What Can I Do With My Degree? Career Opportunities for Biology Majors
What do you want to be when you grow up? I’ve found this to be one of the most stressful questions, especially when people sometimes tell you that what you studied in university doesn’t matter. And sometimes the decision becomes even more complicated when it feels like you’ll only have one or two career paths to choose from after graduating.
One clear example: Biology. When you choose to study biology, the visual of Bill Murray and The Life Aquatic may come to mind. I know it did for me. However, biology, a natural science focused on the study of life and living organisms, is actually a very open field. This, as you can imagine, leads to a wide range of careers- from work in the medical field, to even using honed research skills for careers in law and analytics. Once you know how to analyze cells, you can definitely analyze legal briefs, right?
I did a little bit of digging and found that, according to Career Trends, some of the most popular jobs for biology majors include:
- Natural Science Managers: You can think of these jobs as sort of the project managers for whatever field they specialize in, directing research and development and coordinating activities such as testing, quality control, and production.
- Clinical Research Coordinators: As you can probably guess, they coordinate clinical research projects. They help direct all activities of workers engaged in projects and make sure all protocol is followed.
- Water Resource Specialists: People in this role spend their days designing or implementing water-supply programs, ensuring quality and preservation. Since Uncle Sam’s responsibility is to make sure we have basic things like safe roads, education, and clean water, look to federal rather than corporate for these positions.
But while these jobs are definitely some of the more popular routes taken by biology graduates, I found that there are more interesting and unique opportunities outside of this list than ever. I spoke with Adam Ruben, a molecular biologist who also happens to have job titles like stand-up comedian, professional public speaker, and published writer listed on his resume.
More than that, Ruben has experience in providing career advice to budding biologists. So we asked him what he thought some of the most unique opportunities for biology majors were today. Here are just a few of the opportunities he mentioned:
There are venture capital firms that specialize in providing funds for the purpose of commercializing the latest scientific advancements, including healthcare and biotechnologies. Those with a science background, including a biology degree, are highly sought after for these positions as they are able to provide valuable insight into the research being done and can offer a greater understanding of a new technology’s potential. Day-to-day tasks include discovering new opportunities in life sciences, getting involved in research projects, and creating business plans.
Science Advocacy and Policy
Those working in this field find themselves campaigning for the advancement of new scientific developments. They spend their days advocating on behalf of researchers and scientists, asking for anything from increased budgets to attempting to influence new regulations. They are also responsible for connecting the researchers to the public, providing a greater understanding of the work and providing clear evidence of how it can benefit society.
When most of us hear the word consulting, we think of management consulting. But that’s really just an umbrella term. Consulting firms range in size from huge companies that advise a diverse group of industries all the way down to small, independent boutique companies that specialize in one or two specific industries, including fields like biotech and life sciences. Roles in this field include helping companies prioritize opportunities or projects they are working on, forecasting future trends and needs, and helping companies better communicate with stakeholders and customers.
You don’t have to have a degree in computer science to become an entrepreneur. In fact, there are endless opportunities for new start-ups who are looking to change the face of science. And to get going, you don’t necessarily have to start from scratch. Ruben noted “You don’t have to have a good idea that’s completely your own. There are plenty of good ideas out there that other people aren’t taking action on. You just have to come in and do the leg work yourself”. And there are many resources available to help these budding start-ups get going including networking clubs, incubators, and even companies designed to connect investors directly to companies seeking funding.
Of course, there’s always teaching. But many biology graduates are skipping the full time classroom gig, and instead seeking out full time tutoring jobs. That’s right! Tutoring isn’t just a job for high school and college kids! Those in this line of work generally follow two paths: working for a tutoring service (think Kaplan) or seeking out jobs in private schools or after-school programs as an independent worker. And since biology is a class that all students are required to take – and one where many struggle – you can bet there will almost always be someone looking for a biology tutor.
So what’s the best way to figure out if one of these jobs is the right career path for you? Ruben recommends giving them a try yourself! Try calling up someone you know – or asking them to connect you to someone they know – and ask for a quick 15 minute phone call so you can learn more about what they do. You might even ask if they offer shadowing opportunities where you can try it out for yourself for a day! Ruben noted “If you take the time to genuinely learn what they do, you’ll have an easier time deciding if it’s something that’s interesting to you or not”. He also suggested getting involved in activities like judging science fairs or writing a biology column for your school publication.
Of course, there are many many more career options for biology majors out there, including go on to higher education degrees, be it medical school or getting a masters in a specific scientific field. And did you know? There is a specific Nobel Prize for work done in biology, the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine. This often goes to laureates who studied biology- so while maybe med school is a while away, you’re at least setting yourself up for success with this study track! Now all you need is the big scientific breakthrough that can cure thousands of lives. But that’s the easy part, right?