What Can I Do With a Biology Degree?


Updated October 17, 2023 · 5 Min Read

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A biology degree opens the door to many professional roles in medicine, genetic engineering, agriculture, zoology, and beyond.

Biology explores the origins, structures, and functions of organisms. Biologists investigate growth, evolution, and interactions among living entities. Degrees in the field introduce students to fundamental knowledge about the natural world while also training them to carry out research, solve problems, and think critically.

Learners wondering, "What can you do with a biology degree?" can consult this guide for information about how the field can pave a pathway to personal and professional success.

What Kinds of Biology Degrees Are There?

Students can earn undergraduate and graduate degrees in biology. An associate degree includes basic coursework to prepare individuals for entry-level careers as technicians and assistants, while bachelor's and master's degrees cover advanced information applicable to roles as teachers and technologists. Biochemists typically need doctorates, while physicians require additional medical training on top of the degree.

Associate Degree in Biology

Most associate degrees include two years of coursework. Students take classes in fundamentals of biology, chemistry, and related disciplines, along with courses in communication, mathematics, and English. Learners develop research skills and gain insights into laboratory activities, practices, and protocols.

With an associate degree in biology, individuals can work as veterinarian technicians, laboratory assistants, and clinical research assistants. Additional roles include pharmaceutical and medical sales representative and medical assistant.

Bachelor of Biology Degree

A bachelor's degree in biology typically takes four years to complete. Some colleges and universities offer both bachelor of arts (BA) and bachelor of science (BS) degrees in biology. A BA in biology includes more liberal arts coursework, with less of an emphasis on laboratory work and mathematics. A BS program in biology emphasizes research — ideal for individuals pursuing medical programs.

A bachelor's degree in biology includes classes in fundamentals of the discipline, followed by work within specific branches of the field. Students may take courses in marine biology, environmental science, and medical biology. The knowledge and skills developed in a bachelor's in biology lead to careers as biology teachers, science writers, and environmental scientists.

Master's Degree in Biology

Coursework in a master's degree in biology enhances learners' understanding of biological science, with advanced research and didactic classes in areas such as genetics, molecular biology, and biochemistry. Students build upon existing knowledge to further their careers as biology teachers, agricultural scientists, and wildlife biologists. A master's degree in biology can also lead to advanced doctoral studies or employment as a biochemist or microbiologist.

Master's degrees in biology generally last two years. During a master of science (MS) or a master of arts (MA) in biology, students combine seminar, lecture, and laboratory coursework in anticipation of completing a research project, scholarly paper, or thesis. An MS in biology emphasizes laboratory research, while an MA in biology focuses more on the investigation and interpretation of scientific literature.

Doctoral Degree in Biology

Earning a doctorate in biology can take 3-10 years, depending on focus area. Coursework culminates with a cumulative exam, after which students focus on research as they complete dissertations. During a doctorate in biology, individuals work closely with faculty to design, develop, and conduct research projects.

Doctoral students in biology focus on a subset of the field. Possible areas of emphasis include neurobiology, ecology, and molecular biology. With a doctorate in biology, students can work as college instructors, laboratory managers and directors, and science researchers in governmental and industrial settings.

Featured Online Biology Degrees

Careers in Biology

Students with biology degrees can pursue careers in teaching, research, and medicine. A biology degree develops an understanding of organisms large and small while also building analytical and problem-solving skills.

The comprehensive nature of a biology degree establishes the groundwork for careers across economic sectors. Biology graduates can pursue jobs as laboratory technicians in healthcare, engineering, or agriculture. Additional career opportunities include positions in veterinary medicine, environmental preservation, and forensics.

Associate or Bachelor's Degree Required

Biological Technicians

Median Salary: $45,860 Projected Job Growth: 5%

Biological technicians assist scientists with research. They carry out experiments, document data, and assess results. Biological technicians follow laboratory guidelines, establish research protocol, and ensure safety and consistency in scientific tests.

Clinical Laboratory Technologists and Technicians

Median Salary: $53,120 Projected Job Growth: 7%

These individuals collect samples, carry out tests, and keep track of results, often working with bodily fluids, tissue, and comparable materials. They also operate laboratory equipment and prepare manual tests, often in hospital settings.

Forensic Science Technicians

Median Salary: $59,150 Projected Job Growth: 14%

Forensic science technicians carry out tests and experiments on materials and evidence used in criminal investigations. They may work in the field to document crime scenes, collect data and evidence, and keep detailed records of findings.

Conservation Scientists and Foresters

Median Salary: $62,410 Projected Job Growth: 5%

Conservation scientists and foresters collect samples from nature reserves and forests. These scientists assess water, soil, and air samples to ensure compliance with environmental standards, minimize potential environmental damage, and ensure resource quality.

Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists

Median Salary: $63,270 Projected Job Growth: 4%

These biologists study animals and their ecosystems, working in the field and laboratory settings. They collect data to determine biological characteristics, observe animal behaviors, and keep records about flora and fauna in a specific area. They commonly work in cooperation with conservation professionals.

