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Biological Scientist: Job Description, Salary and Outlook

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a biological scientist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and requirements to find out if this is the career for you.

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Those who study living organisms and the world around us are biological scientists. There are a wide range of specialties for this particular type of scientist, and most professionals usually need graduate-level training to find better employment opportunities.

Essential Information

Biological scientists are research scientists who examine how living organisms relate to the environment. They can specialize in any number of plant, animal or environmental studies. Biological scientists most often have earned a master's or doctoral degree in their specialization; such degrees offer the opportunity to develop research while finishing their education. Some low-level positions related to biological science are available to those holding baccalaureate degrees.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in a biological science for entry-level positions; most biological scientists hold master's degrees or doctorates in their field of specialization
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 8%* (for biochemists and biophysicists)
4%* (for zoologists and wildlife biologists)
Median Salary (2015) $82,150* (for biochemists and biophysicists)
$59,680* (for zoologists and wildlife biologists)
$75,150* (for biological scientists)
$80,103** (for biotechnology research scientists)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com 2016 Data

Biological Scientist Job Description

Based on their education and interests, there are a variety of career specialties that biological scientists can have, such as ecology, zoology, biochemistry, microbiology, physiology and marine biology. Biological scientists often divide their time between studying an object in its environment and working in research laboratories. For instance, a marine biologist might spend their non-laboratory time examining sea life on the ocean's floor, while a botanist could be studying plants and collecting samples from a rain forest.

Common job duties may include analyzing plants, researching mammal habitats, studying relationship patterns and testing specimens. Much of any biological scientist's research typically relates to finding a way to promote, cure, treat or improve plant and animal habitats. In the lab, scientists must be able to use tools like microscopes, cell counters or robotic equipment.

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Biological Scientist Salary Information

Biological scientists can earn a wide range of salaries, much of which depends on their area of specialization. As of May 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported the median annual earnings for zoologists and wildlife biologists as $59,680. That figure increases to $82,150 for biophysicists and biochemists, while biological scientists brought in a median yearly wage of $75,150, according to 2015 data from the BLS. PayScale.com reported that the median annual salary for biotechnology research scientists was $80,103 as of October 2016.

Biological Scientist Career Outlook

The BLS projected a slightly faster growth rate for biochemists and biophysicists compared to all other biological scientist careers during the 2014-2024 decade. During this time period, employment opportunities for these professionals are expected to increase 8%, due in part to demand for pharmaceutical developments to assist the aging baby-boomer community. While competition in the field is keen, those with an advanced understanding of biochemistry and how it interacts with other specializations are expected to have the highest job prospects.

Zoologists and wildlife biologists are expected to see a slower-than-average 4% employment increase during the 2014-2024 decade, with opportunities influenced by the respective budgets for job-providing state, federal and local government agencies.

Biological scientists can specialize in a wide variety of fields, including marine biology, ecology, physiology, zoology, microbiology, and biochemistry. Scientists generally gather data inside and outside of the lab, and other duties may include conducting experiments, writing papers, and presenting findings. Salaries range based on the field of specialty and level of education, but overall positions for biological scientists throughout most of the major specialties are expected to increase by 4-8% during the 2014-2024 decade, per the BLS.

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