What Can You Do with a Biology Degree: Ultimate Guide

Man with biology degree using a microscope

​Biology is one of the most diverse areas of scientific study, and it is also a specialty that’s in high demand in a variety of fields, from education to opportunities to help to create innovative pharmaceuticals and other products. If you are considering specializing in biology or you are already working your biology degree, you have likely asked “What can you do with a biology degree?” This article highlights 10 cool careers that can put your biology skills to the test.

What Can You Do with a Biology Degree?

Biology is the science of life, and the skills you learn earning a biology degree are fundamental in many potential career paths, including professions in the healthcare field, environmental projects, food science, and academic prospects such as teaching or writing. When considering the careers on this list, think about what aspect of biology you enjoy the most and let that help guide you as you search for the job that would fit you best.

​Ten Cool Careers That Will Put Your Skills to the Test

Physician or Surgeon

So what can you do with a biology degree? A go-to answer is become a physician or surgeon. This is understandable as physicians and surgeons are respected and well paid. They play a vital role in improving the overall health of the populace and the need for physicians and surgeons is always high.

However, to become a physician or surgeon requires a lot more than just a bachelors degree. Years of medical school and then residency is needed, and the work itself can be difficult and present situations that might make some uncomfortable. Physicians and surgeons are also among the most highly stressful jobs, so they are not for everyone.

That being said, a biology degree is a great place to start when considering a career as a physician or surgeon. There are other careers in the healthcare and medical fields such as physician assistants, laboratory technicians, and pharmacist that are not as lucrative as being a physician or surgeon, but they aren’t as stressful and they still require the skills one learns earning a biology degree.

​​Microbiologists

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Microbiologists are scientists that study microscopic organisms such as algae, bacteria, and fungi. Most careers in microbiology only require a bachelors degree and there are several fields where microbiology is important. Most microbiologists work in the medical industry, conducting research in a lab setting on different diseases or looking to microscopic organisms to find potential treatments.

This is not the only area of research for microbiologists, however as there are several industries that use microscopic organisms. A microbiologist can find lucrative work in food science or even manufacturing.

If you are considering a career as a microbiologist, focusing on research and writing is important. Research takes up of a microbiologist’s time, but writing is of equal importance. A microbiologist must be able to write about his or her research and also write grant proposals to help fund research projects.

​​Environmental Scientist

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Environmental science is an important interdisciplinary field, and biology plays an important part in it. Other aspects of environmental science include: atmospheric science, environmental chemistry, geosciences, and ecology. A degree in biology would be most helpful in ecology, but those considering a career as an environmental scientist would be well served by studying some related fields such as geology, chemistry and meteorology.

Environmental scientists study the environment and work towards producing solutions to environmental problems such as pollution and global warming. As with microbiology, to become an environmental scientist requires only a bachelors degree.

This is a growing industry as concern for the environment and the potential damage mankind has caused, and is continuing to cause, to it continues to grow. An environmental scientist performs a variety of research focused on protecting the environment and enhancing the health of the biosphere.

​​Food Science and Technology

When one asks “What can you do with a biology degree?” a career in food science is not often expected as a first response, but a profession in food science and technology can be lucrative as the field is growing. This is a good field to consider if you want to make a real difference in the lives of both people and animals. A food scientist with a biology degree can work to develop new products or sources of food, preserve food, solve agricultural problems, and more.

Many technological breakthroughs in the world’s food supply over the last 200 years have made our food safer and healthier, increasing the shelf life and preventing contamination with microorganisms. Modern food scientists continue this work today, and with advancements in microbiology, scientists are working to create new sources of food that are more environmentally sustainable. A career in agricultural or food science requires only a bachelor’s degree and offers some of the highest entry-level salaries for any career that requires a biology degree.

​​Marine Biologist

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Marine biology is often one of the first areas of biological study that most people think about when they consider the question, “what can you do with a biology degree?” This is more than understandable as it combines the allure of the sea with a love of sea creatures. Given the environmental importance of the oceans, marine biology is not only an interesting career but can be an important one in preserving our environment.

