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Become a Research Biologist: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Aug 29, 2018

Research the requirements to become a research biologist. Learn about the job description and duties, and see the step-by-step process to start a career as a research biologist.

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  • 0:04 Research Biologist Career Info
  • 1:08 Earn a Bachelor's Degree
  • 1:45 Get Master's Degree
  • 2:15 Pursue a Doctoral Degree

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Research Biologist Career Info

Biological researchers study natural elements to better understand how living organisms work. Many times, their goal is to identify how these living systems work to solve a particular problem. Sometimes these researchers specialize in an area such as marine biology or biotechnology.

Research biologists work in the outdoors, in laboratories, and in offices. Some may spend long periods of time away from home, staying in the field as they conduct their research, including in remote locations. While in the field, the work can be physically exhausting, and the risk of injury and illness is high. These professionals should have critical thinking skills, reading comprehension, active listening skills, complex problem-solving abilities, writing and speaking skills, and the ability to use laboratory equipment. In 2015, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics found that biological scientists earned a median salary of $75,150 per year.

Earn a Bachelor's Degree

The first step towards working as a research biologist is to earn a bachelor's degree in biology. Bachelor's degree programs in biology usually require four years to complete. Courses in these programs cover topics like cellular biology, genetics, ecology, and biochemistry. Some undergraduate degree programs in biology permit students to participate in research projects. This introduces students to the common tasks they will perform as a research biologist and may help shape an interest in a particular biology-related specialty.

Get Master's Degree

Most biological researchers are required to have more than just a bachelor's degree; they're often required to have a doctoral degree as well. Many Ph.D. programs require that applicants possess a master's degree for admission. Master's degree programs in biology can take up to three years to complete. The curriculum of these programs often focuses on research. Elective coursework could include classes in zoology, biochemistry, botany, and microbiology.

Pursue a Doctoral Degree

Obtaining a Doctor of Philosophy in biology prepares an individual to work as a research biologist and qualify for other career advancements. Doctoral degree programs center on independent research, although students also participate in scientific seminars and complete coursework related to the topic of their dissertation. Many schools offer research opportunities and teaching assistantships to doctoral students to prepare them for their careers.


A research biologist must often complete lengthy educational requirements, including earning a bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degree, before they can find a position in the field.

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