Employment Prospects


There are approximately 42,640 biological scientists, 20,030 microbiologists, and 17,860 zoologists and wildlife biologists employed in the United States. Many biological scientists work for the government at the federal, state, or local level. The majority of those who do not work for the government are involved in the drug industry, which includes pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, biotechnology companies, and laboratories. The area in which biologists work is influenced by their specialties. Marine biologists, for example, can find employment with the U.S. Department of the Interior (National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They may also find employment in nongovernmental agencies, such as the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California and the Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts. Microbiologists can find employment with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, and the Department of Agriculture, among others. They may also work for pharmaceutical, food, agricultural, geological, environmental, and pollution control companies. Wildlife biologists can find employment with the U.S. Public Health Service, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and the Forest Service, among many others.

Starting Out

Biologists who are interested in becoming teachers should consult their college career services offices. Public and private high schools and an increasing number of colleges hire teachers through the colleges at which they studied. Private employment agencies also place a significant number of teachers. Some teaching positions are filled through direct application.

Biologists interested in private industry and nonprofit organizations may also apply directly for employment. Major organizations that employ biologists often interview college seniors on campus. Private and public employment offices frequently have listings from these employers. Experienced biologists often change positions as a result of contacts made at professional seminars and national conventions.

Special application procedures are required for positions with government agencies. Civil service applications for federal, state, and municipal positions may be obtained by contacting the agency involved and from high school and college guidance and placement bureaus, public employment agencies, and post offices. You can also learn more about jobs at USAJOBS (, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's Web site.

Advancement Prospects

In a field as broad as biology, numerous opportunities for advancement exist. To a great extent, however, advancement depends on the individual's level of education. A doctorate is generally required for college teaching, independent research, and top-level administrative and management jobs. A master's degree is sufficient for some jobs in applied research, and a bachelor's degree may qualify for some entry-level jobs.

With the right qualifications, the biologist may advance to the position of project chief and direct a team of other biologists. Many use their knowledge and experience as background for administrative and management positions. Often, as they develop professional expertise, biologists move from strictly technical assignments into positions in which they interpret biological knowledge.

The usual path of advancement in biology, as in other sciences, comes from specialization and the development of the status of an expert in a given field. Biologists may work with professionals in other major fields to explore problems that require an interdisciplinary approach, such as biochemistry, biophysics, biostatistics (or biometrics). Biochemistry, for example, uses the methods of chemistry to study the composition of biological materials and the molecular mechanisms of biological processes.

Tips for Entry

Visit for a list of biotechnology employers by state.

Visit the following Web sites for job listings:


Participate in internships or part-time jobs that are arranged by your college’s career services office. 

Land an entry-level job as a biological technician to learn about the field and make industry contacts.