

Science writers need excellent written communication skills, high attention to detail, and advanced research skills. This job can involve long hours in front of a computer.

A degree in biology will help you start a career as a science writer. Sometimes, writers pursue a television career.

How much does a science writer make?

The average annual salary for a science writer in the US is $78,060 or $37.53 per hour. The amount you'll earn depends on your experience, knowledge, and industry contacts.

The demand for writers is growing, with a 6% expected growth rate over the next 10 years.

9. Biological technician

Biological technicians work in a laboratory setting. They make sure the workspace is organized, clean, and properly equipped.

These lab assistants check monitor tools and restock supplies as required. Biological technicians are also required to process samples such as blood, fungi, or bacteria.

Under the supervision of a biologist, biological technicians write hypotheses and conduct experiments. They also write reports and share the results with their team.

Biological technicians need to be detail oriented with both a strong work ethic and written skills.

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An undergraduate degree in biology is the most common requirement.

How much does a biological technician make?

The average annual salary for a biological technician is $48,140 or $23.15 per hour. Demand for these workers is expected to rise by 9% over the next 10 years.

​​Is biology the career pathway for you? A degree in the field of biology will open up a broad range of opportunities.

There's a long list of biology careers to choose from, and today you learned about some of the most popular options.

Our top picks include food scientists, biology teachers, wildlife biologists, microbiologists, biological technicians, environmental scientists, genetic counselors, forensic science technicians, and science writers.

Not quite ready to go back to school but still want a career change? You can check out our job board to see who is hiring in your area.

You can also check out our resource center for interview and resume tips.

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