Biology Subdisciplines

To learn more about career options for biologists select one of the subdisciplines below:


Plant Biology (Botany)
Career opportunities in plant biology typically fall into one of three employer categories: educational institutions, federal and state agencies, and industries.

The majority of plant biologists are employed by educational institutions, such as high schools, colleges and universities. Many of these positions require at least a master’s degree, with a Ph.D. being mandatory for most research and teaching positions at colleges and universities.

In addition to educational settings, federal and state agencies hire botanists in a variety of fields. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture hires botanists to staff the Medical Plant Resources Laboratory, the Animal and Plant Inspection Service, the U.S. Forest Service, and the National Arboretum.

Finally, plant biologists are also employed by many private sector industries, such as plant nurseries, food industries, drug companies, oil corporations, lumber companies and fruit-growing industries.

The following list includes employers that regularly hire plant biologists:

  • Agronomy and agricultural industries
  • Biological supply houses
  • Biotechnology firms
  • Botanical gardens
  • Environmental organizations (NGOs)
  • Food industries
  • Governmental agencies
  • Horticulture businesses and companies
  • Museums and arboretums
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Universities and colleges


For additional information, consult the following web sites:


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Although a wide range of career choices are available to microbiologists, workplace settings and specific positions vary depending on the level of education and training received.

For example, a bachelor’s degree in microbiology will qualify you to work as a laboratory technician in many clinical, governmental, research and industrial settings. A master’s degree would make possible a career as a laboratory supervisor or an instructor at a community or technical college. To attain senior management positions in industry or to conduct independent research for a university or governmental agency, a Ph.D. is typically required.

The following list provides examples of various employers that require the expertise of microbiologists:

  • Agricultural companies
  • Food corporations
  • Governmental agencies (e.g., National Institute of Health, Environmental Protection Agency)
  • Medical, clinical and health organizations
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Universities and colleges
  • Water treatment facilities


For additional information, consult the following web sites:


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Zoology is the branch of biology that explores the animal kingdom, including the anatomy and physiology of animals, as well as their embryology, classification, evolution, distribution, behavior and relationship to other organisms.

Zoologists work with animals held in captivity and research laboratories, as well as those located in conservation districts, wildlife reserves and natural habitats. Zoologists investigate animals at nearly all levels of biological organization – from the molecular to the community level.

Advanced degrees are often required, particularly for research and teaching positions. Veterinary medicine requires professional training beyond the baccalaureate level and admission into veterinary science programs is very competitive.

Career opportunities in the field of zoology can be found in the following sectors:

  • Aquariums
  • Forensic laboratories
  • Governmental and environmental agencies (such as those involved with fish and wildlife services and environmental protection)
  • Industries (such as laboratory supply)
  • Museums
  • Publishing companies (scientific writing and editing)
  • Universities and colleges
  • Veterinary hospitals (employing veterinarians and veterinary technicians)
  • Wildlife refuges, national parks and game reserves
  • Zoos and zoological societies


For additional information, consult the following web sites:


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Wildlife and Conservation Biology
Biologists with experience in wildlife and natural resource conservation have career opportunities in research (such as analyzing the effects of pesticides or predation on wildlife species), wildlife management (e.g., operating refuges), consulting (e.g., assessing the impact of proposed developments on the environment), and teaching – both in traditional academia and environmental education settings.

Additional educational opportunities can be found in the ecotourism industry and in working as an interpreter or docent in a park or preserve. A minimum of a bachelor’s degree is usually required, and a graduate degree is desirable.

Career opportunities in wildlife and conservation biology exist in:

  • Environmental organizations (NGOs)
  • Environmental law firms
  • Game wardens and conservation authorities
  • Governmental agencies (such as those involved with fisheries and wildlife research and management, forestry, and environmental protection agencies)  
  • Industries involved with air, land and water management and/or quality control
  • National Parks, conservation districts and preserves
  • Universities and colleges
  • Waste management companies
  • Wildlife refuges
  • Zoos, aquariums and museums


For additional information, consult the following web sites:


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Medical and Biotechnological Research
While scientific research is utilized by all subdisciplines of biology, as discussed above, the fields of medical and biotechnological research must also be explored when investigating careers in biology.

Medical scientists, with goals of prevention and treatment of health problems, specialize in such areas as developmental biology, epidemiology, immunology and pharmacology.  Biological technology fields include biochemistry, cellular and molecular biology, genetics, and microbiology. Advancements in biotechnological research are utilized by agricultural, pharmaceutical and medical industries. Research positions usually require a minimum of a master’s degree.

Employment opportunities exist in:

  • Governmental agencies
  • Medical centers
  • Private sector industries
  • Universities and colleges


For additional information, consult the following web sites:


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Health Care
Biology majors interested in clinical science may find employment as medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians. Some of these positions require training beyond the bachelor’s degree.

A biology or zoology degree can be a stepping-stone to advanced schooling leading to a variety of health care careers. A bachelor’s degree is usually required for consideration by professional schools. Admission to such schools is very competitive.

Examples of job titles in health care include dentist, nurse, occupational therapist, pharmacist, physical therapist, physician and physician assistant.

For additional information, consult the following web sites:


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Biologists wishing to teach at the secondary education level require a bachelor’s degree with teaching certification. For college-level teaching, a minimum of a master’s degree is required, and universities generally require doctoral degrees for full-time, tenure-track positions.

For additional information, consult the following web sites:


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