Ph.D. in Evolutionary Biology: Degree Program Information

Oct 12, 2019

Ph.D. programs in evolutionary biology feature advanced courses that explore areas of ecology, genetics, and physiology. Skills attained in research and teaching can prepare students for their future career.

Essential Information

Students in a Ph.D. program engage in a significant amount of research and lab work that emphasizes the application of evolutionary theories, developing the analytical and critical thinking skills needed by researchers. Areas of specialization include population ecology, physiology, community ecology, evolutionary genetics, and molecular ecology. All programs require at least a bachelor's degree in biology, and some schools may require a master's in biology and professional experience.

Doctor of Philosophy in Evolutionary Biology

Under the guidance of an advisor, Ph.D. students identify and study specific topics of interest to them. Access to natural habitats, greenhouses, animals, fossilized samples, and labs may be necessary to perform the research needed to complete the degree. Upon completion of the research, students write up their dissertation and prepare for an oral defense. Students may also have the opportunity to gain some teaching experience while pursuing the degree.

Course options at the doctoral level may include:

  • Conservation biology
  • Evolution and molecular science
  • Ecological factors in populations and communities
  • Physiological factors in evolution
  • Paleontology
  • Genetics and genomics in evolutionary biology

Employment Prospects and Salary Info

Graduates of a doctoral program can apply for leadership positions in a variety of fields, such as conservation, research, or academia. Graduates often gravitate towards careers involving evolutionary research or education. Some popular career options include:

  • Professor
  • Independent researcher
  • Technical writer

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), professors of biology earned median salaries of $82,550 as of May 2018. The BLS reports that the number of employed postsecondary teachers was expected to grow 11% in the 2018-2028 decade, which is faster than average.

Continuing Education

The doctoral degree is considered the terminal degree in this field of study. Students seeking further education can pursue another graduate degree in a different field. Although not absolutely essential for some job opportunities, doctoral degrees typically allow for the greatest amount of career opportunities and excellent pay and benefit potential.

A doctorate in evolutionary biology covers a wide range of topics in ecology, biology, and evolution. Students in these programs often pursue careers in research or academia, which currently has a positive job outlook and strong potential salary.

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