Pursuing a career in biology can be immensely rewarding. It opens doors to a wide range of opportunities, including wildlife biology, biochemistry, microbiology, and molecular biology. These are just some of the potential careers in biology for those who want to pursue this major.
Biologists specialize in the life sciences. They conduct scientific research in laboratories and carry out research projects in outdoor settings. While the median salaries vary, the range is from $63,000 to $94,000 for bachelor’s degree in biology holders, those who have earned advanced degrees receive higher pay (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2022).
This article discusses the top 25 careers for biology majors that pay well. Aside from providing the annual median biology major salary listed below, the particular description of each job is explored to give you an idea of its nature, as well as the overall outlook for the next decade. Hopefully, after reading this list you will have an idea of the vast opportunities offered by the encompassing study of biology.
In July 2022, an international consortium studying human genes and their capacity for coding proteins discovered “a potential goldmine of unexplored biology.” This discovery in the behavior of short protein sequences is just one of the many exciting developments in biology that continue to advance research in life sciences.
From improving human health to tackling climate change, biologists play an important part and are at the heart of major innovations and the biggest challenges. As humans strive to create balance and sustain ecosystems, biologists will play a key role in ensuring that all living things thrive in harmony.
Advances in technology have also ushered in a new era in this field. As computers become more powerful in capturing data, the importance of having computational skills in biology has emerged in recent years. A study by McDonald et. al. (2022) suggested that developing interactive computational tools should be part of the curriculum of undergraduate education in biochemistry, molecular biology, and structural biology. Published in Current Opinion in Structural Biology, the authors presented the study with the title “Undergraduate structural biology education: A shift from users to developers of computation and simulation tools.”
The study suggested, “Beyond using computation in a more interactive way to help students develop algorithmic thinking skills, the final step in giving students the theory and simulation skills required for the 21st century STEM workforce is teaching students to program. Only then can students identify new problems and develop their own computational tools to solve these problems.”
In the past two years, the pace and urgency of digital transformations in life sciences have increased rapidly. This new decade is already being acknowledged by 42% of biopharma executives who agreed that the metaverse will have a transformational impact on how work is done and how they interact with customers. As an intrinsic part of life science research, bioinformatics and computational training are increasingly becoming a standard in the curriculum of biology majors.
In a journal article titled “A global perspective on evolving bioinformatics and data science training needs,” authors Attwood et. al. (2019) identified the particular training needs for the computational and statistical competence of scientists across a range of disciplines. Published in the journal Briefings in Bioinformatics, the authors concluded, “regardless of career position or role, skill gaps in computational aspects of biology impede the advancement of research and continue to fuel a global need for bioinformatics education and training.” To thrive in life sciences research in the 21st century, every biology major needs to be equipped with computational skills.
In the United States alone, life sciences employment doubled over the last 10 years. Registering an annual growth of 6.6%, it surpassed the 1.2% annual U.S. employment average (Cushman and Wakefield, 2022). There are 22,318 biologists employed and 65% of adults believe that science has had a mostly positive effect on society (PewResearch, 2022).
The accelerated growth of jobs in the life sciences sector shows that careers for biology majors will continue to be in high demand. From January to August 2022, there have been a total of 413, 120 life sciences occupation postings, which is 28% higher than the same period last year (Cushman and Wakefield, 2022).
Biology, considered one of the easiest degrees that pay well, encompasses diverse fields and biology majors are offered a myriad of options as they choose a career. Over the past 15 years, biological and biomedical science degrees and certificates increased by 103%, while growth in the medical sciences reached 131% over the past 20 years (ASMB, 2019).
Data published by the Coalition for Next Generation Life Science revealed that across the U.S., there are currently about 75,000 enrollments in life sciences higher education programs. These enrollments include bachelor’s, master’s, and Ph.D. programs focused on training the next generation of life science professionals (Cushman and Wakefield, 2022). Online biology degree offerings have also expanded access to those who want to pursue a career in biology.
