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We are all budding biologists at some point in our lives. Just ask anyone who has ever been stung by a bee if they provoked the insect in some way. As humans, we depend on other living things for our survival. By observing, exploring and wondering about the world around us, we try to understand humans, animals, plants and all other life forms. Biologists are trained scientists who research all forms of life, including their classification, physiology, chemistry and interactions. By studying the relationships between humans and the environment, biologists can better understand how to manage natural resources and develop new products in medicine and agriculture.

Biologists study life processes, behaviors, diseases, and structure of all life forms. Their studies range from large animals to parasites and plants and to forensics and microorganisms. They work to discover new facts about living things, which will hopefully help solve large problems, such as viruses and marine life depletion. They are concerned with helping human health, combating disease and finding ways of protecting the environment.

Biologists conduct basic and applied research to extend knowledge of living organisms, to manage natural resources, and to develop new practices and products related to medicine and agriculture. They may specialize at the macroscopic level, in fields such as botany, zoology, ecology and marine biology; or, at the cellular and molecular level, in fields such as genetics, immunology, pharmacology, toxicology, physiology, pathology, bacteriology and virology.

Biologists may be classified both by the areas they study and the activities they perform. For example, bacteriologists study bacteria, zoologists focus on animal life, and marine biologists specialize in marine life. Some biologists work as researchers focusing more on answering larger questions of evolution whereas, applied researchers focus more on medical and industry experiments.

In spite of a biologist's specialization area, they all are involved in classifying species or specimens, both large and small. They also study the structure of species and how they fit into different environments. After intense experimentation, biologists prepare reports on their findings in scientific and medical journals.

Senior biological and medical scientists are often under pressure to meet deadlines for grant proposals in order to get money to fund their research. Also, they are required to constantly update their knowledge and keep current with technological advances.
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  Average Earnings  
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  Interests and Skills  
Biologists must have an interest in nature and an appreciation for all forms of animal and plant life. They are quick learners and have the ability to adapt from indoor laboratory research to working outdoors for extended periods of time. Most biologists have a concern for the environment, and are interested in developing new medical and scientific breakthroughs. Many biologists are open to interpreting diverse scientific facts in different ways, and have the ability to work both alone or in teams. They should have strong communication skills, both written and oral, and enjoy synthesizing information.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Design and conduct lab or field studies, experiments, tests, surveys and other research of the environment
  • Plan and conduct studies of the environment, and the population, distribution, structure and functional characteristics and behavior of plants and animals
  • Uncover new knowledge of living organisms and their environments, and improve on methods or develop alternatives to conserve, manage, support and use biological resources
  • Conduct ecological and environmental impact studies and prepare reports
  • Study, identify and classify plant and animal specimens
  • Conduct experiments in plant or animal growth, heredity and breeding
  • Prepare reports and plans for management of renewable resources
  • May supervise biological technologists and technicians and other scientists
  • Depending on the area a biologist decides to specialize in or the type of work they do, biologists may be found in laboratories, offices and outdoors conducting field research. Many spend hours peering into microscopes, especially in the molecular areas. Biologists should be prepared to work long hours, especially when deadlines are nearing.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Biologists work in both laboratory and field settings for all levels of government, universities and colleges, high schools, research and development departments in large corporations, environmental consulting companies, resource and utilities companies, chemical, pharmaceutical and biotechnical companies and health and educational institutions.
  • Biologists, with additional training, become scientific writers, computer programmers, scientific illustrators, or even lawyers or physicians. Service in public affairs, at the community and national levels, is an increasingly important role for biologists.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Advancement for biologists usually means specializing in a particular area of interest. Some biologists become environmental consultants or assessment biologists for various government departments. Another option is becoming a scientific writer or journalist, reporting on the latest scientific issues. Finally, some will also decide to go into education and can teach biology at either the high school, college or university level.

  Educational Paths  
Most biologists begin their postsecondary education by completing a four-year Bachelor of Science degree in biology. Those who wish to become independent researchers need a master's degree or, preferably, a PhD in biology or whatever speciality area they choose. Many biologists continue their training as post-doctoral fellows after receiving their PhDs.

Other valuable experiences include participation in science fairs and science clubs. It also helps to have a summer job or internships related to biology, such as working in parks, plant nurseries, farms, experiment stations, laboratories, camps, or for florists or landscape architects. Hobbies such as camping, photography, and computers are also useful.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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World-Class Education Tailored for Working Adults

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Programs Offered:
  • BS in Environmental Policy and Management

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Online Learning at Concordia University–Portland

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