Whether you begin with an associate degree in biology and continue to study until you have a doctorate, or stop with a degree somewhere in between, your potential careers are numerous and varied. Your options include positions in health care, education, writing, industry and plant biology. When it comes to salary, you’re likely to earn the most with a doctorate and a position in the field of biochemistry or biophysics.
With an associate degree in biology, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics notes, you can work as an agricultural or food science technician. You’ll measure and test foods for quality, disease, and other plant and animal characteristics. You might check for pesticide residue on tomatoes or determine whether food containers meet safety standards. The salary range for this career was $22,860 to $53,680 a year in 2013, with an average annual salary of $37,010. Most agricultural and food science technicians worked in colleges, universities and professional schools, where the average annual salary was $37,100. Management of companies and enterprises was the top-paying work setting, with an average annual salary of $48,560. Wyoming was the top-paying state, at an average salary of $42,260 a year.
A little more education can have a significant effect on your salary, according to the BLS. With a bachelor’s degree in biology and some coursework in geology, you may become a geoscientist. Geoscientists are researchers who study the earth’s composition, structure and processes. You might study the earth's magnetic properties, collect rock samples to examine under a microscope or create a detailed geologic map. The average annual salary in geoscience was $108,420 in 2013, with a range from $48,890 to $134,390. Oil and gas extraction was the primary and best-paying work setting, with an average annual salary of $154,230. The highest-paying state in 2013 was Texas, with an average annual salary of $151,560.
With some courses in statistical methods, survey design, biomedical research and causal analysis, you can put your master’s degree in biology to work as an epidemiologist, according to the BLS. You might study the cause of a measles outbreak or become a specialist in bioterrorism. The average annual salary was $42,560 in 2013, and salaries ranged from $73,040 to $111,080. Most epidemiologists worked for state and local governments in 2013, where salaries were $64,180 a year and $64,600 a year, respectively. The best-paying work setting, however, was scientific research and development services, with an average annual salary of $102,510. The highest-paying state was North Carolina, at $104,300, although some states did not report wage data on epidemiologists to the BLS.
Doctorate in Biology
Biochemists and biophysicists are researchers who study living things and biological processes such as cell development or DNA. You could develop a test for a debilitating disease, such as Alzheimer's, or discover a chemical process that can decrease pollution. You’ll definitely need a doctorate for this career, according to the BLS. Salaries ranged from $42,660 to $147,780 a year in 2013, and the average annual salary was $91,640. As you might expect, most medical scientists worked in the scientific research and development field in 2013, where the average annual salary was $93,280. Biochemists and biophysicists who worked for professional and commercial equipment and supplies merchant wholesalers earned the highest average salary of all work settings for this occupation, at $123,650 a year. New Jersey was the highest-paying state, with an average annual salary of $125,090, although a number of states did not report salary data to the BLS in 2013.
- DePaul University: Fifty Things to Do With a Biology Degree
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Agricultural and Food Science Technicians
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013 19-4011 Agricultural and Food Science Technicians
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Geoscientists
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013 19-2042 Geoscientists, Except Hydrologists and Geographers
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Epidemiologists
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013 19-1041 Epidemiologists
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Biochemists and Biophysicists
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013 19-1021 Biochemists and Biophysicists
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