Environmental Scientists

Median Salary: $71,360 Projected Job Growth: 8%

Environmental scientists carry out tests and experiments, conduct cleanup efforts, and work with businesses and agencies to protect the natural world. They assess soil, air, water, and other natural materials, collect data, prepare reports, and relay information about potential hazards, risks, and threats to the environment.


Median Salary: $75,650 Projected Job Growth: 3%

Microbiologists work with the smallest organisms, such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites. They develop, conduct, and report on tests and experiments, ensuring proper standards and conditions are observed throughout the process. They monitor the microorganisms' growth and changes, collecting data about their interactions.

Biomedical Engineer

Median Salary: $91,410 Projected Job Growth: 5%

Biomedical engineers use biological and engineering principles and practices to design and develop equipment, software, and devices, such as artificial limbs and organs, diagnostic machinery, and drug therapies. They may focus on biochemistry, biomaterials, or biomechanics, with additional specialization options in bioinstrumentation and genetics.

Master's or Doctoral Degree Required

Medical Scientists

Median Salary: $88,790 Projected Job Growth: 6%

Medical scientists research diseases, figuring out how to treat them and improve human health. They conduct clinical trials for medications and test medical devices, often working with physicians, public health workers, and professional organizations.

Biochemists and Biophysicists

Median Salary: $94,490 Projected Job Growth: 4%

Biochemists and biophysicists blend biological principles and practices with those of chemistry and physics. Biochemists and biophysicists carry out experiments, document findings, and provide valuable information about topics such as cell development, growth, and genetics. They can work in medical, agricultural, industrial, and pharmaceutical settings.

Biochemists and Biophysicists

Median Salary: $94,490 Projected Job Growth: 4%

Biochemists study living organisms and processes and use their findings to improve medical, agricultural, and environmental outcomes. They explore chemical properties and principles at work in humans, animals, and medical treatments.

Physicians (Family and General Practitioners)

Median Salary: $213,270 Projected Job Growth: 4%

Physicians examine patients, take medical histories, diagnose ailments, and offer treatment options. Physicians offer preventative and long-term healthcare information, addressing concerns as they arise. They keep records, consult with colleagues, and work with specific populations and groups.

Accreditation for Biology Programs

Colleges and universities in the United States hold either national or regional accreditation. Accreditation is a stamp of quality assurance, and students in science fields should only attend regionally accredited schools if they want credits to transfer or for their degrees to be recognized by employers.

Biology programs can hold additional accreditation through specific organizations or associations. For example, some bachelor's degrees in biology may hold programmatic accreditation from the American Society for Chemistry and Molecular Biology. Students should check individual programs for accreditation status when exploring schools and degrees.

Professional Organizations

BMES advances human health and well-being, offering job information, networking opportunities, and collaboration resources for members. It also provides webinars, annual meetings, and publications for its 5,000 members each year. With student chapters and special interest groups, BMES can help individuals at all stages of their careers in the biomedical engineering field.

American Academy of Forensic Sciences AAFS is a multidisciplinary organization that works to advance research, practice, and collaboration among forensic professionals. Members include forensic accountants, forensic nurses, medicolegal death investigators, and crime scene investigators. The academy also offers publications, hosts an academy standards board, and holds meetings and educational programs throughout the year.

American Institute of Biological Sciences AIBS, founded in 1947 as part of the National Academy of Sciences, boasts over 5,000 members and maintains affiliations with 200 professional societies and organizations. It publishes the peer-reviewed BioScience journal and runs ActionBioscience.org.

Since its inception in 1938, NABT has sought to advance biological literacy. The organization creates valuable pathways to connect teachers, students, and resources.

Founded in 1906, the ASBMB has grown to include more than 12,000 professional scientists, making it one of the most respected organizations of its kind in the world.

Frequently Asked Questions

What Can You Do With a Bachelor's Degree in Biology?

With a biology degree, graduates can enter careers in laboratory settings, become educators, or work as researchers. A biology degree builds foundational knowledge of natural science while also fostering analytical, problem-solving, and critical thinking skills.

What Are the Highest-Paying Jobs With a Biology Degree?

The highest-paying jobs for individuals with biology degrees include physician, biomedical engineer, and biochemist. Biologists with a graduate degree typically out-earn those with associate or bachelor's degrees.

How Hard Is It To Get a Job With a Biology Degree?

The difficulty of getting a job in biology varies by position. Biology graduates can pursue positions in healthcare, medicine, research, and education, so location and experience play a critical role in how hard it is to earn professional roles.

How Much Does Being a Biologist Pay?

According to BLS data, zoologists and wildlife biologists earned median salaries of just over $63,000 in 2019, while microbiologists earned median salaries of more than $75,600. Conservation scientists, food and agriculture scientists, and chemical and materials scientists all earned comparable median salaries, ranging from $60,000-$80,000, in 2019. All of these careers relate to biology degrees.

Header Image Credit: Portra | Getty Images

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