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Biology Persuing an education and career in biology

  1. Jan 25, 2007 #1
    I'm very seriously considering leaving my career in marketing to persue an education, and subsequently a career, in biology. I'm hoping that the members of this forum can help me get a better perspective on this path, and provide advice.

    I'm very interested in the natural world; the interaction between plants and animals and the natural systems they unwittingly setup; the astonishing diversity of life on this planet and how it came to be this way; the various mechanisms plants and animals evolve to deal with their environments; etc... Frankly, I just find life to be fascinating!

    I've definitely decided to go back to school, regardless of what my major winds up being, but I think I'd really like to study some aspect of biology. I find school is much easier when you're learning about something you're passionate about (obviously). However, I'd like the major I pick to be something that could be applied to a new career path. I know many people go to school for one thing and then wind up doing something else, but I get the feeling this isn't the case in the sciences.

    What I'd like to wind up doing as a carreer is either researching ecosystems or researching animals and plants. I'd like to be the guy that goes down to the Amazon and classifies all the unclassified plants and animals. This may not be a realistic goal, I understand, but I'd be happy doing anything in that vein, even if it was studdying mushrooms in new england. I'd also like to be the guy that goes and studies some ecosystem somewhere and ascertains the relationships between plants and animals within it. Something along these lines. Is that realistic? Or is this like sound engineering (my last major) where only a small handful of the people actually wind up working in a recording studio somewhere?

    So basicly, what majors could I actually apply to a career? How hard is it to actually find work doing stuff like what I've described? Are there more realistic career paths within the natural sciences?
  2. jcsd
  3. Jan 25, 2007 #2


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    From the interests and aspirations you describe here, I think you should look into ecology and evolution programs (sometimes there is a separate major for it, and sometimes it's just an emphasis area within a biology major, or you can get a more general biology degree and pursue ecology and evolution as a graduate degree). To get to do fieldwork as part of your career, you'll probably want to follow an academic path...i.e., ultimately get a Ph.D. so you can join a university faculty. Or, alternatively, if you're happy without needing to direct a project, but just be part of a team on a project, a master's degree and then working as a research assistant (or technician) in such a lab is also an option.

    On the realistic side, for any sort of ecological fieldwork, there's usually a specific season when the outdoor fieldwork is done, and then the rest of the year you'll be inside a lab analyzing the samples you've collected. The time of year you have to head outdoors also may not be the most pleasant. I knew some folks who did marine biology research and had to go out to the bay to collect shellfish, which sounded wonderful, until you learned they were doing it in a little rowboat in November. Brrrrrrrr!!!! Not exactly the day at the beach it sounds like.
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