A biologist studies living and dead organisms. Some biologists focus in a certain area to research, such as wildlife biologists, marine biologists, or microbiologists. All of these biologists have the same fundamental education in biology and then specialize in a field they enjoy. No matter the type of biologist, they all should have a natural curiosity to learn about life.
Watch a video to learn what a biologist does:
How to Become a Biologist
A bachelor’s degree would be the minimum requirement to gain an entry-level job as a biologist. You would most likely take courses in genetics (the study of the properties or features of an organism), evolution (the study on how living organisms are thought to have developed), and physiology (the study of the way in which a living organism or bodily part functions).
Most biology students though, continue on to earn a master’s degree with a focus on the specialized area of biology they wish to pursue. You will also want as much experience as possible, so working an internship before graduating may make job hunting easier upon graduation.
Research Related Careers in Science
Job Description of a Biologist
Depending on their field and industry, a biologist may be tasked to study how life is impacted by the environment in which it lives, or how an epidemic can spread among a species. They may split their time being in an office and workout outdoors in order to study living organisms in controlled and natural environments. They may also find themselves collecting biological specimens from organisms to study in a lab. The would likely present their findings to others through reports and the sharing of data. They would also be the knowledge expert to make recommendations on items such as wildlife conservation or environmental policies. Let’s look at a job description posted by the Department of Health and Services, Centers of Disease Control and Prevention. This job announcement is looking for a person to perform the following responsibilities:
- Perform and interpret a variety of molecular diagnostic tests to identify or determine the presence of microorganisms in tissues.
- Prepare reports on scientific investigations, studies and projects.
- Interpret data for publication in scientific journals or other formats.
- Prepare and deliver written and oral reports to a variety of individuals and groups in both informal and formal settings.
- Ensure that incoming specimens are processed and triaged maintaining ?chain of custody.
- Perform various biological scientific work that may include vaccine studies and bacterial diseases such as: Bordetella pertussis, Neisseria meningitidis, Streptococcus pneumoniae and Bacillus anthracis.
This position was posted to run 12/26/2018 until 03/26/2019 with a salary range of $61,218 to $109,245 per year on USAjobs.gov (link opens in a new tab). USAjobs.gov is an official website of the United States government and part of the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.
Free Teacher and Student Resources
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) offers a free Introduction to Biology – The Secret of Life course on EdX.org (link opens in a new tab) with the option to pay a small fee receive a verified certificate upon completion of the course.
By taking this course, you’ll learn:
- How to describe the building blocks of life and how their interactions dictate structure and function in biology.
- How to predict genotypes and phenotypes given genetics data.
- How to explain the central dogma of molecular biology and convert DNA sequence to RNA sequence to protein sequence.
- How to use molecular tools to study biology.
- How to describe the principles of early sequencing as well as modern sequencing and the effects of these technologies on the filed of genomics.
- How to apply the principles of modern biology to issues in today’s society.
Biologist Career Video Transcript
From the smallest microorganism to the giant blue whale, every living thing is of interest to biologists, who study the basic principles of plant and animal life. Biologists use the scientific method, testing their ideas or hypotheses through experimentation, to investigate questions about the origin of life, its development, and the relationships between living things, as well as a creature’s anatomy and how it functions in its environment. Whether they’re working in a lab, out in the field, or at a university, biologists collect and analyze biological data, although the specifics of their research are as varied as the creatures in nature. For example, some biologists may work almost exclusively with computer models, while others may spend months collecting and studying specimens at sea. Many specialize in working with plants, animals, or the environment. Biologists need strong communication skills. Their work is often as much about interacting with people and institutions as it is focusing on DNA or anatomy. A career in biology generally requires a bachelor’s degree in the field. Many biologists attend graduate school to earn more advanced research positions or professorships.
One of my favorite jobs is working with farm animals and on any center day I could go down and collect a sample in the morning time and then go back in the afternoon and collect another sample, for instance milk and then I can look at any changes that have occurred throughout the day. Our main goal is to protect human and animal health and by doing that I mean it gives us all here I think a lot of satisfaction knowing that we’re helping out everyone, including your animals at home. I guess I always really enjoyed doing science fair projects. My advice would just be to go out and try and volunteer and go to participate in the science fair and go to camps during the summer.
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists.
National Center for O*NET Development. 19-1020.01. O*NET OnLine.
The career video is in the Public Domain and originally hosted on Kids.gov which is now USA.gov, an interagency product administered by USAGov, a division of the U.S. General Services Administration’s Technology Transformation Service.