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Human and Social Biology: Degree and Career Options

Sep 25, 2019

Degree programs in the field of human and social biology draw from selected areas of the humanities and sciences, including courses in chemistry, anatomy and physics in addition to biology and faculty supervised curriculum from other areas that may be of interest to the student. Find out about the education and training requirements, and career options for this field of study to determine if this is the career for you..

Usually, when people hear biology, they think of plants and wild animals. However, humans are biological creatures too, and their biology and social behavior are also studied at length. This article introduces a few jobs available in the field of human and social biology.

Essential Information

Students with an interest in biological systems, functions and reactions to social stimuli may want to pursue a degree in human biology with an emphasis on social behavior. Bachelor's, master's and doctoral programs offer interdisciplinary training in biology, humanities and the social sciences, which prepare graduates for careers in health care, environmental fields, psychology and other areas.

Careers Medical Lab Tech Dietitian Biology Professor
Required Education Bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree Ph.D.
Projected Job Growth* 16% 11% 12%
Average Salary* $53,880 (for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians) $61,210 $97,340

Source *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Students pursuing a degree in this area normally take core courses from the biology department of their school. In addition, they focus on developing an understanding of human beings from cultural, social and behavioral perspectives. This may involve course work from other departments including genetics, cultural studies, anthropology or public health.

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Undergrads may pursue Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science degrees in human biology that draw from selected departments in the humanities and sciences. Many universities allow students to work with faculty advisers to create individualized road maps of collegiate work that focus on their particular interests. In general, bachelor's degrees in human biology include courses in chemistry, anatomy and physics in addition to those in biology. Students may select classes from their areas of interest, such as public health, the environment, ethics or brain science to complete degree requirements.

Master's Degree Programs

Interested students may want to pursue master's degrees in biological sciences, which can include an emphasis on human and social biology. Students may be able to enroll in advanced courses like neurobiology, endocrinology and immunology.

Doctoral Degree Programs

Students seeking further training may enroll in Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs. These advanced programs may integrate anthropology and biology and focus on social behaviors. This may include the study of both ancient and contemporary populations and their biological diversity.

Students may be required to complete approximately 30 hours of classroom credit plus 30 hours of independent research. To graduate, Ph.D. students must pass final exams, as well as write and defend dissertations.

Career Options

Earning a degree in human and social biology may qualify students for jobs in several scientific fields. Some occupations will involve research and laboratory work, while others will require direct interaction with people.

Medical Laboratory Technician

By obtaining bachelor's degrees in human biology, graduates are qualified to work as medical laboratory technicians, analyzing blood and other body fluids in an effort to detect disease or abnormalities. Such work requires great attention to detail and an ability to categorize and record facts precisely. People with an interest in combating social problems, such as AIDS or malaria may find this kind of work especially rewarding.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the employment opportunities for clinical laboratory technologists and technicians should increase by 11% from 2018 to 2028, which is much faster than the national average for all job opportunities. The BLS also reports that as of May 2018, clinical laboratory technologists and technicians earned a mean annual wage of $53,880.

Dietitian

A master's degree in human biology may be used to pursue a career as a dietitian or nutritionist. People in this position may work directly with patients to teach them how to manage a particular disease or condition with a proper diet. They may also work in hospitals or institutional settings planning meals and supervising the preparation of food. Dietitians may choose to concentrate on social ills, such as obesity and eating disorders.

The employment of dietitians and nutritionists is estimated to increase by 11% between 2018 and 2028, according to the BLS. This rate of increase is much faster than the average rate for all occupations within the United States. Dietitians and nutritionists are also listed by the BLS as earning a mean annual wage of $61,210 as of May 2018.

Biology Professor

Most human and social biology professors need doctoral degrees to teach at the collegiate level. They generally specialize in one or two areas and share their knowledge with students through lectures and the supervision of their lab work. Professors need the ability to communicate clearly and stay informed about new research and developments in their field.

The BLS reports that the employment of postsecondary biological science instructors will increase by 12% from 2018 to 2028. Postsecondary biological science teachers are listed by the BLS as earning a median annual wage of $75,320 as of May 2018.

A formal education in human and social biology is helpful and, in many cases, necessary for medical laboratory technicians, dietitians, and biology professors. All three can expect faster than average job growth over the next decade. But, as always, advanced education and certification can help attract employers.

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