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Careers in biology

  1. Dec 2, 2014 #1
    I'm helping someone figure out what they want to do career-wise. They know they're interested in biology, but they don't want to become a doctor. Based on my experience here, I'm guessing that becoming a biologist is a long and difficult road, and that a biology probably doesn't really prepare you for a career (as opposed to something like engineering or nursing). Presumably, there isn't a lot of demand for whale biologists.

    So I'm wondering, what would be a good "career-oriented" degree for someone who's interested in biology, but not interested in spending years fighting for a good job or a tenured position. For someone mildly interested in physics, engineering is a good "career-safe" alternative. Is medical or pharmaceutical research a relatively safe career choice? Are there other biology-related fields which are fairly "safe" as a career choice? Or is being a doctor the only "safe" career option related to biology?

    Edit: by the way, the reason I'm asking here is to try to get a realistic understanding of the job prospects. Searching "careers in ______" mostly tells you what you can do and not how likely it is that you'll secure a position, or how hard you're going to have to work to get/keep your job.
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 2, 2014 #2
    ugh, forget safe. That is a recipe for regret. Do what you love, period.

    There are tons of hot professions for biologists. Marine biology is perfectly fine if they like whales. There is huge money in genetics research and products at the moment.
  4. Dec 2, 2014 #3
    Assuming they're looking for employment in the US, High School science teaching is a very 'safe' option if they get their education credentials at the same time as their undergrad. The US government also employs a lot of "biologists" at varying education levels (One would start GS 05~07 at a Bachelors, if pursuing higher degrees one could start at GS 09~12 presumably) and they give very good benefits if you're employed at the federal level. There's also demand for biology students with knowledge of computational methods. Sequencing genomes gets easier with technology advances, that's creating more and more terabytes of data that need to be analyzed.

    I wouldn't discount whale biologists either, looking at the industry SeaWorld created there's a lot to be known about these creatures. But I also agree with Greg, if there's no enjoyment in the work being done, no matter how seamless it was to slide into the position it won't be worthwhile.
  5. Dec 3, 2014 #4
    Thanks guys.

    I do understand that job prospects aren't the only factor, but I also think it's a bit foolish to just follow your passion and completely ignore the job market. At very least, if you're equally passionate about two things, then why not choose the more employable one? In this thread, I'm focusing only on job market because I can't really ask you "what is my friend more passionate about?" But don't worry, the info from this thread definitely won't be the only factor in the decision.
  6. Dec 3, 2014 #5
    Of course, but that isn't how you sounded :)
  7. Dec 3, 2014 #6
    Sorry, I should have made it more clear.
  8. Dec 13, 2014 #7
    i'm in the same exact position, i love biology but completely unattracted to the medical field. My hopes right now are to enter graduate school in biology and my dream job right now is to work in making affordable biofuels technology. Sometimes I wonder if I can make it or if the market is too narrow for me to jump in but that is my dream so far.

    on a related note I'm interested in environmental microbiology and the prospect of using microbes to clean up pollution or make natural products
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