Career Development

What Does a Biologist Do?

Find out what a biologist does, how to get this job, and what it takes to succeed as a biologist.

Biologists are scientists who study living things and the environment around us. They use a variety of techniques to observe, investigate, and interpret life on Earth. Biologists may focus on a specific area of biology, such as genetics or ecology, but they commonly work across many different fields.

Biologists may also work in a number of different industries, from pharmaceuticals to agriculture to environmental consulting.

Biologist Job Duties

Biologists have a wide range of responsibilities, which can include:

  • Designing studies to test hypotheses and answer research questions
  • Collecting data using equipment such as computers, microscopes, cameras, or other scientific instruments
  • Communicating research findings to colleagues, peers, and the public through presentations, publications, or electronic media
  • Conducting experiments to test hypotheses, investigate processes, or study phenomena in natural environments
  • Analyzing data and collecting samples for experiments using tools like microscopes and spectrometers
  • Communicating with other scientists regarding progress on research projects
  • Evaluating the impact of human activities on the environment to identify potential risks
  • Identifying and classifying plants and animals, including species extinction risk assessments
  • Studying the behavior of organisms in their natural environments to understand how they adapt to their surroundings

Biologist Salary & Outlook

The salary of a biologist can vary depending on their level of education, years of experience, and the type of work they do. Those who work in academia typically earn more than those who work in other sectors.

  • Median Annual Salary: $84,500 ($40.63/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $137,000 ($65.87/hour)

The employment of biologists is expected to grow at an average rate over the next decade.

Demand for biological research and testing services will depend on the health needs of a growing and aging population. Biologists also will be needed to help pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies develop new drugs and medical treatments.

Biologist Job Requirements

A biologist typically needs to have the following qualifications:

Education: A bachelor’s degree is not a requirement to become a biologist, but most employers prefer a bachelor’s degree in biology, zoology or a related field. A bachelor’s degree in biology provides students with a strong foundation in the biological sciences, including classes in genetics, cell biology, microbiology and anatomy and physiology.

Training & Experience: Most of a biologist’s training will take place during their education. Students will learn the basics of biology and research while completing their bachelor’s and master’s degrees. They will also receive on-the-job training in their first few years of employment.

Certifications & Licenses: Some employers may require employees to pass an industry-specific certification to show their general understanding of the field.

Biologist Skills

Biologists need the following skills in order to be successful:

Communication: Biologists often communicate with other biologists, medical professionals, patients and the general public. They may need to explain complex biological processes and procedures to laypeople and patients. They may also need to explain their research to other scientists.

Mathematics: Biologists use mathematics to calculate the amount of chemicals needed for a reaction or experiment. They also use mathematics to determine the results of a test and interpret the data.

Observation: Biologists use observation skills to notice changes in their environment, animal behavior and other factors that may affect their research. They also use observation skills to notice patterns in their research and data.

Research: Biologists often need to conduct research to learn more about their subject matter. This can include reading scientific journals, studying past research and conducting experiments. The ability to conduct research is an important skill for a biologist because it can help them learn more about their subject and develop new methods or treatments.

Technological skills: Biologists use technology to conduct experiments, analyze data and communicate with colleagues. They may use computers, software and other technology to complete their work. Technological skills can help them use technology to learn more about biology and improve their work.

Biologist Work Environment

Biologists conduct research on land, in air, and in water, studying plant, animal, and bird behavior in natural ecosystems and controlled laboratory settings. They collect plant specimens and track the movements of aquatic and land animals. Biologists who study microorganisms may work with dangerous pathogens that require special containment facilities. Many biologists work in offices, where they maintain laboratory equipment, write reports, and plan and design research projects. They also may work in greenhouses, on farms, in forests, or in deserts. Some biologists travel extensively to conduct field research in remote locations, often for extended periods of time.

Biologist Trends

Here are three trends influencing how biologists work. Biologists will need to stay up-to-date on these developments to keep their skills relevant and maintain a competitive advantage in the workplace.

The Need for More Diversity in the Workplace

The need for more diversity in the workplace is a trend that is quickly gaining traction, as businesses are beginning to realize the benefits of having a more diverse workforce.

Biologists can capitalize on this trend by becoming more familiar with the cultural differences that exist between people from different backgrounds. This will allow them to better communicate with their coworkers and create a more inclusive environment.

More Collaboration Between Scientists and Businesses

As businesses become more interested in collaborating with scientists, there will be an increased demand for biologists who are able to bridge the gap between these two fields.

By developing strong relationships with business professionals, biologists can help to develop new products and services that meet the needs of both parties. In addition, they can also help to ensure that the research being done is aligned with the goals of the company.

A Greater Focus on Environmental Sustainability

As the world becomes increasingly aware of the importance of environmental sustainability, biologists will play an important role in helping to find solutions.

This trend means that biologists will need to focus on research that helps to improve the environment, such as finding new ways to reduce carbon emissions or developing new methods for recycling waste. They will also need to be able to communicate the importance of environmental sustainability to the public in order to get support for their projects.

How to Become a Biologist

A biologist career can be incredibly rewarding, but it’s important to consider all the options before you make a decision. One way to do this is by reading about different types of biologists and their work. You could also talk to biologists in different fields to find out what they do and why they chose that path.

Once you have a better idea of what a biologist does, you can start thinking about which areas of biology interest you most. Do you want to research new cures for diseases? Help protect endangered species? Teach students about science? There are many ways to contribute to the field of biology, so think carefully about what interests you most.

Related: How to Write a Biologist Resume

Advancement Prospects

Biologists typically need a Ph.D. for independent research and to teach at a university. Some entry-level research jobs may be available for those with a master’s degree. A bachelor’s degree in biology or a related field is sufficient for some technician positions.

Most biologists and related scientists work in research and development. Many others work in colleges and universities, government agencies, or private industry, where they may be involved in environmental protection, food and drug safety, or quality control. Some biologists work in management, sales, or technical writing.

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