Biology is the study of all living things—including microscopic bacteria and viruses, plants, and animals, and their relationship to their environments. Biology majors study the structure and function of cells, organ systems and tissues of animals and plants, ecology (the relationship between living things and their environment), animal behavior, genetics/genomics and evolution. They learn about physiology, behavior, genetics and heredity, aquatic systems, microscopic organisms such as bacteria, and techniques for diverse areas ranging from field research to biotechnology. This major provides a solid foundation of understanding the basic biological sciences. It also offers an opportunity to choose an area of emphasis within life sciences that relates to particular career goals (for example: the ecology of organisms, cell and molecular biology, biomedical professions, aquatic biology, marine biology, plant molecular biology for agricultural biotechnology and bioenergy, evolutionary biology, etc.).
- Interpret scientific data both mathematically and statistically.
- Demonstrate organizational and laboratory skills.
- Define scientific hypotheses and design experiments or observations to test them.
- Work effectively in groups.
- Demonstrate strong writing and oral communication skills.
Training in biology prepares students for a wide variety of occupations. Some involve daily interaction within teams; others can be done in relative isolation; some are highly focused, but most require knowledge far beyond the sciences. Career options related to biology include water quality assessments, field and lab technician work, biotechnology in biomedical sciences and agriculture, genetic research, agriculture, or sales (i.e., pharmaceutical, agricultural). Graduates work in small businesses, multinational corporations, academia, and government research laboratories and policy agencies. A degree in biological science offers a broad foundation for professional degrees in nursing, dental, medical or veterinary school, and a number of health professions such as physician's assistant, physical therapy, occupational therapy, optometry or public health. Graduates often pursue advanced degrees in life sciences to carry out basic research or advance into leadership positions in industry. Participation in internships and/or laboratory research experience is highly recommended and strongly encouraged by the department to enhance practical training and development.
Combining biology with additional skills can lead to exciting careers. Biology and computer science can be linked to the ever-expanding and exciting area of bioinformatics. Biology and writing can be incorporated into a career as a technical writer or science fiction novelist. Biology and visual arts combine in medical and scientific illustration. Biology and other humanities may lead to studies of the history of science or medicine. Work in both biology and philosophy/religion can be incorporated in careers in bioethics. Biology is linked with psychology for the neuroscientist or genetic counselor. Study biology and political science to work in environmental law or be a patent lawyer in biotechnology. Try mixing biology and business to get into hospital administration, small business or biotechnology administration. Specialized master’s degrees are designed for many of these unique career paths.
Some career opportunities include, but are not limited to: aquarium, zoo, and museum worker; assistant research scientist; research technician in industry or university laboratories; biology photographer; biotechnologist; brewery laboratory assistant; consumer product researcher; marine bacteriologist, field ecologist; nuclear medicine technician; park naturalist; pharmaceutical researcher or salesperson; public health officer; science librarian; environmental educator, health specialist, or impact specialist; fisheries biologist or conservationist; industrial hygienist; occupational therapist (with a master’s degree); and medical or clinical laboratory technologist.