Biology is the branch of science that specializes in the study of life forms, the way they interact among themselves, and the ecosystem where they coexist. “Biologist” is an umbrella term used to globalize Scientists working in the different branches of Biology. These professionals specialize mostly in three areas, Botany the study of plants; Zoology, the study of the animal kingdom; and Microbiology, the study of microbes and unicellular organisms. Some other subcategories of Biology can be classified by the scale at which organisms are studied, the type of organisms, and the methods used to study them. Their work can also be closely related to the fields of Medicine, Agriculture, and environmental studies.
Biologists study various aspects of the organisms that inhabit this world. Their research is mostly focused on exploring and explaining how organisms live, thrive, and interact with each other, classifying living beings into categories and subcategories for further study. They may also conduct research targeted towards understanding the internal functioning of living organisms.
A Biologist’s work is carried out in two different environments: in laboratories and outdoors while doing field studies. Depending on their specialization, they might spend more time at one or the other. Microbiologists, for example, spend most of their working time in a laboratory, whereas Marine Biologists may spend a big portion of their time working out in the field. The most common source of employment for Biologists is found in government offices and agencies, environmental consulting companies, chemical, pharmaceutical, and biotechnical companies, and universities.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Biologists are required to complete.
- Collecting and analyzing biological data on the interactions of organisms with each other and their environment:
- Conducting research to collect data;
- observing living organisms thriving in their natural habitat;
- conducting behavioral experiments;
- collecting environmental data and samples; and
- studying the effect of human activity on natural environments.
- Planning and conducting biological research:
- Setting parameters for observation;
- using specialized equipment (e.g. video cameras, GPS trackers, and sample containers) to conduct observation and experiments;
- documenting observational and experimental results for further analysis;
- studying and managing wild animal population;
- studying animal interaction with other organisms; and
- carrying out the identification and classification of the different qualifications of the animal, such as its structure, behavior, physiology, nutrition, and distribution.
- Cultivating, breeding, growing, and studying plants:
- Documenting plants’ basic principles (e.g. origin, relationship with other organisms, development, anatomy, and functions);
- cataloging plants into categories;
- studying their interaction with the environment; and
- evaluating the effect of human activity on them.
- Cultivating, growing, and studying microorganisms:
- Using specialized equipment to study microorganisms (e.g. microscopes, hazmat suits, and other laboratory equipment);
- identifying and classifying microorganisms;
- conducting experiments on their behavior and their effect on multicellular organisms; and
- documenting results from investigations.
- Conducting research and investigation, both laboratory and field based, on the effect of human activity and pollution on natural environments in order to provide government entities and companies with an accurate description of their effect on nature:
- Measuring wildlife and plant population in areas close to human settlements;
- analyzing and measuring water acidity, salinity, and oxygen content; and
- designing and developing ecological and conservationist plans and strategies in order to reduce human environmental impact.
- Analyzing and interpreting data collected from observation, experimentation, and research in order to draw hypotheses and conclusions.
- Sharing biological research findings by publishing papers, submitting information to government agencies and companies, holding professional conferences, and teaching biological science in universities:
- Liaising with other Biologists and Scientists in order to further contribute to scientific and technological development.
- Conducting research focused on expanding and helping the fields of Medicine and Agriculture.
- Planning and conducting studies and research.
- Studying, classifying, and categorizing living organisms.
- Conducting environmental and ecological investigations.
- Observing animal wildlife and studying their characteristics and behavior.
- Growing and cultivating plant life for study.
- Documenting findings of research and experiments.
- Liaising with other Biologists and Scientists.
- Preparing and documenting reports for environmental companies.
- Studying the effect of human activity on nature.
- Advising government agencies and companies on how to reduce the environmental impact of human activity.
The average Biologist salary in USA is $56,481 per year or $29 per hour. This is around 2 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $40,000 while most experienced workers make up to $79,000. These results are based on 619 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Outstanding understanding of biological studies and the scientific method:
- Conducting scientific experiments and research on biological data;
- collecting and sorting data and findings from experiments and research; and
- analyzing and documenting data.
- Strong computer and numerical skills:
- Handling specialized software and using special equipment to collect, interpret, and sort data.
- Excellent communication and interpersonal skills:
- Communicating clearly, both verbally and in writing, in order to create a clear and communicative environment with co-workers in the laboratory;
- being able to read and write technical reports and give presentations;
- liaising with other Biologists and Scientists; and
- being able to work cohesively as part of a team.
- Excellent reading comprehension skills.
- Analytical, problem-solving, and critical-thinking skills:
- Identifying issues and resolving problems in a timely manner using critical thinking and good judgment;
- being able to identify main ideas from great amounts of information;
- being able to understand graphics, pictures, images, and complex spreadsheets;
- being precise and accurate in their analyses, since errors could invalidate their research; and
- determining if results and conclusions are based on sound science.
Biologists may work in a variety of companies, government-funded laboratories, or universities. The most basic educational requirement for entry-level jobs is to possess a bachelor’s degree in Biology or one of its subcategories (e.g. microbiologist, neurobiologist, zoologist, or botanist). In order to apply for more senior jobs and to advance in this particular career ladder, Biologists usually pursue further education in their respective fields. Master’s and doctoral degrees are quite common in this field and Biologists use them to obtain further accreditation in their lines of work.
Biologists work in teams when doing research. These teams are usually led by a Biologist with a doctoral degree and other members may include graduate and undergraduate students. This method of working serves as a way for future Biologists and aspirants to obtain the necessary experience they need in order to apply for jobs. Most employers look for Biologists with at least 3 years of researching experience in field or laboratory work. Universities and other academic departments require post-doctoral research experience for applicants to lead their research teams.