Best Jobs for Graduates With a Biology Degree

Career Options for Biology Majors

Image shows a biologist looking into a microscope. Text reads: "Top jobs for biology majors based on annual income: Physician assistant: $108,610. Medical manager: $99,730. Biochemist: $93,280. Financial analyst: $85,660. Pharmaceutical sales rep: $79,680"

 The Balance 2019

Medical school isn’t the only option for graduates with a bachelor’s degree in biology, although you may still have to invest in additional education beyond a four-year degree to get started.

A biology degree opens the door to many career possibilities. If you’re a student who loves science and is intrigued by the study of living things, a biology degree might be the perfect choice to launch you on your career path.

Ask your college career center or alumni office for a list of alumni who were biology majors, and you will be amazed by the variety of options pursued by graduates within that discipline.

Wondering what some of the career options are for a biology major? Read this list of 10 common career choices for biology majors—plus, a description of the skills you’ll gain during your studies. 

Biological Technician

Also known as laboratory assistants, biological technicians use the laboratory skills and techniques that biology majors learn in their labs, academic research, and collaborative research with faculty.

Technicians must carry out studies that yield accurate results. They document results and perform calculations just as they have done when compiling reports as a biology major.

Many new graduates who choose not to go on to graduate school or want to postpone graduate study find technician positions with researchers at medical schools, government agencies, non-profit research centers, or pharmaceutical and biotechnology firms.

Salary and Job Outlook: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that biological technicians earned a median annual salary of $45,860 in May 2019.

The top 10% earned $73,350 or more and the bottom 10% earned $29,540 or less. The BLS projected that employment in this field will grow by 7% between 2019 and 2029, faster than average for all occupations.

Biochemist

Biochemists play a key role in the fast-growing fields of biotechnology and biomedical research. Studying biology equips them with the laboratory and scientific research skills and knowledge to design and execute studies for developing new products.

Most jobs in this field will require an advanced degree.

Knowledge of anatomy and physiology helps biochemists to understand the impact of drugs and biotechnology solutions on the human body.

Presentation and writing skills cultivated as a biology major help them to present proposals and findings to colleagues and potential funding sources.

Salary and Job Outlook: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that biochemists earned a median annual salary of $94,490 in May 2019.

The top 10% earned $182,870 or more and the bottom 10% earned $50,620 or less. The BLS projected that employment in this field will grow by 4% between 2019 and 2029, about as fast as average for all occupations.

Genetic Counselor

Genetic counselors assess the genetic makeup of clients and communicate with them about the risk of transmitting a genetic disease or disability to their offspring. They might also work with adults who are concerned about the chances of showing symptoms of genetic disorders later in life.

They must have an advanced aptitude in biology to complete the required master’s degree in the discipline.

Genetic counselors must be able to express scientific concepts in everyday language.

Like a biology major, they must be able to think quantitatively to assess the likelihood of various outcomes based on the genetic predisposition of the patients.

Genetic counselors must have advanced knowledge of the scientific method to evaluate the usefulness of a rapidly growing body of research about the human genome.

Salary and Job Outlook: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that genetic counselors earned a median annual salary of $81,880 in May 2019. The top 10% earned $114,750 or more and the bottom 10% earned $61,310 or less. The BLS projected that employment in this field will grow by 21% between 2019 and 2029, much faster than average for all occupations.

Health Communications Specialist

Health communications specialists are responsible for educating communities about health concerns, particularly public health issues, including communicable diseases, health management, and healthy living.

Often employed by hospitals or other healthcare companies, health communications specialists may also coordinate the institution's public relations campaigns, marketing strategies, and community involvement.

This career requires strong writing and interpersonal skills, as health communications specialists are responsible for discussing topics related to human health and disease to a wide audience.

A biology major provides a strong foundation and may offer an edge over other individuals who lack a background in hard science.

Unlike many jobs on this list, health communications specialists can get started on their career with just a bachelor’s degree.

Salary: According to PayScale, health communications specialists earn an average annual salary of $63,335. The top 10% earned $84,000 or more and the bottom 10% earned $50,000 or less.

Health Educator

Health educators teach people about certain practices and behaviors that promote wellness. They must be able to digest complex information and interpret research about public health concerns. They use the scientific method to assess the needs of their constituents so they can design relevant programs.

Health educators need a solid understanding of human biology as well as verbal communication skills to convey scientific information in a language that their clients can easily comprehend.

Health educators write about scientific topics like nutrition, safe sex, substance abuse, and stress reduction. Therefore, they need strong written communication skills.

Employers may also require the Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES) credential in addition to a bachelor’s degree.

Salary and Job Outlook: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that health educators earned a median annual salary of $46,910 in May 2019. The top 10% earned $68,350 or more and the bottom 10% earned $26,660 or less. The BLS projected that employment in this field will grow by 11% between 2018 and 2028, much faster than average for all occupations.

Pharmaceutical / Medical Product Sales Representative

Pharmaceutical or medical product sales representatives sell medical supplies, IT products, medicines, and more to hospitals, clinics, and other medical practices.

Pharmaceutical sales representatives must have a strong knowledge of chemistry, anatomy, and physiology so that they can explain to doctors how a new drug will affect their patients.

