Difference Between Biologist & Ecologist

May 30, 2020

Comparing Biologists to Ecologists

Biologists and ecologists are both scientific professionals and some of their duties are similar. Research is an important part of their work. The distinction between these professionals lies in the focus of their research and how it's applied.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary (2019)* Job Outlook (2018-2028)*
Biologists Master's Degree $82,220 6% (for biological scientists)
Ecologists Master's Degree $71,360 (for industrial ecologists) 8% (for all environmental scientists and specialists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Responsibilities of Biologists vs. Ecologists

Biologists spend their careers performing studies that relate to how living things develop. They may focus exclusively on one species to understand the history of that species. They document observations and test results, gather samples for testing and present their findings to others. These are also tasks that ecologists may do, but their focus is a little different. They are more concerned with the relationship between living things and their environment. Both biologists and ecologists may travel as part of their work.


Biologists are scientists who specialize in living things. They may focus on things like how a specific plant species has evolved. Some may specialize and work as wildlife biologists or aquatic biologists. The practical applications of their work can involve things like determining how to protect an endangered species or how to protect the environment. Although it may be possible to begin a career as a biologist with a bachelor's degree, most employers require applicants to have a master's degree.

Job responsibilities of a biologist include:

  • Traveling to locations to collect samples
  • Making observations about habitats or animals
  • Producing detailed records of their research
  • Overseeing other staff
  • Performing tests on samples
  • Presenting their research conclusions


Ecologists are physical scientists who focus on understanding ecosystems and how environments and organisms affect each other. While it may be possible to begin a career as an ecologist with a bachelor's degree, most ecologists have a master's or doctoral degree. They spend a lot of time in laboratories and offices, although their work may also involve traveling to locations for their research. They may specialize in an area such as industrial ecology, which involves using their understanding of ecosystems to figure out how to manufacture products efficiently with minimal damage to the environment. It's common for ecologists to work for the government.

Job responsibilities of an ecologist include:

  • Conducting research
  • Confirming ways to reduce environmental damage
  • Reviewing research data
  • Keeping records of their research
  • Writing about their conclusions

Related Careers

Another career option for those considering being biologists is to become a natural sciences manager, since natural sciences managers are also involved in overseeing staff performing tests in laboratories. Aspiring ecologists may also be interested in becoming biotechnicians, since biotechnicians also do research on organisms.

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