As digitization and AI continue to permeate the life sciences, great innovations and discoveries are underway. The following list of biology careers and salaries hold the most potential and would make a difference in future career plans.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Median Annual Salary: $323,271
Projected Job Growth from 2021 to 2031: 3%
Estimated Openings Per Year: 23,800
Oncologists are physicians that specialize in treating cancer patients. They provide patients with treatment options, discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each, and they also guide patients when it comes to the management of care. Oncologists manage multi-disciplinary teams in providing care for cancer patients that makes management an essential skill.
A bachelor’s degree in biology or any premed course is required before entering medical school. After completion, the student takes an internship and specializes in oncology, which takes at least five more years. The field of oncology has three major areas based on treatments, including radiation oncology, medical oncology, and surgical oncology. Depending on their interest, MDs may pursue a specialization in these areas. The field of oncology is constantly evolving as treatment and drug discoveries evolve, thus training is necessary to remain informed of the latest treatments.
Median Annual Salary: $281,830
Projected Job Growth from 2021 to 2031: 7.8%
Estimated Openings Per Year: 7,120
Next on our list of highest paying biology jobs falls under the field of neurology. Neurologists are physicians that are trained to diagnose, treat, and manage care for patients suffering from disorders of the nervous system. Neurosurgeons are those that specialize in performing surgeries that affect neural clusters, while pediatric neurologists treat neurological disorders in children. Neurologists often work in physician clinics and hospitals.
To become a neurologist, one must complete four years of premed education followed by another four years of medical school. Depending on the specialization, three to four years of internship is required, followed by three or more years of training in neurological diagnostic procedures. The outlook for this job is slower than average, not because there is low demand but because there is an ongoing physician deficit that is projected to grow within the next decade.
Median Annual Salary: $ 208,000
Projected Job Growth from 2021 to 2031: 3%
Estimated Openings Per Year: 23,800
Working in both clinical and nonclinical settings, physicians and surgeons work in offices and hospitals, government agencies, insurance companies, and non-profit organizations. They have various specialties and sub-specialties, and typically focus on a particular age group when practicing their profession.
Aside from completing a bachelor’s and a medical degree, physicians and surgeons typically train for their specialty and spend three to nine years in internship and residency programs. Some physicians pursue further training through fellowships, which typically take up to three years. A big chunk of the job openings for physicians are due to practitioners retiring, thus the need for new physicians and surgeons.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Median Annual Salary: $163,220
Projected Job Growth from 2021 to 2031: 6%
Estimated Openings Per Year: 5,100
Dentists diagnose and treat dental issues and provide advice to patients on how to practice and develop better oral hygiene. Aside from routine cleaning, dentists perform oral surgery, correct bite issues, and design and fit dental prosthetics such as bridges, crowns, and dentures.
Dentists must graduate from an accredited dental program, which is typically a four-year bachelor’s degree in science, such as biology. Dental school takes additional four years to complete, and dentists should be able to complete two to four years of residency if they intend to have a specialty. General dentists, however, do not need additional training after dental school. Dentists need to be licensed to practice dentistry. The demand for dentists is expected to increase as a big portion of the population is aging and requires dental services.
Median Annual Salary: 145,840
Projected job Growth from 2021 to 2031: 2%
Estimated Openings Per Year: 11,500
Podiatrists provide medical and surgical care to people with foot, ankle, and lower leg problems. They also perform surgery on lower extremities and provide special inserts to improve mobility. Podiatrists help patients in improving their movement problems. They also assess, diagnose, treat, and evaluate abnormalities related to the foot and lower limbs.
To become a podiatrist, one must have at least three years of undergraduate education. Most students, however, have a degree in healthcare, biology, or physical science. The Doctor of Podiatric Medicine (DPM) program takes four years to complete. The limited job growth projection for podiatrists is brought by the practice of patients consulting other specialists and physicians for their leg ailments.
Median Annual Salary: $128,570
Projected Job Growth from 2021 to 2031: 2%
Estimated Openings Per Year: 13,600
Pharmacists serve patients by reviewing and executing physicians’ prescriptions, preparing medications, and monitoring patient drug therapies. They are also in charge of compounding and dispensing pharmaceuticals. Pharmacists educate patients on how to follow their prescriptions, including the proper use and dosage of prescription drugs.
