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Biology Major Overview

Love learning about life? If so, a biology major may be the perfect option for you! Not only would you study how organisms live and function, but you’d also learn about everything that makes you who you are (down to the molecular level!). Such knowledge prepares biology students for many career options, especially those in the health and environmental fields.

If this sounds interesting to you, keep on reading to learn all about the major, including what it is, typical coursework, and how to know if it’s right for you.

What is a biology major?

Biology majors’ studies focus on living organisms, their functions, and their traits. In order to learn about such topics, those majoring in biology do both independent work inside the classroom and collaborative work in the lab. Laboratory work and classes are often a required part of the degree for not only biology majors, but also those in any STEM major. In labs, you will learn to conduct experiments, analyze their findings, and even present them to their peers and professors. Such training in both the classroom and the lab give biology majors a solid foundation in the subject, preparing them for graduate school as well as a wide range of careers in the health and environmental sciences.

P.S.: If you’re looking to major in biology but want some help funding your college journey, check out biology scholarships!

Coursework to expect

In order to learn how living organisms work, biology majors must take a variety of science and mathematics courses. In particular, they are expected to take multiple foundational courses in not only biology, but chemistry as well. And, as part of the research component of the degree, biology majors should expect to take a few laboratory courses where they can hone their research skills. 

As is the case with any major, those majoring in biology will also have to take a few introductory courses. These are especially important in biology, as they can help students learn about their interests if they choose to pursue a specific concentration in biology. Such concentrations may include topics like bioinformatics, molecular biology, biotechnology, microbiology, or even mechanisms of disease. Whichever subfield you eventually choose (if you pick one) will dictate what type of advanced coursework you study. 

Below are some potential courses you may encounter:

  • Microbiology
  • Immunology
  • Vertebrae Biology
  • Human Anatomy
  • Evolution
  • Organic Chemistry
  • General Physics
  • Calculus
  • Linear Algebra
  • Physiology
  • Genetics

Opportunities after graduation

Once finished with undergraduate schooling, biology majors have a wide variety of career options open to them in fields like public health, teaching, biology, and more. They can also work in many different types of settings. From schools, to governments, and even the forest, your skills will always be attractive to employers.

And, for those who don’t wish to go straight into a career, biology majors can instead choose to complete further schooling, whether in biology or another subject completely. Medical school or other health programs are common choices for those with biology degrees, with their studies in biology providing a great foundation for clinical degrees and related health programs. 

We’ll go more into graduate school options soon, but for now, what type of jobs can you secure with a degree in biology?

Jobs you can get with a Biology degree

We now know that biology majors have many career choices, but what exactly are some of these positions? Let’s check out a few (with data straight from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics)!

1. Health Education Specialists and Community Health Workers

With a focus on promoting health and wellness, Health Education Specialists and Community Health Workers determine the health needs of communities. With this information, they teach people about relevant wellness topics and how to stay on top of their health. Further, they create health-related events and programs, and evaluate the success of each of their programs and educational materials. While Health Education Specialists typically need a bachelor’s degree, Community Health Workers generally only need a high school degree and some on-the-job training.

2020 Median Pay: $48,140/year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 17%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

2. Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists

Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists have many duties, most of which surround animals, and how such animals impact their environments (and vice-versa!). Specifically, some of their duties include: collecting biological samples for analysis, studying animals’ characteristics, analyzing the human impact on ecosystems, and more. Such findings are presented and used to create programs for wildlife preservation, among other causes. While a bachelor’s degree is needed for entry-level zoologist or wildlife biologist positions, master’s degrees and PhDs may be required for higher-level investigative work.

2020 Median Pay: $66,350/year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 5%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

3. Soil and Plant Scientists

Soil and plant scientists are primarily researchers, conducting studies on the breeding, physiology, production, and management of agricultural products. Such products are not limited to crops, but also include trees, shrubs, and any other types of plants. They also study the composition of soils and their effect on plant growth. Further, they research and investigate the effects of different practices on crop and soil productivity. To become a soil and plant scientist, one typically needs a bachelor’s degree in chemistry, crop science, biology, soil science, or a related field. 

2020 Mean Pay: $73,040/year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 8%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

4. Conservation Scientists and Foresters

Last, but certainly not least, are conservation scientists and foresters! If you’re passionate about saving the environment, conservation, or anything along those lines, these may be great professions for you. As a conservation scientist, you will be responsible for overseeing conservation activities to make sure they comply with government regulations, establishing plans to manage forest lands and their resources, and more. On the other hand, as a forester, you will be expected to monitor regrowth of forests, aid in forest fire suppression, prepare sites for new trees, and more. To become either a conservation scientist or forester, you will typically need a bachelor’s degree in a related field.

2020 Median Pay: $64,010/year
Projected Growth (2019-2029): 7%

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Advanced Degrees You Can Pursue with a Biology Degree

After graduating with a bachelor’s in biology, many students decide to pursue further graduate or professional schooling. While graduate, medical, and other health programs are some of the most popular options for biology majors, here are just a few of the advanced degrees you can pursue with a biology degree:

  • Master of Science (in biology, environmental science, etc.)
  • Master’s or PhDin Biomedical Engineering
  • Doctor of Pharmacy
  • Master’s or PhD in Environmental Science
  • Master’s or PhD in Biostatistics

Frequently asked questions

Can you be an RN (Registered Nurse) with a biology degree?

Yes! Although nursing and biology certainly have their differences, some of the knowledge you gain while studying biology can definitely help you on your journey to becoming a nurse. Biology majors study living organisms, their functions, their diseases, and even how their immune systems work. All this information will help one better understand the concepts and topics covered in nursing school, as well as the work you’ll eventually do as a nurse yourself. So, if you’re interested in becoming a nurse but want to study biology while in undergrad – there’s nothing holding you back!

P.S. If you’re interested in nursing, make sure to check out these helpful resources:

How do I know if a major is right for me? 

It’s always a little difficult to know whether a major is a good fit for you or not. So, if you’re thinking about majoring in biology, ask yourself these questions first:

  • Are you curious about how living organisms work?
  • Do you value both independent and collaborative work?
  • Are you passionate about science and math?
  • Do you enjoy conducting experiments and doing research?

If you answered “yes” to the majority of these questions, then a biology major may be a great fit for you! With that, we wish you the best. Good luck in college!

See Also: How to pick a major