How to Become a Biologist

Biologists study all living organisms. Living organism include plants, animals, humans, as well as the environment. As a biologist, you will discover a fulfilling career in science, conservation, healthcare and education.

Education and Certification

As a biologist, there are many areas of study. You can study cell biology or zoology. Because of the wide array of subjects, there are many places to go for your post-secondary education. According to the National Center for Educational Statistics' College Navigator, there are over 1500 schools in the US offering degrees in some area of the biological sciences. With such as wide range of choices, the American Institute of Biological Sciences states that there is no "best school" but you should select the school that offers a diverse courses in biological sciences and that the majority of instruction is delivered by professors that hold PhDs in the area of study.

There is no license requirement to become a professional biologist. Some local governments may require certification for agricultural biologists, or if you are working with animals or handling pesticides. Most biologists are employed by the government and a quarter of all biologists, will have a graduate degree in biology and may have completed a post-doctoral placement. A senior level career in biology may require a PhD.

Tips and Advice

Courses in mathematics as well as the sciences of biology, chemistry and physics will help you when applying to college. You can also explore options such as anatomy and physiology, if available at your school. Since biologists will also use statistics as well as computer software, such as GIS or statistical analysis, getting some experience with computers, spreadsheets and databases will also help you.

Depending on the area of the biological sciences that you are interested in, you should explore extracurricular activities that will help you in your field. As a wildlife biologist or zoologist, joining a hiking club, camping regularly and getting experience with animals are good ideas. If you are interested in agriculture, botany or entomology, working with plants and insects, on the farm, in a garden center or in a natural history museum will indicate your dedication. If you are interested in human biology or healthcare, pursuing work in research labs or hospitals will be helpful. If education is your plan, again experience in a museum, or tutoring students in science will help you get ready.

Many wildlife biologists are placed in exotic locales, beautiful but remote. You should try to look for work where you will be independent, need little supervision to accomplish tasks, and where you may be working on your own. A summer job working in a fire lookout tower will take you out into the wilderness, and will let you see if you can make it all alone, as some biologists will experience in the course of their work.

Career Options

Animal biologists and zoologists can find work in universities, with the government, with animal welfare organizations or with zoos, aquariums or animal sanctuaries. There are also careers in conservation and environmental biology, some that would require working outside, or working in an office on policy analysis, fundraising, education and grant writing.