Pharmacists must have a Doctor of Pharmacy degree as awarded by an accredited pharmacy program, which includes healthcare-related courses such as biology. The program takes at least four years to finish. To be able to practice, pharmacy degree graduates must also pass licensure examinations.
Median Annual Salary: $124,300
Projected Job Growth from 2021 to 2031: 10%
Estimated Openings Per Year: 1,700
Optometrists diagnose and treat visual problems. They also manage diseases, injuries, and other visual impairment concerns of patients. They examine the eyes to diagnose ocular disorders and perform routine eye inspections. Optometrists also prescribe and fit eyeglasses and contact lenses.
To become an optometrist, one should earn a premedical degree such as physical science or biology. Some have a four-year bachelor’s, while others have completed a three-year postsecondary education. The next step after completing the premedical is taking the doctor of Optometry (O.D.) degree. Specializations entail taking another year of residency training.
Median Annual Salary: $121,530
Projected Job Growth from 2021 to 2031: 28%
Estimated Openings Per Year: 12,700
Physician assistants work under the supervision of a physician as they evaluate patients and perform diagnostic tests. They may provide direct patient care because they are also licensed professionals with advanced degrees. Physician assistants also prescribe medicines. In a physician assistant vs nurse practitioner comparison, both professionals provide similar services but the former is trained under the medical track while the latter has undergone nursing training.
Physician education program students are bachelor’s degree completers and have experience in patient care. Their undergraduate coursework is often in healthcare or any related field such as biology. Some physician assistant programs also prefer applicants that have experience as paramedics or EMTs. At least two years of post-baccalaureate study is required to complete the physician assistant program.
Source: Data USA, 2020
Median Annual Salary: $102,270
Projected Job Growth from 2021 to 2031: 15%
Estimated Openings Per Year: 4,000
Biochemists and biophysicists work in laboratories and often oversee research and development. While biochemists focus on the chemical structure and chemical reactions in living cells, biophysicists use the methods of biological and physical science to study the structure and functions of macromolecules.
Most biochemists and biophysicists have a bachelor’s degree in biology. Some Ph.D. holders start their careers by doing postdoctoral research and eventually work in independent research-and-development positions. They conduct studies to advance current knowledge in complex chemical combinations and reactions. The fast growth in demand for biochemists and biophysicists is due to the emergence of diseases that require rigorous scientific research for the development of pharmaceuticals and medicine manufacturing, including the design of biomedical instruments.
Median Annual Salary: $ 100,370
Projected Job Growth from 2021 to 2031: 19%
Estimated Openings Per Year: 4,800
Veterinarians are in charge of ensuring that animals are well taken care of, as this also has an effect on overall public health. They advise pet owners on how to properly take care of their pets, administer medication, and also perform surgery as needed. While most veterinarians work in private clinics, some are affiliated with hospitals, laboratories, farms, or zoos.
The Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM or VMD) degree is a veterinary medicine program that takes four years to complete. Prior to this, the student must have completed a bachelor’s degree in a related field such as biology. The course includes classroom, laboratory, and clinical components.
Median Annual Salary: $97,652
Projected Job Growth from 2021 to 2031: 21%
Estimated Openings Per Year: 3,300
Computational biologists are data scientists that use complex computer algorithms for the research and analysis of biological systems. They are biomedical research scientists that apply their knowledge in biology to analyze huge amounts of data. Computational biologists conduct research using bioinformatics theory and methods. They typically work in organizations involved in pharmaceuticals, biology, biotechnology, medical technology, and proteomics.
Entry-level jobs require a bachelor’s degree in a computer-related field plus, coursework in biology. Some biology majors pursue further studies in computer science or computer engineering to become computational biologists. Some employers prefer to hire candidates with a doctoral degree. As data continue to inform the design of new technologies, the demand for computational biologists will grow as healthcare partners with AI in resolving patient concerns.
