What Can You Do With a Biology Degree?
Biological science is one of the broadest and most important subjects in the world today. Put simply, biology is the study of life. Biology encompasses everything from the molecular study of life processes right up to the study of animal and plant communities. Read on for advice on where your biology degree could take you, and download our guide on how to find a job after university for more advice.
So, what can you do with a biology degree?
With the study of life being so broad, it stands to reason that biology degree graduates undertake similarly broad and wide-ranging careers. Careers you could pursue with a biology degree include:
- Research scientist
- Nature conservation officer
- Forensic scientist
- Government agency roles
- Science writer
Depending on individual interests, biology careers can lead you on to study living organisms such as animals, plants, humans or even bacteria, to help develop biological knowledge and understanding of living processes for a number of different purposes, including treatment of disease and sustaining the natural environment.
Although further study isn’t necessary for a number of biology careers, many biology degree graduates choose to study at postgraduate level within a specialization or related field, in order to further their expertise and help career progression.
Read on to find out more about the selection of typical – and less typical – biology careers available for both undergraduates and postgraduates.
Typical careers with a biology degree
One of the most popular answers to the question ‘what can you do with a biology degree?’ is a big, emphatic ‘RESEARCH’! Scientific research is not only crucial within society but also a highly stimulating career. As a research biologist you will aim to develop knowledge of the world around us by studying living organisms. Careers in research provide perhaps the broadest scope of all careers with a biology degree, as research can be conducted across all specializations. Most common is research within the medical and life sciences, covering areas such as health and disease, neurology, genomics, microbiology and pharmacology. Researchers help to develop societal knowledge within many areas and, with the right additional qualifications, can be found within academia (mainly universities and other higher education institutions), research institutes, medical facilities and hospitals, and also within business and industry.
Healthcare is another sector offering many common careers with a biology degree. Working in healthcare as a biologist will see you developing campaigns to help treat and cure illnesses such as AIDS, cancer, tuberculosis, heart disease, and many lesser-known illnesses and diseases. Although many roles are out of reach to students holding just an undergraduate degree (such as doctor and practitioner roles), the sector has a huge hiring capacity, and biologists are well sought-after in the medical world. As well as treating and developing human health, healthcare biologists with the necessary qualifications and experience also work as veterinarians, doctors, nurses, dentists and other healthcare professionals. Biologists are recruited not only within hospitals and other medical facilities; they are also hired by organizations such as the Peace Corps in order to bring advanced healthcare to developing and war-torn regions.
Of course humans aren’t the only living things on the planet, and an environmental biologist’s aim is to conserve and sustain the full spectrum of the world’s organisms, for future generations. As an environmental biologist you will be interested in solving environmental problems and helping to protect natural resources and plant and animal wildlife. Careers with a biology degree which fall under this realm include marine and/or aquatic biologist, zoo biologist, conservation biologist, ecologist and environmental manager. Biologists in these roles carry out recovery programs for endangered species and provide education for the general public. Hiring industries include charities and not-for-profit organizations, government and the public sector and ecological consultancies.
With a biology degree and a teaching qualification you will be equipped to work within education. You will enjoy working with young people and encouraging them to learn about the world, be that in a classroom, a lecture theater, a laboratory or a museum. The higher up in the education world you go, the more qualifications you will need; for instance, a university lecturer will often be required to have gained a master’s degree or even a PhD, while a primary or secondary school teacher will usually only need an undergraduate degree and a teacher training qualification. If you do choose to undertake further study and go on to work within higher education, you may be able to produce your own research, have your work published and/or become a member of an advisory board within your field.
Less typical careers with a biology degree
What can you do with a biology degree if you don’t want to go into a typical medical or academic role? The answer is, more or less anything you want. A biology degree will equip you with many transferable skills that are sought-after in the workplace, whether that workplace is within a scientific industry or not. Of the less typical careers available to biology degree graduates, below is a selection of some of the most exciting and relevant answers to the question of what can you do with a biology degree:
Biotechnology is the use of scientific principles to develop and enhance technology within a number of sectors, including the consumer goods market, the technology market and business and industry. Focuses are often within agriculture, food science and medicine, where biotechnologists can be involved with genetic engineering, drug development and advancing medical technologies such as nanotechnology.
As a forensic scientist you will be working within the legal sector, alongside police departments or law enforcement agencies, in order to test and process evidence gathered in criminal investigations. Many forensic scientists specialize in specific areas such as forensic odontology (dental evidence), forensic anthropology (the examination human of decomposition), crime scene examination and medical examiner roles (requiring further study).
Biology careers in government will involve working closely with government officials and policy makers in order to advise on and create new legislation for growing topics such as biomedical research and environmental regulation. Your role will be to ensure that changes to the legal system are made based on solid science. You may work at regional or national level as a political advisor for scientific organizations and agencies or not-for-profit entities. You may also act as a representative for a political committee or group.
Careers in business and industry
The pharmaceutical sector is a multi-billion dollar industry, and is in constant need of biologists to work in research and development and to test new products and prepare them for the marketplace. Other commercial industries where biologists may find roles include scientific services companies, marketing, sales and public relations.
Careers in economics
If you have a strong numerical brain, you may want to go pursue a career in biological economics. This will require you to work within government or other organizations to examine the economic impact of biological problems on society, including such problems as extinction, deforestation and pollution. Related roles include socio-economics (focused on humans), environmental economics (focused on preserving natural capital) and ecological economics (focused on the connection between natural ecosystems and human economies).
And, lastly, what can you do with a biology degree if you are also interested in the world of media? You might be surprised to realize that media and journalism careers with a biology degree are fairly wide-ranging as well. If you are interested in publishing or journalism you may want to use your biology degree to enter the industry as a science writer or working on a science publication such as a journal, magazine, website, TV program or film. Within these roles you will be able to play a role in informing and educating the general public about biological issues that are becoming relevant in contemporary society.
‘What Can You Do With a Biology Degree?’ is part of our ‘What Can You Do With…’ series. We have also covered art, business, communications, computer science, English, engineering, fashion, finance, history, geography, law, marketing, mathematics, performing arts, philosophy, politics, psychology, sociology, chemistry, economics and physics.
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This article was originally published in August 2014 . It was last updated in January 2020