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Biology Major...A Closer Look
By Misty Sneddon
Do you love nature and have a thirst for understanding what makes living things alive? Having a tendency to be precise in your research methods and the way in which you report those findings are important characteristics for successful scientists. Hands-on learning are also areas biologists frequently find themselves in, either through exact measurements in a clean and sterile lab, or by wading through waist deep brackish waters in pursuit of some hard to find creature. While one doesn’t have to enjoy every single aspect of biology, it’s important to realize there are diverse learning and working environments in this line of study and work.
Successful biologists are usually patient, observant, analytical, curious, law-abiding, punctual, unbiased, generous, adaptive, resilient, and persistent. Risk-taking can also be important in this line of work, whether one has an opposing theory to the accepted scientific norm or by stepping out of one’s physical comfort zone during fieldwork. While it is not necessary to have all of the above qualities to be happy with a career in biology, it certainly helps to have at least a few of them. One of the most important areas of any career is to have passion for what you are doing; this holds true with biology as well.
Pursuing a degree in biology is an excellent choice, as one can use it as a solid foundation for a chosen career. However, many students prefer to further their education by getting a Master’s or Doctorate, leading to a more specialized career path. Generally, biology degree requirements are very extensive and require a lot of time studying. However, upon graduating, one finds the challenge very rewarding. With a four-year degree in biology, one can expect to find careers as a primary or secondary school teacher, conservation scientist, environmental scientist, biologist technician, or food scientist. Most annual salaries range from $39,000 to $61,000. Career options for those with a post-graduate Master’s in biology include epidemiologist, hydrologist, and physician’s assistant. These careers pay approximately $60,000 to $90,000 annually. With the specialized knowledge base achieved through a Doctorate, one can become a doctor, veterinarian, marine biologist, plant biologist, zoologist, microbiologist, dentist, college professor, or biochemist. These professionals make anywhere from $55,000 to well over $150,000 a year, depending upon the profession.
The door to huge opportunities awaits those with a degree in biology. But do you have what it takes to get there? Math and science go hand in hand in this field of study, and proficiency in technical writing is also needed. As a general rule, one should truly enjoy nature and a desire to understand how it all works and fits together in this world. These studies often include looking through a microscope and reporting one’s findings and sitting through many lectures, as well as getting one’s hands dirty in labs and field work. Internships and independent researches are usually required to graduate.
A four-year degree requires courses like human anatomy and physiology, physics, biology, chemistry, organic chemistry, genetics and genomics, biochemistry, molecular biology, calculus, and statistics. When registering for class it’s important to remember that a three-hour lecture class usually has an additional weekly lab or fieldwork attached to the schedule.
Perhaps you have a love for biology but are unsure what you’d like to do with this kind of degree. You can always combine your degree with another major. This can open the door to amazing opportunities. Foreign language and biology together could put you in another country! Criminal justice and biology could lead to forensic work, while political science and biology could create a career in the environmental lobbyist industry. If you truly enjoy the topic you are studying, there is a way to make a career out of it.