Median Annual Salary: $ 97,410
Projected Job Growth from 2021 to 2031: 10%
Estimated Openings Per Year: 1,200
Bioengineers and biomedical engineers design instruments, devices, and software that can improve the quality of life of patients. They work with healthcare workers, scientists, and other engineers to develop cutting-edge products and procedures. Their work environment may be in laboratories or inside hospitals where they spend hours observing newly-developed devices. Most biomedical engineers work in the research and development teams of physical, engineering, and life sciences.
Biomedical engineers typically have a degree in bioengineering and biomedical engineering, which have a strong focus on engineering and biological sciences. Some positions require a graduate degree, such as those involved in advanced research, which is also one of the reasons why this is one of the biology careers that pay well. Biomedical engineers also need to complete a scientist training program as they get involved in research and development projects. As AI and machine learning continue to help the health sector deliver modern instruments and devices, the demand for biomedical engineers and bioengineers will continue to rise.
Median Annual Salary: $95,620
Projected Job Growth from 2021 to 2031: 17%
Estimated Openings Per Year: 15,400
Physical therapists are primarily involved in preventive care and rehabilitation, but also provide services to patients that require treatment for injuries, chronic conditions, and illnesses. They help patients manage pain and improve movement. As their work involves working on the physical rehabilitation of patients, physical therapists spend much time on their feet.
To become a physical therapist, one must be able to initially complete a bachelor’s degree in healthcare and related fields. The Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) degree that you will get after completing your bachelor’s must be accredited by the Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE). The DPT program takes at least three years. Once completed, the student must pass the licensure exam to become a licensed and duly certified physical therapist. DPT graduates typically find jobs through the Physical Therapist Centralized Application Service (PTCAS).
Median Annual Salary: $95,310
Projected Job Growth from 2021 to 2031: 17%
Estimated Openings Per Year: 10,000
Medical scientists are also known as practitioners of human evolutionary biology. These professionals spend most of their time designing and conducting studies that focus on human diseases and usually work in offices and laboratories. Sometimes, medical scientists are required to work with dangerous chemicals and biological samples, which is why they are trained to ensure safety in their work environment at all times. Some of the largest employers of medical scientists are research and development companies in physical, engineering, and life sciences. They also work in universities and state colleges.
Typically, medical scientists have a Ph.D. in biology or related life science. In addition to their Ph.D., some medical scientists opt to get a medical degree. They are also involved in the preparation and analysis of medical samples as well as investigating the causes of toxicity, pathogens, and other chronic diseases. Medical scientists also create and test medical devices.
Median Annual Salary: $ 85,570
Projected Job Growth from 2021 to 2031: 14%
Estimated Openings Per Year: 10,100
Occupational therapists conduct a physical assessment of clients to treat injuries and other diseases through the use of everyday activities. They also deal with disabled patients to help them recover, develop, and improve the skills needed to perform everyday tasks. Occupational Therapists are employed by hospitals and offices of physical, occupational, and speech therapists, and even audiologists.
One needs to have a master’s degree to practice occupational therapy. To get into graduate programs in occupational therapy, you must have a bachelor’s degree in healthcare and related fields, including coursework in biology. After taking graduate and postgraduate studies, the licensure exam needs to be passed to become a licensed occupational therapist. This career is expected to have faster growth compared to other occupations as it plays an important part in the treatment of various disabilities and illnesses.
Source; US Bureau of Labor Statistics
Median Annual Salary: $82,640
Projected Job Growth from 2021 to 2031: 1% (little or no change)
Estimated Openings Per Year: 100
Agricultural engineering is one of highest paying jobs you can get with a biology degree. As professionals, agricultural engineers integrate technology with farming. They increase farm production through agricultural engineering methods. Agricultural engineers solve challenges in agriculture, including the efficiency of machinery, power supply, use of structures and facilities, the storage and processing of agricultural products, as well as environmental issues.
