The job of any biologist is to study the natural world, which often includes wildlife. The research may be to understand behavior, population trends, how wildlife serves its ecosystem, or how human development impacts that wildlife. That research not only helps build an understanding of the natural world, it is also used to make policy decisions by governments and businesses. For example, a fisheries biologist helps determine the population of certain fish species, which can impact fishing season lengths and take limits. A career in biology can have a great impact on science and human development.
A biologist career usually focuses on a more narrow aspect of biology, such as marine life, zoology, microbiology, ornithology, or wildlife. The job duties of a biologist would then depend on the particular field and project. The job usually requires observing wildlife from a distance, but some may be a hands on job working with wildlife. The duties in general may include:
- Collecting and analyzing water samples
- Observing animal behavior
- Trapping, measuring, and tagging birds, mammals, reptiles, fish, and other wildlife
- Measuring pollutants in the environment
- Speaking to the public about local issues and ongoing research
- Instructing future biologists (students) in field methods
- Habitat restoration
- Approving environmental permit applications
- Applying for environmental permits
- Volunteer coordination
- Advising businesses, state, and federal agencies on policy decisions
- Biological monitoring of construction sites
Biologists work indoors and outdoors depending on the type of work they are doing. Often work involves traveling to remote regions and hiking long distances while carrying field equipment. If the work requires spending time outdoors, it can be during any weather conditions. Research is often conducted alone.
A starting biologist salary would be about $30,000. Most with at least a master’s degree earn about $50,000 to $80,000 a year, while those with a PhD can earn about $100,000 a year.
Education and Experience Requirements
You can get an entry-level biologist positions with a bachelor’s degree and some intern or volunteer experience to start your career in biology. These positions may carry the title Field Assistant, Natural Resource Specialist, or Scientific Aid. However, to work as a lead biologist on major projects, you will most likely need a Master’s degree or PhD and several years of experience. A degree in a biological science, such as biology, zoology, conservation biology, or marine biology is required to start a biologist career. Degrees in environmental science or natural resource management may also be considered.
Other desirable skills that will help you get a job as a biologist include experience in and ability to: read and use topography maps, use a GPS, field research methods, handling wildlife, working with volunteers and interns, teaching, use basic computer programs, drive a 4WD off-road, and speak to the public. Knowledge of federal and state permitting related to the job, NEPA, CEQA, and GIS are also desirable.
Where to Find Biologist Jobs
Government agencies, universities, nonprofit organizations, and private corporations all hire biologists. Private companies that hire biologists usually specialize in helping businesses and government agencies meet environmental protection regulations and permit applications. Some construction and energy companies hire their own biologists to help meet mitigation requirements and comply with NEPA and/or CEQA.