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What Can You Do With a Biology Degree?

Biology is the study of life and living organisms. Many students are drawn to the wonderful world of biology in college for its interesting and diverse coursework and high-paying careers, but just what can you do with a biology degree upon graduation? The choices are many, and quite a few potential careers are among the highest-paying you’ll find right out of school.

Whether you seek to translate an undergraduate biology degree into graduate school admission or want to enter the work force right away, there are some great careers that directly utilize skills you’ll learn in this major. Here are a few:

Health Care

The biology major makes a strong foundation with which to take the MCAT medical school entry exam. A biology degree will look strong on med school entrance exams, but moreover, will adequately prepare the student for the diverse knowledge necessary for a career in the health care industry. The downside is quite a few more years spent on schooling to earn a Master’s degree and, eventually, a Ph.D., but the end of the road promises great tangible rewards.

Fully licensed health care professionals, whether they are a Doctor of Medicine (MD) with an advanced degree or only hold an undergraduate biology degree and some professional training, are some of the highest-paid workers at the time of hiring and over a lifetime of employment.

Research

Many students choose to go into research after completing a biology degree, whether it is in the world of academics or the professional world of the food and drug or other industries. Paid research can begin even during the time spent as an undergraduate, with professors and firms constantly seeking entry-level lab assistants. Biologists have a diverse set of career paths from which to choose in the research industry. A four-year BS in biology can lead to a full-time research technician position, while many students choose graduate school.

The pharmaceutical, biotechnology and agricultural industries are in constant need of new research candidates with at least a BS, but preferably an advanced degree in one of many biology specializations like endocrinology. Just as in the case of health care, once an advanced degree is earned, positions for biologists in research can pay quite well, especially in the private sectors. The U.S. government is also in constant need of qualified candidates for positions within the FDA and other agencies.

Education

Teaching life sciences at the grade school or high school level is a great way to use an undergraduate biology degree and requires only a teaching credential as an add-on. Hardworking students can accomplish both concurrently in as little as four to five years, setting them up to follow their teaching passions as a lifelong career. Teaching in higher education generally requires earning at least a Master’s degree, and preferably a Ph.D., for full professorship positions.

Education does not generally pay as highly as the health care and research industries, but there are plenty of opportunities to supplement income with research and other side projects. At large universities, professors are usually expected to conduct research in addition to teaching students. As an added benefit to graduate students in the life sciences, paid teacher’s assistant positions can be easy to find while still in school. Students can thus practice their skills and also help finance their continuing education at the same time.

The Benefits of a Biology Education

Higher education need not pigeonhole students into a single field just because it is the area of study they have chosen to pursue. Earning a college education, regardless of eventual career paths, is an end in and of itself that will pay dividends in whatever field the student eventually chooses. Plenty of other jobs, from brewmasters to bakers and environmental lawyers, start out with biology.

Earning an undergraduate biology degree proves to potential employers that a candidate is willing to suffer through hard work when necessary. Even at the four-year student level, work in the BS biology major is not easy. Students develop skills that will stay with them for life. The reality is that most students have no idea what they are going to do with their newfound skills until after graduation. The key is in the process. If biology sparks your interest, it is a worthy pursuit and can lead to great financial gain in the long run. Just be prepared to work.