They typically work indoors, but some agricultural engineers spend time outdoors in worksites and agricultural settings. They have to ensure that machinery and equipment are properly functioning and compliant with federal and state regulations. Most agricultural engineers are employed by the federal government. Having completed a bachelor’s degree in biological engineering or any related field, the agricultural engineer also supervises livestock facility upgrades or water resource management projects. The use of alternative energies as well as the advancement of precision and automated farming technologies will continue to sustain the demand for this type of career.
Median Annual Salary: $80,150
Projected job Growth from 2021 to 2031: 18%
Estimated Openings Per Year: 300
Genetic Counselors work with families and provide information and support when it comes to dealing with genetic disorders and birth defects. They help patients identify medical concerns and assess medical histories in relation to genetic testing. Within the context of inherited conditions, the genetic counselor counsels families and individuals in making crucial decisions that concern their health and wellness.
Becoming a genetic counselor requires a bachelor’s degree in any science-related discipline, such as biology. After taking the undergraduate degree, a master’s degree in genetic counseling or genetics is required to be able to practice along with board certification. Hospitals are the largest employers of genetic counselors. The development in genomics in determining the risk of patients for specific types of diseases will continue to give genetic counselors more opportunities to conduct more analyses.
Median Annual Salary: $ 79,260
Projected Job Growth from 2021 to 2031: 9%
Estimated Openings Per Year: 1,900
Microbiologists conduct laboratory analysis and monitoring of microbial cultures, samples, and new drugs using special computer software. They investigate the growth, structural development, and other characteristics of microscopic organisms. Microbiologists study how microorganisms such as bacteria and viruses live, grow, and interact with their environments.
Microbiologists typically work in laboratories with sophisticated instruments and equipment, while some work in offices and industrial settings. For entry-level jobs, microbiologists need a bachelor’s degree in microbiology or a related field, such as biology. Most microbiologists are employed by research and development companies that are involved in the development of products related to life sciences. To be able to work in colleges and universities and other institutions conducting advanced research, microbiologists need to have advanced degrees. Demand for microbiologists is expected to increase as a result of the increasing need for pharmaceuticals and biotechnology companies to produce new drugs.
Median Annual Salary: $78,830
Projected Job Growth from 2021 to 2031: 26%
Estimated Openings Per Year: 800
Epidemiologists are responsible for investigating the source of outbreaks. They identify how diseases are transmitted and plan ways to prevent the further spread of diseases. Epidemiologists are public health workers that respond to a public health emergency by identifying patterns in order to pinpoint the causes of disease. They collect and analyze data against other sets of data to address health issues.
In studying data and preparing reports, epidemiologists typically work in offices, but they also work in the field or other clinical settings. The state government is the largest employer of epidemiologists. To become one, you need to have a bachelor’s degree in a field such as biology, and a master’s degree in public health (MPH) or any related field. Some epidemiologists have a doctoral degree in medicine or epidemiology.
Median Annual Salary: $ 77,600
Projected Job Growth from 2021 to 2031: 6%
Estimated Openings Per Year: 203,200
Registered nurses assist physicians in coordinating and executing care plans for patients. They educate patients on their health conditions and provide them with instructions for effective patient care. Most registered nurses work in hospitals, physician’s offices, outpatient care centers, and ambulatory healthcare services.
There are three paths that one can take to become a registered nurse. These include taking up a bachelor’s degree in nursing and an associate’s program in nursing, which typically take four years to complete, or a diploma from an accredited nursing program which can take two to three years to complete. Supervised clinical experience is included in all programs. After completion, nursing graduates must take the licensure exam to become a registered nurse. Most hospitals require a bachelor’s degree.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020
Median Annual Salary: $76,530
Projected Job Growth from 2021 to 2031: 5%
Estimated Openings Per Year: 7,800
Environmental scientists or environmental specialists also belong to the bracket of biology jobs that pay well. They typically work with policymakers to address pollution and waste reduction problems. They use their knowledge of the natural sciences to develop plans to mitigate environmental issues that have a significant effect on public health. While some environmental scientists work in laboratories, others spend time in the field gathering data and monitoring environmental conditions.
