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Breadth of jobs in biolgy as opposed to other natural sciences

  1. Jul 9, 2013 #1
    According to most science jobs websites, like jobs.sciencecareers.org, the number of jobs in biology far exceeds the number of jobs in every other natural science, like physics or chemistry.

    What gives?
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  3. Jul 9, 2013 #2


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    One guess... the pharmaceutical industry is a $100 billion annual industry. In the US there is approximately one drug sales rep for every ten physicians last I heard.

    Another guess... the number of biology graduates far exceeds the number of graduates from other natural sciences like physics or chemistry.

    I was also under the impression that graduates from the physical sciences were in higher demand than those from the biological sciences.
  4. Jul 9, 2013 #3


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    Another guess, more broadly than just pharmaceutical industry - Healthcare and Medical Related fields are important in society. Public health receives much attention and so a subfiels of biology important here are Microbiology.
  5. Jul 10, 2013 #4


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    As someone who had once worked for a large pharmaceutical company (and now working for a large contracting company for pharma companies), I can attest to the fact that there are actually relatively few jobs available for biology majors -- at least those with just a straight biology degree.

    Most large pharma companies more often than not tend to hire chemical engineers, as well as some chemistry, biochemistry and biomedical engineering majors (typically those with either a MS or PhD degree). There are many biology majors working in pharma companies, but they tend to have further post-graduate studies in medicine, nursing, biotechnology (a separate degree program) or clinical research associate (CRA) training. But then again, this reflects the clinical trials group I worked with.
  6. Jul 10, 2013 #5
    My wife has a Masters in Microbiology, and when she was looking for work after graduation, jobs were pretty thin on the ground. Glancing through the listings at the link, it looks like a lot of lecturer and post-doc academic positions, which probably just reflects the relative size of biology departments compared to the other sciences. The lab my wife worked in in grad school had as many students as the whole physics department.
  7. Jul 10, 2013 #6
    Why are there so many more people getting biology degrees than physics or chem (or even other fields like geology)? Is it because most of the premed people do bio? Is it the math in physics/chem that scares people away? Or is it just that biotechnology is the "hot" thing right now?
  8. Jul 10, 2013 #7
    People don't really seem to pick fields in college by job prospects. That is always a part of it, but I don't think it is the largest factor. What do you like? What college or major did your friends enter? What do you have an aptitude for? What do you like? What is easy?
  9. Jul 10, 2013 #8


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    Oh boy, another question I can speculate on...

    I would venture to guess that one factor on the physical sciences end is that a lot of people with such aptitudes in high school are drawn in different directions - physical sciences compete with engineering and even technology fields. You don't have as much of a split with those who are drawn towards the squishy sciences.

    Another factor might be the perception of biological sciences being easier (memorization-type work) compared to physical sciences (problem-solving-type work). On average more people perhaps tend to focus their cognitive abilities on the former rather than the latter.

    Then of course there is meal ticket that is medicine. Every school has its urban legend of the first year bio/chem/physics professor who asks how many students are interested in medicine and roughly 90% of the class raises hands. Medicine is a noble profession, it offers a large amount of prestige, it can pay insanely well, and parents can be more willing to help out a kid who wants to go into medicine than one who wants to say, study black holes.

    On top of that, there is just plain interest. Biology - particularly at the high school level - explains a lot of things... why we breathe, how we evolved, why we get sick... whereas a lot of physics at the high school level can be confined to "a block on an inclined plane about to slip" type problems. The students that really get into it (physics) seem to make that intuitive leap that studying such things leads to quantum tunneling and wormholes in space and the like, but I can't help but wonder if that same kind of leap isn't necessary with the biological sciences.
  10. Jul 21, 2013 #9
    Yeah I agree with what choppy said biology is more relatable to people and a lot of people going into biology want to do medicine ( which I believe is overrated ) but physics studies a lot of amazing things as well. I'm trying to get a physics minor though my major is biochemistry. I like the bio sciences and the physics sciences.
  11. Jul 21, 2013 #10
    OP, there's a far greater amount of Biology majors going into professional schools and more money to be spent on research in Bio than almost any other science! That's why more people get Biology degrees. You can get a BS in Bio, and if you get turned down for Med School, just get your PhD and research. If you get turned town for a PhD program, you can usually get an entry level job as a lab tech.

    But I'd say difficulty plays a role too, because most people applying to professional schools (med, dent, pharm) just want a high GPA. Physics is known to be killer to most, so they'll take the minimum required and be done.
  12. Jul 21, 2013 #11
    One huge difference I'd add to the list is funding- the NIH budget is huge and there was a huge effort to double it relatively recently. This means more funding for postdocs and graduate students and more graduate students = more ability to teach undergrads.

    Especially when the people who DO fight through and get phds in the suject basically have no economic reward for doing so. Whats the incentive to master something difficult when you'll just spend the rest of your life forgetting it?
  13. Jul 21, 2013 #12


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    On the other hand, most lab tech positions that I am familiar with (either in pharmaceutical firms or in hospitals, the two places I can think of that would hire lab techs) tend to be low-paying (at least for those with just a BS in Biology) with little room for career advancement. That was one of the reasons why one of my friends left his lab tech position to work in health informatics.

    Granted, I'm based in Canada and so my experience may not necessarily apply to those in the US.
  14. Jul 27, 2013 #13
    yup, been there -_-' , some people are just that closed minded.
    It reminds me of my freshmen years (I was a Pre-Pharm Student before switching to physics)
    I took freshmen Biology and I absolutely hated it, and did poorly. the material was easy to understand but there were lots of content to memorize which I've never been really good at. (I should work on this . . . )
    Also most work performed in high school is of the same type, so it leads people to view fields such as mathematics and physics as hard.
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