How To Become a Biologist in 5 Steps (Salary and Skills)
Updated 26 January 2023
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Biologists are professionals who study living organisms and how they relate to the environment. In the workplace, they work in scientific research or apply their research findings in some specific fields. Working as a biologist can be a rewarding and lucrative profession, but requires advanced study and dedication. In this article, we discuss what a biologist is, what they do and how to become a biologist and explore their work environment, skills and the salary these professionals earn.
What is a biologist?
Biologists are scientists who specialise in studying living organisms. Some biologists may work as wildlife biologists, microbiologists or marine biologists. A biologist in each sector studies how organisms exist, how they function within an ecosystem and how they evolved. Also, these professionals study how different living organisms impact and interact with other living beings in different environments. While the duties of a biologist primarily depend upon their work setting, some common job duties include:
Conducting biological research: A biological researcher creates a hypothesis, design many experiments to test the hypothesis and measure the results. This helps in understanding whether the data supports their research.
Monitoring biological activities: A biologist is responsible for monitoring biological activities and processes from the cellular level to the organism level. This aspect of their job requires them to study the organism under a microscope to experiment.
Preparing reports and maintaining records: They prepare, write and present their findings to peers or conferences. Also, a biologist maintains thorough records of their research and findings.
Obtaining information about different organisms: They collect samples, take measurements and sketch organisms that can help discover more information about a specific species or ecosystem.
Observing different organisms: They keenly observe different organisms to have an in-depth knowledge of their behaviour, diet and impact on the surroundings.
Related: How To Become a Microbiologist: A Complete Guide
Types of biologists
When thinking about pursuing biologist as a career, you may choose to become any of one of the following biological scientists:
Forensic biologists: These biologists specialise in assisting in various criminal and civil investigations.
Microbiologists: Microbiologists primarily work in a lab environment and study organisms visible through a microscope.
Wildlife biologists: Wildlife biologists conduct research and experiments on wildlife plants and animals.
Ecologists: These professionals study the interaction between different living organisms and the environment in which they live.
Marine biologists: Marine biologists focus on studying the organisms living in oceans. A marine biologist analyses marine plants, animals and microorganisms for various purposes.
Biological engineers: These engineers create, design and implement various equipment used to manufacture biological products such as pharmaceuticals and food.
Biostatisticians: Biostatisticians use statistical and mathematical principles to analyse core principles in biology. They do this by gathering and analysing various pieces of biological data.
Related: How To Become a Marine Biologist in 6 Steps (With FAQ)
Work environment of a biologist
A biologist can work full time in government and non-government organisations, medical testing facilities, research facilities and higher education institutions. When working in a government organisation, they typically work in healthcare research, environment protection agencies or food and drug administration. These professionals may work with the law enforcement departments as forensic biologists.
They gather evidence from a crime scene and help recreate what happened. A significant part of the workday of a biologist involves a desk job, but when working in laboratory research they often stand for long hours. Biologists are also at the forefront of biotechnology, researching genetic modification and focusing on future agritech.
Are biologists paid well?
The average salary of a biologist is ₹3,60,383 per year and this salary may vary depending on the candidate's qualification, work experience, skill set and even location. Some cities may pay higher salaries than others. Also, you may gain promotions and earn raises the longer you work in the field.
Related: Salary Negotiation Tips and Examples
Is it hard to be a biologist?
Being a biologist may be hard for someone who struggles to remember vast information. To become a biologist, you take science stream in 10+2 and study in-depth about biological systems and processes. This may be a fruitful career for those who enjoy studying biology, exploring different living organisms and having a fundamental knowledge of all biological principles. If you wish to pursue this career, you require patience and tenacity to learn and understand biology.
Skills of a biologist
Here are some common skills to master:
Understanding of common biology principles
To excel in their workplace, biologists require a strong understanding of basic and advanced biology principles. Whether you become a wildlife biologist or a marine biologist, you may work with internal structures and the interaction of living organisms and the environment. Having an in-depth understanding of these core principles is critical for success in this field.
These biology scientists conduct research and draw conclusions based on their findings, requiring critical thinking skills. When working in various fields and subfields of biology, these professionals must be highly analytical and critical in their thinking. Their job regularly involves identifying social, institutional and ecological problems and finding a scientific solution to them. An organisation's critical business decisions may depend on these professionals' analysis.
A part of their job responsibilities involves preparing and writing reports explaining their scientific findings. Additionally, they may publish their findings on research portals or deliver them to the government or private organisations to entice social or behavioural change. This requires excellent written communication skills.
As biology is a diverse field, a biological researcher requires in-depth understanding of macro and microbiology processes. Understanding currently accepted theories and experiments can help you become a successful biologist. Using their expertise, a biologist can analyse and interpret data to provide meaningful conclusions from it.
Biologists primarily work in a lab environment and for research organisations. They work with laboratory technicians, other scientists and field researchers. Working harmoniously in a team while sharing and discussing their findings is a desirable skill. Employers often prefer candidates with teamwork skills because it helps in achieving organisational goals.
In any field, biologists conduct extensive research and experimentation in a laboratory setting. Mastery of common lab skills like creating a hypothesis, record keeping, measuring, dissection, lab safety and lab maintenance can help biologists fulfil all job-specific duties. Also, the ability to use different lab equipment like microscopes, dyes and slides is a desirable skill.
How to become a biologist
To understand how to become a biologist, follow these five steps:
1. Complete your 10+2
Most companies prefer hiring candidates with a bachelor's degree. For getting admission to a graduation college, completing your higher secondary or 10+2 with biology as the major subject is important. During your higher secondary, determine which area of biology interests you. Based upon your field of interest, determine programs and universities that can help you achieve your goal.
2. Earn a bachelor's degree
Next, pursue a bachelor's degree in science or a related area. You may choose to study biology, physics, chemistry, wildlife conversation or ecology. Usually, a bachelor of science or biology degree takes three years to complete, but if you pursue a biomedical engineering (BE) course, it may take four years to complete your degree. Also, for a BE course, passing an engineering entrance test is often mandatory.
3. Complete an internship
During the final year of your course, try to get a paid or unpaid research internship. From working in lab research projects to wildlife preserves and hospitals, you will likely have internship opportunities at many places. Such an internship provides practical experience and hones the technical skills needed for becoming a biologist in the future.
4. Pursue your master's or doctoral degree
To advance in a technical profession like a biologist, pursuing a master's and a doctoral degree is helpful. To gain admission to master's and doctoral courses, passing an entrance exam conducted by different universities and institutions is often mandatory, as is a bachelor's degree in a related subject.
With a master's degree, biologists may continue to work in a lab environment as a manager and oversee the work of other biologists. A doctoral degree can help these professionals start their lab or allow them to teach college-level courses.
5. Create a CV and apply for jobs
After fulfilling all the educational qualifications required for the job role, create your CV, listing all your achievements, experiences and skills. Read the job description, pick out keywords from it and use these keywords in your CV. This makes your CV applicant tracking system compliant. Also, using Indeed's job portal, apply to different jobs based on your experience level.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.
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