A bachelor’s degree in biology, environmental science, or any related science field is needed to become an environmental scientist. Those who want to pursue advanced research positions, as well as postsecondary teaching, are required to have a doctoral degree. The hazards facing the environment, specifically in the context of climate change, will affect the demand for environmental scientists and specialists. Their knowledge will be indispensable in analyzing environmental problems and finding ways to protect communities.
Median Annual Salary: $75,000
Projected Job Growth from 2021 to 2031: 10%
Estimated Openings Per Year: 2,100
Chiropractors provide care to patients that are experiencing problems with nerves, bones, ligaments, muscles, and tendons. They use their knowledge of the neuromusculoskeletal system to adjust and manipulate body parts to address neck and back pain. Chiropractors also use other clinical interventions to manage the health concern of patients. Most Chiropractors work in clinics and in office settings.
To become one, you need a Doctor of Chiropractic (DC) degree, which requires at least three years of undergraduate education. Biology degree holders are qualified for DC, which takes four years to complete. A state license is required to become a chiropractic practitioner. While specific requirements differ for each state, all require passing all four parts of the National Board of Chiropractic Examiners (NBCE) exam.
Median Annual Salary: $74,160
Projected Job Growth from 2021 to 2031: 8%
Estimated Openings Per Year: 4,100
Agricultural and food scientists play an important role in maintaining a nation’s food supply. They study farm animals and crops, including the factors affecting production. At the same time, they evaluate the safety of physical and chemical properties of these products to ensure that they are safe for consumption. Agricultural and food scientists typically visit farms and processing plants, or work in laboratories as they spend most of their time looking at data to identify trends that might impact food supply.
The largest employer of agricultural and food scientists is the food manufacturing industry. To become one, you need at least a bachelor’s degree in biology or any science-related course, from an accredited higher education institution. Some agricultural and food scientists choose to pursue a doctor of veterinary medicine (DVM) degree to advance their career options.
Source: Zippia, 2022
Median Annual Salary: Annual salary: $ 64,650
Projected job Growth from 2021 to 2031: 1%
Estimated Openings Per Year: 1,500
Zoologists and wildlife biologists focus on observing and studying how animals interact with their environment. They identify the physical characteristics of animals including their behavior and the effect of humans on their natural habitats. Zoologists and wildlife biologists often work outdoors, but they also work in offices and laboratories, and are compensated with a competitive biologist salary.
To be able to take on this role, one must have a bachelor’s degree in wildlife biology, zoology, or any related field. Biology majors take coursework in wildlife biology to become zoologists and wildlife biologists. For higher-level investigative work in the wild, a master’s degree is necessary while a Ph.D. is required for independent research and university research positions.
Median Annual Salary: $64,110
Projected Job Growth from 2021 to 2031: 7%
Estimated Openings Per Year: 1,100
Last on our list of highest paying jobs in biology are conservation scientists and foresters. These professionals oversee forestry and conservation activities. They are in charge of ensuring that ecosystems in forests are well-kept and that natural resources are not wasted. They manage the overall land quality of parks, rangelands, and other natural resources. Conservation scientists and foresters lead conservation workers and technicians in ensuring that all forest ecosystems are preserved for the benefit of the environment.
It made it on this biology careers list because a bachelor’s degree in forestry or a related subject such as biology is required to thrive in this career. The four-year undergraduate course prepares the students to become conservation scientists and foresters. Some students pursue a graduate degree as they gain practical skills in environmental conservation.
If you are still wondering what can you with what can you do with a biology degree, it is important to keep in mind that the career path of biology majors offers vast options in the life sciences field. This highly-diverse course of study equips students with foundational knowledge that is ready to take on various roles in various biology major jobs. While not all careers have a high growth projection, biology majors have the skills needed for advancing knowledge in healthcare, environmental conservation, food security, and sustainable development. While these biology degree jobs offer above-average pay, they also bring non-monetary rewards as these biology majors are able to contribute to significant scientific milestones and research that matter in the overall preservation of health and the environment.
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