The Bachelor’s world of Biology Majors
The vast majority of biology majors are pre-med. The others are planning to use their biology undergrad as a stepping stone to another graduate degree in the healthcare field. But what about those few students who are studying biology simply because they just enjoy it? Or what about those who originally planned on medical school, but changed their mind later? What is the job market like for biology majors without a secondary medical degree?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, biological scientists usually require a Ph.D. to participate in highly competitive independent research projects, but a master’s degree, it says, is sufficient for some jobs in applied research (shorter-term, mission-oriented projects) and product development. Nothing is indicated for those who have only a bachelor’s degree. Of course, that doesn’t mean that jobs don’t exist for biology majors, they just might not be biology related.
The number one job for a person with only a bachelor’s degree in biology is a health technician. This is one who manages medical records and other data for hospitals, nursing homes and home health agencies. Clearly, this job doesn’t necessary use biology in the description, but it has historically been one of the 20 fastest-growing professions.
Other jobs for bachelor biology recipients include managers, executive and administrators (who most likely are not using biology on a daily basis), biological scientists, retail sales, teachers, nurses, pharmacists, insurance and business services, marketing and engineers.
It seems that most biology majors who choose not to continue to a Master’s or PhD level are making careers outside of the field of biology. That is probably because the annual earning for biology majors without an advanced degree is slightly depressing. Median annual earnings for health information technicians in 1998, the most recent year data are available, were roughly $20,600. Nearly 40% of biology majors end up working for the government, others work in the pharmaceutical industry, finding research and management positions with biotechnology firms, drug makers, hospitals and R&D testing labs.
It is clear that if you’re interested in biology, you need to prepare for an advanced degree. Whether you choose to pursue an M.D., a PhD or a Master’s degree, your chances of landing a better job making more than minimum wage drastically increase. Biology majors actually made the list of the degrees obtained by the top 1% of earners, but that is because those biology majors continued on to become surgeons and doctors. If you’re not sure that a graduate degree is an option for you, consider a similar, but more promising major such as health sciences, business or computer science and keep biology as your minor.