Top Jobs for Biology Majors
Updated 19 October 2020
Biology, also referred to as biological science, is a broad and diverse subject area that encompasses the study of all living things.
It is the field that seeks to understand the science behind living organisms, from their structure, to how they function and evolve.
Under the umbrella of biology sit several interrelated disciplines, including, but by no means limited to the following:
- Environmental biology
- Marine biology
Typically, a bachelor’s degree in this field takes four years to complete, with the first year focused on core topics such as gene theory, cell theory and molecular biology, after which you’ll likely opt to focus on your preferred specialist area, setting yourself up for one of the many biology major jobs available.
You’ll develop both your theoretical knowledge and practical skills through a combination of lectures, research projects, experiments and laboratory work.
What Are a Biology Major’s Top Skills?
Since the subject covers such a broad range of specialized areas, the exact skills you acquire will depend on the focus of your degree.
However, there are key competencies that are taught across the board, all of which are in demand from employers, regardless of where your career in biology takes you.
Top skills include:
- Analytical skills that allow you to work with and draw sound conclusions from scientific data
- Practical skills, such as the correct use of laboratory equipment
- Knowledge of how to interpret scientific literature
- The ability to present research findings appropriately, including both written and spoken reports
- Mathematical skills and specialist IT knowledge
- Strong communication and collaborative skills gained through group projects
- Time management and organization
- The ability to work independently on your own initiative
These core skills are transferable and applicable to all careers in biology.
What Can You Do With a Biology Degree?
Since the subject itself is so broad, a biology degree lends itself to a range of diverse careers.
Some of the most common careers in biology are in areas including:
Medicine and healthcare – This includes research and development professionals, doctors, dentists and veterinarians
Scientific research – In both the medical and life sciences
Education – Many biology majors go on to share their knowledge, either at high school or higher educational level
Environmental science – An increasingly popular route for biology majors, this covers everything from conservation and marine biology to ecology
Other popular career paths include food science, forensics and biotechnology, as well as roles based outside the typical science environment, such as working on government policy, working within industry (most commonly pharmaceutical), science journalism, and even economics.
Some biology majors choose to pursue further education to advance their careers, and in some cases, this may be a prerequisite. Others will opt to learn on the job.
Whatever your preferred path, there are plenty of careers in biology to choose from.
Top 10 Jobs for Biology Majors
The below list covers some of the most common biology major jobs, listed alphabetically.
It is by no means exhaustive but should give you a starting point for narrowing down your career options.
The average salaries listed are taken from the latest data available from Glassdoor.
Average annual salary: $52,722
Biochemistry is a viable option for graduates with an interest and strong skills in both biology and chemistry.
On a day to day basis, biochemists carry out research projects that investigate chemical processes and how they impact living systems.
A broad sector in itself, as a biochemist you may choose to:
Work in the food or pharmaceutical industries, developing new products and managing quality control
Focus on environment and agriculture, where you may monitor pollution and contribute to crop development
Work within research, studying diseases and new methods of treatment
Your laboratory, research, presentation and teamwork skills will all be valuable assets in this field.
Entry-level roles are often available to undergraduates and those with a relevant master’s degree, however, if you wish to progress or focus on independent research, you will need to complete a doctorate.
Average annual salary: $143,698
Medicine is one of the most common career paths for biology majors, and a bachelor’s degree is the first step in the academic career for aspiring doctors.
As an undergraduate, you’ll gain the basic practical skills and theoretical knowledge that set you up for further study.
You’ll then need to sit and pass your Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), attend four years of medical school and complete a residency program, typically lasting between three and seven years depending on your specialism.
Specialist areas in medicine include surgery, emergency medicine, pediatrics, neurology and preventative medicine.
It may be a long process, but if you have a fascination with the human body and a desire to help people, becoming a doctor is undoubtedly one of the most rewarding careers in biology.
3. Environmental Scientist
Average annual salary: $52,700
Environmental science focuses on the impact human activity has on the planet, and as a topic of increasing concern, there are more biology major jobs available in this field than ever before.
Responsibilities include field-based research, data collection, sample testing and data interpretation to identify the cause of environmental issues and devise ways to minimize their impact.
Key skills needed in this role are analytical research and critical thinking, but of equal importance will be your presentation and communication skills.
You’ll need to present your findings coherently, alongside persuasive, evidence-based arguments that get key stakeholders on board with your ideas.
Environmental scientists are employed by many organizations, including government, environmental agencies and conservations groups, as well as within industry.
Again, many doors are open to those with bachelor’s degrees, but for advancement, further study is likely to be required.
4. Food Scientist
Average annual salary: $61,485
The area of food science is another popular option for biology major jobs, appealing to many because of its standard working hours.
Food scientists use their scientific understanding to find safer, cost-effective and environmentally conscious ways of producing, processing and distributing food products.
As an undergraduate, you may choose to work for a food agency, manufacturer or farm, with the daily responsibilities of quality control, production development, nutritional investigation and food safety.
