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What Can I Do with a Degree in Biology?

A biology degree can be a great foundation for a career in the health sciences. There are opportunities in both direct and indirect patient care. Some scientists operate high-tech machinery and assist patients in an operating room setting. Others work in laboratories, studying disease processes, genetic differences, or forensic evidence.

If you choose a laboratory science career, you may be surprisingly close to certification. If you set your heart on becoming an anesthesia assistant or a researcher, on the other hand, youíll need to spend a fair amount of time in grad school.

Depending on your career goals, you may choose a certificate, masterís, or doctoral program. The following is a breakdown of some of the options.

Laboratory Scientist

Cytogenetic technology, blood bank technology, and diagnostic molecular science are just a few of the options in laboratory and diagnostic sciences. There is a surprising amount of variety in job setting, even within a certification area. Blood bank technologists, for example, may work in laboratories or in medical settings. Duties can range from screening donors or assisting with transfusion to carrying out research.

Your biology degree will go a long way to making you a viable candidate for a laboratory science career. In most cases, you will need to enroll in a relatively short NAACLS-accredited program.

Forensic Biologist

Forensic biologists may work in laboratory settings or visit actual crime scenes. This career has a somewhat different scope than the health laboratory careers discussed above. Some forensic biologists specialize in human biology (e.g. DNA) while others become experts in processing botanical evidence. If you are considering this track, you may want to take some coursework in criminal science.

Industrial Hygienist

With a bachelorís degree in biology, you are also poised to enter an industrial hygiene program. Industrial hygienists use their science skills to curb environmental hazards and improve occupational safety. While some students do pursue a bachelorís in industrial hygiene, it is also quite common to specialize at the graduate level.

If youíre considering this career path, youíll want to check out the website of the American Industrial Hygiene Association. There are resources for students and prospective students alike; these range from Powerpoint presentations to information about potential scholarships. There are also opportunities to connect on Twitter and Facebook.

Research Scientist

Some biological scientists go on to do groundbreaking research. One exciting new area is biogerontology. Biogerontologists study the science of aging and, in some instances, look for ways to slow or alter the process.

Genetic scientists also work at the frontiers of current knowledge. The human genome has been mapped Ė but how do our genes actually affect us? Like biogerontology, genetics is a career for those who really love biology. Independent research usually requires a PhD.

Anesthesiology Assistant

A biology degree can also be useful for advanced practitioner roles. There are plenty of options for those who donít want to make the medical school commitment. 24 states make provisions for anesthesiologist assistants (practitioners entering the anesthesiology field from a background other than nursing).

Perfusionist

Perfusionists have a crucial role: running the machines that keep people alive during cardiac surgery. If you are a biology major with some coursework in chemistry and advanced mathematics, you may be a strong candidate for a graduate program in perfusion. Youíll also need high stress tolerance and the ability to concentrate for hours at a stretch. If youíre considering this career path, seek out an opportunity to observe open heart surgery.

Next Steps

There are a lot of exciting options, but programs can be competitive. Make sure youíve thoroughly researched each one. If you are interested in direct care, job shadowing and volunteer work can be important.