These workers need to have the technological knowledge to explain how a product works. They also need the scientific knowledge to be able to explain how this product will benefit both doctor and patient.

Pharmaceutical or medical product sales representatives need strong communication and interpersonal skills. A bachelor’s degree is often enough education to get started in this occupation.

Salary and Job Outlook: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that sales representatives of technical and scientific products earned a median annual salary of $81,020 in May 2019. The top 10% earned $158,580 or more and the bottom 10% earned $41,080 or less. The BLS projected that employment in this field will grow by 2% between 2019 and 2029, slower than average for all occupations.

Physician Assistant and Nurse Practitioner

Physician assistants and nurse practitioners are in high demand as front-line service providers. Biology provides an excellent foundation for graduate work in these similar professions.

Physician assistants and nurse practitioners must have a sound understanding of human biological systems, anatomy, and physiology to diagnose medical problems. They also need a biology major's advanced knowledge of the scientific method to interpret emerging research about various treatment options and medications.

Physician assistants and nurse practitioners must have an aptitude for learning and remembering scientific and medical terminology. These careers require at least a master’s degree.

Salary and Job Outlook: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that physician assistants earned a median annual salary of $112,260 in May 2019. The top 10% earned $157,120 or more and the bottom 10% earned $72,720 or less. The BLS projected employment in this field to grow by 31% between 2019 and 2029, much faster than average for all occupations.

Nurse practitioners earned a median annual salary of $115,800 in May 2019. The top 10% earned $184,180 or more and the bottom 10% earned $82,460 or less. The BLS projected that employment in this field will grow by 26% between 2018 and 2028, much faster than average for all occupations.

Medical and Health Services Manager

Medical and health services managers spend much of their time interacting with health service professionals and must be able to communicate with them about scientific policies and procedures.

They must be able to interpret scientific regulations related to medical services and modify programs accordingly.

Medical and health services managers often hire, supervise, and evaluate health professionals and researchers. They must be able to understand the nuances of their credentials and performance as they assess candidates and employees.

Salary and Job Outlook: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that medical and health services managers earned a median annual salary of $100,980 in May 2019. The top 10% earned $189,000 or more while the bottom 10% earned $58,820 or less. The BLS projected that employment in this field will grow by 18% between 2018 and 2028, much faster than average for all occupations.

Attorney

Biology majors can excel in many areas of the law that draw on scientific knowledge and reasoning. Patent and intellectual property lawyers need to understand the science behind biotechnology products, drugs, and medical instruments to process applications for patents and defend clients against infringement.

Environmental attorneys support and contest environmental projects and policies based on an understanding of how they will impact the ecosystem.

Medical malpractice lawyers must have the scientific knowledge required to analyze medical interventions and judge whether health professionals have acted ethically and correctly.

Biology majors learn to gather evidence to test a hypothesis. Litigation and criminal lawyers must do the same as they build a case for a client.

Add to that the technical nature of physical evidence such as DNA samples, and it is easy to see why many biology majors decide to go on to law school.

Salary and Job Outlook: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that lawyers earned a median annual salary of $122,960 in May 2019. The top 10% earned more than $208,000 while the bottom 10% earned $59,670 or less. The BLS projected that employment in this field will grow by 4% between 2019 and 2029, about as fast as average for all occupations.

Financial Analyst

Financial analysts evaluate stocks, bonds, mutual funds, and other investments for clients and businesses. Biology majors can use their advanced mathematical skills to help assess the success of various investments.

Most analysts focus on specific industries, and biology majors are particularly well suited for working as analysts in biotechnology, pharmaceuticals, medical products, health services, and environmental companies.

Financial analysts, like biology majors, use computer-based resources to gather and analyze data to draw conclusions.

They must have the writing skills to generate reports summarizing their findings. A bachelor’s degree is often enough to get started in a career as a financial analyst.

Salary and Job Outlook: The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) estimates that financial analysts earned a median annual salary of $81,590 in May 2019. The top 10% earned $156,150 or more while the bottom 10% earned $47,230 or less.

The BLS projected that employment in this field will grow by 5% between 2019 and 2029, faster than average for all occupations.

Article Sources

  1. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Biological Technicians." Accessed Sept. 2, 2020.

  2. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Biochemists and Biophysicists." Accessed Sept. 2, 2020.

  3. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Genetic Counselors." Accessed Sept. 2, 2020.

  4. ZipRecruiter. "What Is a Health Communications Specialist?" Accessed May 23, 2020.

  5. PayScale. "Average Health Communications Specialist Salary." Accessed Sept. 2, 2020.

  6. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Health Educators and Community Health Workers." Accessed Sept. 2, 2020.

  7. Princeton Review. "Pharmaceutical Sales Representative." Accessed May 23, 2020.

  8. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representatives." Accessed Sept. 2, 2020.

  9. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Physician Assistants." Accessed May 23, 2020.

  10. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners." Accessed Sept. 2, 2020.

  11. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Medical and Health Services Managers." Accessed Sept. 2, 2020.

  12. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Lawyers." Accessed Sept. 2, 2020.

  13. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Financial Analysts." Accessed Sept. 2, 2020.