Hopefully, for your own good, you’ve seen Disney and Pixar’s A Bug’s Life. It’s an animated film featuring a misfit ant (Flik) who searches for “warriors” to save his colony from greedy grasshoppers. Ultimately he recruits a group of bugs that turns out to be an inept circus troupe. However, despite the title, none of the characters are actually bugs, scientifically speaking. True bugs are only found in the Orders Hemiptera and Homoptera. None of the characters are members of either order, which is a something a Biologist might be able to tell you. A Biologist studies the actions and processes of living organisms.
- What a Biologist Does
- A Typical Day for a Biologist
- Salary and Career Ladders for a Biologist
- Best Locations for a Biologist
- Pros and Cons to Being a Biologist
- What You Need to Know to be a Biologist
- Biology Job Resources
- Careers Related to Biology
- Companies with Jobs and Internships in Biology
What a Biologist Does
A Biologist is a scientist that studies the basic principles of plant and animal life and the effects of varying environmental and physical conditions. Biologists can work in basic research, trying to discover underlying mechanisms that govern how organisms work, or applied research, attempting to develop or improve medical, industrial or agricultural processes. There are a few specific areas that Biologists elect to specialize in:
- Research: Research biologists study the natural world, using the latest scientific tools and techniques in both laboratory settings and the outdoors, to understand how living systems work.
- Environmental management and conservation: Biologists in management and conservation careers are interested in solving environmental problems and preserving the natural world for future generations. Park rangers protect state and national parks, help preserve their natural resources, and educate the general public. Zoo biologists carry out endangered species recovery programs.
- Health care: Biologists may develop public health campaigns to defeat illnesses such as tuberculosis, AIDS, cancer, and heart disease. Others work to prevent the spread of rare and deadly diseases, such as the Ebola virus.
- Education: Life science teachers enjoy working with people and encouraging them to learn new things, whether in a classroom, a research lab, the field, or a museum.
A Typical Day for a Biologist
While a typical day for a Biologist varies, it might include some of these tasks:
- Preparing equipment
- Going to the field
- Assigning tasks to others
- Collecting samples
- Photographing samples
- Conducting tests
- Collecting and analyzing data on a computer
- Writing about research for publication
- Reading other scientific papers
Salary and Career Ladders for a Biologist
The median salary for a Biologist in the United States is $44,881 per year. As you gain more experience in the field, you can earn closer to $80,000 per year in the private sector. If you work in government, academia, or the nonprofit sector you can earn around $70,000. With about 30 years of experience under your belt, you can expect to make around $103,000 per year. You might even specialize in a particular area. For example, Pharmacy Technicians (average annual salary $19,124 to $28,237), Research Technician (average annual salary $28,944 to $38,703), Medical Research Assistant National (average annual salary $28,461 to $38,785), Chemical Laboratory Technician (average annual salary $30,965 to $45,863), Veterinary Technician (average annual salary $22,886 to $33,921), Medical Assistant (average annual salary $22,866 to $31,252), Clinical Laboratory Technologist (average annual salary $42,172 up to $56,719), High School Biology Teacher ($33,856 to $53,526), or Research and Development Laboratory Technician (average annual salary $33,949 to $48,937).
Best locations for a Biologist
- Los Angeles, California
- Las Vegas, Nevada
- Fort Lauderdale, Florida
- Manchester, New Hampshire
- Colorado Springs, Colorado
- Houston, Texas
- Chicago, Illinois
- New York, New York
- Seattle, Washington
- Portland, Oregon
Pros and cons to Being a Biologist
- Great pay
- Doing research to expand scientific knowledge about living things, that can benefit everyone
- Long-term projects allowing you to delve into one area in depth
- Working under pressure
- Securing grant funding can be tedious
- When the data doesn’t show you what you want to see, it can be frustrating
What You Need to Know to be a Biologist
To be a Biologist you should get a Bachelor’s Degree (generally 4 years) in one of the sciences in college and receive a Master’s Degree (generally 2 years) in a life science in graduate school. With just a Bachelor’s Degree in most states you’re able to teach high school science (after earnings a teacher’s certification). People who have earned a Master’s Degree in the biological sciences are typically qualified for jobs in teaching and applied research. But you usually need a Doctoral Degree (generally 2-4 years) for a teaching and research position at a university or a job as an administrator. Beyond that, biologists must continually study throughout their careers to keep up with new developments in the life sciences.
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