How to Become a


The complete career guide to be a Biologist: salary, job growth, employers, best schools, and education you may need to get started.

Why We Love It

  • $77,190
    Potential Avg. Salary
  • -0.5%
    Job Growth Rate
  • Investigative
    Career Attribute
  • Skill-Based Work
    Career Attribute

Biologists are scientists that study all types of lifeforms—animals, plants, and the ecosystems they live in. They work to understand how plants and animals have evolved across history, research how living things adapt to environmental changes, and work to maintain viable ecosystems that support lifeforms.

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What is a Biologist?

The following job responsibilities are common for individuals in biologist roles:

  • Conduct research on lifeforms in order to form a better understanding as to how they interact with their ecosystems and each other, how they adapt, and how they’ve evolved
  • Conduct applied research to develop pharmaceuticals, produce new products designed to promote agricultural growth, or uncover the causes of diseases in different lifeforms
  • Study how environmental changes impact different populations of lifeforms
  • Perform genetic experimentations to discover ways to improve lifeforms, combat genetic disorders, and prevent diseases
  • Analyze and isolate genomes to identify the causes of genetic diseases and disorders

A Day in the Life

Biology is a diverse field because it covers the study of all lifeforms, how those lifeforms work, how they interact with each other, and the ecosystems that support sustainment of different lifeforms. Because the field is so broad, biologists can work in a number of fields specializing in many different scientific approaches to biology. In all positions, biologists form hypothesis, conduct research, and publish results, but the goals of a biologist’s research vary greatly depending on his/her employer and industry.

For example, some biologists conduct basic research that seeks to better understand lifeforms. These biologists may work to discover new lifeforms, to analyze how lifeforms have adapted to environmental and other changes, or to advance the theories of evolution. These biologists may work for government agencies and report on how things like climate change are impacting different lifeforms, how certain forms of hunting are impacting wildlife, or how a new construction project might negatively impact ecosystems that plants and animals depend on for survival.

Other biologists conduct applied research and use the findings of their research to benefit society. For example, some biologists study genomes to identify the causes of genetic disorders and diseases. Their findings may lead to cures for genetic diseases. Others may work in agriculture and study how to reproduce—and mass-produce—high-performing crops. Some may also study how different plants and organisms can be used in pharmaceuticals to discover new drugs that combat illness and disease.

Typical Work Schedule

Most biologist jobs are full-time roles. However, they may be required to work irregular schedules, depending on their employers and the industries they work for. Many biologists work traditional 9-5 schedules; others travel for work and may work evening or overnight shifts.

Biologist Specializations

Scientists that study biology can specialize in many different areas:

  • Geneticists study genetics and seek to understand traits, diseases, and disorders that are passed down through generations of lifeforms.
  • Botanists focus their research and study on plant life, investigating the different uses of plants or identifying types of plants that have not yet been discovered.
  • Ecologists study the ecosystems of different lifeforms, seek to understand how lifeforms adapt to changes in their environment, and provide guidance as to how environment changes will affect lifeforms in impacted ecosystems.
  • Marine biologists focus their research and study on lifeforms that live underwater, studying fish, coral, and other marine creatures.
  • Zoologists study land animals and commonly work in zoos or roles related to wildlife conservation.
  • Microbiologists study lifeforms at the molecular level and seek to understand how molecules can be altered or changed to promote desirable characteristics or eliminate disease.

Typical Employers

Biologists are commonly hired to work for federal or state government agencies, for scientific consulting agencies, for research and development companies, by colleges and universities, and for pharmaceutical companies.

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How To Become a Biologist

The path to becoming a biologist depends largely on the type of work you hope to do in your career. Different specializations require different levels of education, but the minimum requirement for all biology careers is a bachelor’s degree. Aspiring biologists may major in general biology, or they may pursue a major that’s more focused on the specialization they’re interested in. Aspiring marine biologists may choose to pursue degrees in marine biology, aspiring zoologists may pursue zoology or animal science degrees, and aspiring ecologists may pursue ecology degrees.

With a bachelor’s degree, you’ll qualify to work in entry-level positions and assist with experiments and research in laboratories, but to conduct independent research or move into higher-level positions, you’ll need to earn a master’s degree. Again, the master’s degree you pursue will depend on the specialization you’re interested in for your career, so you may focus on biology, microbiology, marine biology, ecology, or another related field. With a master’s degree, you’ll qualify for mid-level positions as a biologist.

To conduct independent research in the field of biology—or to teach biology at the college level—you’ll need to earn a Ph.D. While a general biology degree may have been sufficient at the bachelor’s and master’s degree levels, your education at the Ph.D. level should be targeted to the focus of your career. A Ph.D. program will provide you with a thorough background of the topics you’ll need to understand to conduct research in the field, and will provide you will real research experience that will be useful later in your career when you begin conducting independent research studies and experiments.

Biologist Salary Data

We’ve provided you the following to learn more about this career. The salary and growth data on this page comes from recently published Bureau of Labor Statistics data while the recommendations and editorial content are based on our research.

National Anual Salary

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High Range


National Hourly Wage

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How do Biologist salaries stack up to other jobs across the country? Based on the latest jobs data nationwide, Biologist's can make an average annual salary of $77,190, or $37 per hour. On the lower end, they can make $57,160 or $27 per hour, perhaps when just starting out or based on the state you live in.

Salary Rankings And Facts

  • #156 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Average Salary Nationally

Programs and Degrees

Here are the most common degrees for becoming a Biologist. a is usually recommended and specifically a degree or coursework that prepares you for the particular field, see below.

Highest Education Among Biologists

  • 19.6%   Doctorate
  • 32%   Masters
  • 43.8%   Bachelors
  • 2.2%   Associates
  • 2.1%   College
  • 0.2%   High School
  • 0.1%   Less than High School

Job Growth Projections and Forecast

2014 Total Jobs


2024 Est. Jobs


Job Growth Rate


Est. New Jobs


How does Biologist job growth stack up to other jobs across the country? By 2024, there will be a change of -200 jobs for a total of 36,200 people employed in the career nationwide. This is a -0.5% change in growth over the next ten years, giving the career a growth rate nationwide of Above Average.

Growth Rankings And Facts

  • #626 Nationally for All Careers

  • Above Avg. Growth Nationally

What Companies Employ The Most Biologists

Industry Current Jobs New Jobs Needed % Increase
Federal government, excluding postal service 17,600 -1,700 -2%
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 5,800 400 0%
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state 5,300 200 0%

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