Marine biology offers a multitude of different aspects of specialization depending on the organisms studied and even where those organisms live. Marine biologists play a part in the fishery industry as consultants in the energy industry and in environmental protection. A strong background in research, both in the lab and in the field, will help those with a biology degree get a job in marine biology. Volunteer work, research experience, and past work with animals can also be key in finding a career as there is a lot of competition in the field of marine biology.

​​Attorney

It might surprise you that “attorney” is an answer the question “what can you do with a biology degree?” but there is a great need for attorneys with a scientific background. The greatest need in the legal profession for attorneys with biology degrees is in intellectual property, specifically regarding patents. Securing a patent on a new drug, biotechnological product or medical instrument is one of the most important aspects in their creation. An attorney with a background in biology will better understand the underlying science of the patents and better to secure it for the researcher who invented it.

Other areas in which a biology degree might come in handy as an attorney is in medical and environmental litigation. Litigation focused on pharmaceuticals and environmental damage can sometimes require expert testimony. An attorney with a biology degree is in a better position to understand, question, or refute the testimony and evidence needed in these types of trials.

That said, as with physicians and surgeons, a career as an attorney requires an advanced degree. While it is a lucrative career path, it might not have as great a growth prospect as other careers. There are a lot of lawyers already, and law schools are reporting record attendances, but a background in biology might make you stand out from the crowd.

​​Science and Health Educator

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Teaching might not be the most lucrative of careers, but it is a rewarding occupation for someone with a biology degree. As a teacher, you’ll help shape the minds of the next generation. This is an excellent career path for those that love teaching or spending time around children. As with many other career choices, there are many specialties in education. You can find a teaching job at the secondary or high school level, become a professor and teach at a college or university, or become a health educator in a non-academic field.

To teach K-12, you will need to complete an education degree in addition to your biology degree. The exact requirements will differ from state to state, but the university where you study biology will have resources available to find the exact requirements for the state where you want to look for a job. Becoming a professor requires higher degrees, but also offers the opportunity for more research and writing than teaching K-12.

​Pharmaceutical and Medical Sales Representative

​This is another often overlooked answer to the question “what can you do with a biology degree?” Pharmaceutical medical sales representatives sell medicine and medical supplies to physicians, clinics, hospitals and care homes, and a strong knowledge of biology and chemistry is important to help a sales representative communicate the benefits and risks of the products. A bachelors degree is generally required to become a pharmaceutical and medical sales representative. This is a good job for an outgoing person, especially one with a charismatic attitude and the ability to persuade others.

​​Nurse Practitioner and Physician Assistant

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​​​Nurse practitioners and physician assistants are two of the most in-demand jobs in the medical field. They are often at the front line of healthcare service providers. These jobs require some advanced training though not as much as a physician or surgeon. A degree in biology will provide an excellent springboard for that advanced study. Besides a degree in biology, a strong understanding of human anatomy, physiology, and the biological systems will help in both the advanced study required and on the job.

As with a physician and surgeon, these jobs can be high stress and deal with situations that might not be comfortable for everyone. That said, they are both lucrative positions and are expected to only increase in demand. These are excellent options for people who want to get into the medical field but do not want to commit to the extensive educational and residential requirements of becoming a physician or surgeon.

​​Writer

​​Writing is one of the other unexpected answers to the question, “what can you do with the biology degree?” but there are several types of writing where a biology degree will aid the writer. The most obvious of these is scientific writing. There are several publications that have a focus on science, and a degree in biology might help you write science fiction as well.

If you are considering using your biology degree to pursue a career as a writer, a solid understanding of the English language is important. For more scientific writing, a background in research will give you experience in writing reports and make you a more attractive candidate. For those that might consider a writing career in fiction, creative writing courses will help.

​Conclusion

​Whether you are considering studying biology, are currently working toward your biology degree, or you already have one, we hope our list of 10 cool careers that will put your biology skills to the test is answered the question, “what can you do with a biology degree?” and gave you some inspiration for a future career path.

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