Biologist: Recommended Education for a Career in Biology
Biologist Education Requirements
High school students may begin preparing for a biology career by taking classes in biology, chemistry and mathematics. Students may consider taking advanced placement (AP) classes in these subjects in order to gain college credit. For example, students may be exempt from taking introductory postsecondary mathematics courses if they complete AP calculus and pass a College-Level Examination Program test.
Aspiring biologists may find entry-level employment after completing a bachelor's degree program in biology, biological sciences or a related scientific field. Courses in these majors may cover topics like ecology and evolution. Students may receive instruction on biological systems, such as the respiratory and circulation systems. Studies may also include comparative assignments in which students differentiate between biological systems of different species.
Some programs may offer students the option of specializing or concentrating in a particular field like microbiology or zoology. Students selecting an ecology option may focus on the impact of construction and industry on the environment, while those choosing botany may study how different fertilizers help plants grow. All of these fields include supplemental laboratory courses, which allow students to perform experiments and develop conclusions about concepts in their respective fields.
Advancing a Career as a Biologist
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) cited that developmental positions at universities, research positions and other advanced opportunities generally require the completion of a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program. Students in these programs may specialize in a number of biological fields like bio-environmental studies or bioengineering. Ph.D. programs may last 5-6 years and include an independent research project and dissertation on a biology-related topic. This may include issues ranging from the effects of medicine on the body to the effects of smoking on brain functions.
The BLS reported that wildlife biologist and zoologist positions, as well as jobs for microbiologists, were expected to increase 4% from 2014-2024, which was slower than average; however, biochemists and biophysicists had a projected growth rate of 8% in that same time period.
The projected rate of increase in positions as a biologist of one type or another hovers around the average rate of increase for all occupations. While a bachelor's degree can start you on a career as a biologist, research positions in biology, zoology, biophysics or microbiology call for a Ph.D.