Those with a graduate degree may progress in their career, moving on to supply chain management or inspection of production facilities.
Careers in food science will suit those who particularly enjoyed the laboratory elements of their biology degree. This career is predominantly lab-based, testing and analyzing a range of products to ensure safety and quality.
Critical thinking and data analysis skills are also needed.
5. Lab Technician
Average annual salary: $34,769
Another of the biology major jobs well suited to those that thrive in the laboratory environment is the role of lab technician.
This is also a good career choice for biology majors that enjoy completing routine tasks and undertaking experiments.
Lab technicians are found in various sectors, from clinical and medical, to pharmaceutical, environmental, and food and drink.
You’ll be responsible for collecting and testing samples (for example, blood samples in the medical field), assisting in controlled experiments, data recording and analysis, and the general day to day upkeep of the laboratory.
Roles are open to undergraduates, who typically start by supporting senior technicians and researchers. Career progression is available without further education as lab technicians generally work their way up the ladder.
As well as the core competencies learned in a biology degree, this role requires exceptional attention to detail, not just in regard to testing duties, but also to ensure a safe, sterile working environment.
Average annual salary: $43,860
Microbiology is the study of the smallest living organisms known to man, such as fungi, bacteria, algae and viruses. Collectively known as microbes, these organisms are responsible for causing and spreading infectious diseases.
A microbiologist’s job is to identify and analyze microbes to combat infections.
Predominantly lab-based, with some fieldwork a possibility, you’ll collect samples and track their growth in a range of environments, and develop new diagnostic procedures, preventative measures and treatments.
Microbiologists are often involved in complex repeat experiments carried out in highly controlled environments. These make use of advanced scientific equipment and computer software, so you’ll need appropriate levels of knowledge and confidence with technology.
To enter into this field, you will need to minor in microbiology as part of your bachelor’s degree.
Average annual salary: $126,534
As far as biology major jobs go, pharmacology is one of the better paid; although to reach the higher salary band, you’ll likely need to complete a doctorate. In some cases, this may even be necessary for entry-level roles.
As a pharmacologist, you’ll be involved in researching diseases and developing new drugs to treat them. Most biology majors in this field specialize in a particular area, the most common being neuroscience and toxicology.
Pharmacology will suit those fascinated with the biology of the human body. It’s also a highly rewarding career, as you have the opportunity to be involved in groundbreaking clinical trials that may lead to life-changing treatments.
To be successful, you’ll need to be inquisitive, analytical and a strong communicator. Though most commonly employed in the pharmaceutical sector, you may also work as a pharmacologist in a medical, government or educational setting.
8. Research Assistant
Average annual salary: $35,230
This is another of the biology major jobs that offers great variety.
The practical skills and theoretical knowledge gained in your degree apply to a range of research assistant roles, be it in a medical, clinical or pharmaceutical setting, or even outside of the scientific environment (for example, working for a think tank or market research firm).
That said, as a biology major, it’s likely your interest lies in scientific research. Working as an assistant will allow you to develop your skills and knowledge on the job.
You’ll assist lead researchers with their projects, helping with experiments, data logging and analysis, compiling reports and presentations, and maintaining lab equipment.
Research assistant roles are a good choice for those that love the research environment but aren’t looking for the responsibility of taking the lead on a project.
Average annual salary: $48,115
Not all careers in biology are based in a scientific workplace. Those with a passion for education and working with young people may choose to pursue a role in the teaching profession.
Alongside your biology degree, you’ll need a teaching qualification for entry into this field.
Those teaching at high school level will use their knowledge to educate students on the basics of biology by creating engaging lesson plans, leading school lab experiments and delivering classes.
Communication is one of the most important skills needed in this career, along with a passion to inspire and inform.
If you wish to teach at a higher educational level, you’ll need to complete a master’s, or in some cases, a doctorate.
The bonus of becoming a lecturer over a teacher is that you may have the opportunity to produce and publish your own research alongside your educational duties.
Average annual salary: $85,092
If you’re an animal lover, there are plenty of careers in biology to choose from, including veterinary practice.
You may choose to treat domestic animals in a private clinic, work with livestock or take up residency in a zoo.
Your biology degree is the first step on this career path and will allow you to seek admission to veterinary college; you’ll need to gain a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine degree to become a qualified practitioner. You’ll also need to obtain the relevant state license.
As well as a sound understanding of animal biology, you’ll need strong critical thinking and problem-solving skills (to identify ailments and prescribe the right treatment), good people skills, and of course, a compassionate nature.
As a subject that covers the science behind all living things, biology major jobs are incredibly varied and a bachelor’s degree opens the doors to a vast range of opportunities, from traditional routes into medicine and research, to environmental science, food science, education and beyond.
Whether your bachelor’s degree is just the start of your academic career, or you plan to enter the professional world straight after graduation, biology is an ever-evolving and exciting field to be part of.