How To Become A Biologist

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How Long Does It Take, What Degree Do You Need, and More


Biologists research or study basic principles of plant and animal life, such as origin, relationship, development, anatomy, and functions.

Becoming One
Very Hard
Master's degree
Job Satisfaction
Job Growth

Interest Match

Table of contents
  1. Summary
  2. Steps to become one
  3. Popular degree levels
  4. How long does it take


Degree Biologists typically need at least a Bachelor’s degree to find entry-level work and may need a Master’s degree for scientific work or management positions.
Degree field Most Biologists major in Biology but may study related fields, such as Microbiology or Zoology.
License or certification Biologists may obtain voluntary professional certifications to increase their career opportunities.
Duration to become one 4 to 6 years
Difficulty to become one Very Hard

Biologists Requirements

Step 1: Study Biology and Science in High School

Aspiring Biologists should study biology and other science courses in high school, as most Biologists have Bachelor’s degrees in Biology. Students should also try to take advanced classes and maintain high grades. Completing advanced placement (AP) classes, such as AP Biology and AP Chemistry, may increase a student’s chance of getting into a good college.

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor’s Degree

Biologists typically need at least a Bachelor’s degree to start working in this field. Biology is the most common major, but students may obtain majors in related fields.

Students may obtain a Bachelor of Science (BS) or a Bachelor of Arts (BA) degree. Earning a BA in Biology is typically recommended for students who plan on becoming Biology teachers and includes more liberal arts courses. A BS in Biology includes more science courses compared to a BA. Students may also take advanced mathematics courses, such as Calculus, Linear Algebra, and Statistics.

Biology programs often start with foundational Biology and Chemistry courses. After completing basic coursework, students may spend more time studying in laboratory settings and conducting research.

As biology is a broad field, students may want to consider the type of biology that they want to specialize in. Aspiring Biologists may major in Biology and choose a concentration or take electives in some of the subfields.

Working with plants and animals may require students to study Ecology, Wildlife Biology, Zoology, or Botany. Students interested in the biological sciences and working with humans may study Microbiology, Biochemistry, or Genetics.

Step 3: Look for an Internship Opportunity

Internships allow aspiring Biologists to gain hands-on experience. Interns may work in offices or laboratories assisting experienced Biologists.

Many Biology programs include internship opportunities for students. If internships are not offered through the school, students can look for internships and entry-level work during the summer between college semesters.

Step 4: Consider Earning a Master’s Degree

A Master’s degree is not needed for entry-level work in Biology but may be necessary for advancement or scientific positions. Some Master’s programs do not require students to hold a Bachelor’s degree. The requirements typically include a minimum amount of semester hours of courses.

For example, students can typically apply to Master’s programs after completing 30 credit hours of prerequisite courses, which may take one to two years to complete. However, holding a Bachelor’s degree can improve a student’s chance of getting accepted into a Master’s program with limited availability.

Step 5: Look for Entry-Level Positions

After completing college, start looking for entry-level work in Biology. Common first jobs for Biologists include Biological Technician, Food Scientist, Laboratory Technician, Environmental Scientist, Zoologist, Wildlife Biologist, and Occupational Health and Safety Specialist.

The requirements vary depending on the employer and position. For example, some jobs may require previous lab experience, which aspiring Biologists can obtain through internships during college.

Step 6: Obtain Certifications to Advance Your Career

Biologists may earn voluntary professional certifications to advance their careers. As Biology is a broad field, the certifications are typically for various specializations.

For example, the Wildlife Society offers two levels of certifications for Wildlife Biologists. Biologists with less than five years of work experience may obtain the Associate Wildlife Biologist certification. After gaining five years of experience, Biologists may become Certified Wildlife Biologists.

Biologists who choose to work in the subfield of Microbiology may also obtain certifications. The American Society of Clinical Pathology (ASCP) offers a professional certification in Microbiology and several certificate programs.

Step 7: Consider Earning a Doctorate in Biology

Earning a PhD in Biology is only necessary for those who want to work in research or academia, such as a Biochemical Researcher or a Biology Professor. Doctorate programs typically require a Master’s degree and may take five years to complete.

Students in Doctorate programs may need to accept teaching positions or research positions during their training. The process also typically requires a Bachelor’s degree but may not require a Master’s degree.

A typical Doctorate program for Biology includes two semesters of research seminars, one semester of grant-writing, one semester of pedagogy courses, and additional courses for specialized tracks.

Before earning a PhD, students need to submit a dissertation and pass a final oral exam. A dissertation is a research project and typically takes 13 to 20 months to complete.

What degree do most Biologists have

Master’s degree

We did a survey to ask other Biologists what degree they had when they first became one. Here are the results.

Master’s degree

Bachelor’s degree

Post Baccalaureate certificate

How long does it take

4 to 6 years

To become a Biologist, you typically need at least a Bachelor’s degree, which typically takes about four years. Most Biologists earn a Master’s degree before entering the workforce, adding two more years of college.

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