Career Path Forecast
According to the
U.S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor
Statistics, employment of biological
scientists is projected to grow 21 percent over the 2008 - 2018 decade,
much faster than the average for all occupations, as biotechnological
research and development continues to drive job growth.
Biological scientists enjoyed very rapid employment gains
over the past few decades -- reflecting, in part, the growth of the
biotechnology industry. Employment growth will moderate somewhat as the
biotechnology industry matures, with fewer new firms being founded and
existing firms merging or being absorbed by larger biotechnology or
pharmaceutical firms. However, much of the basic biological research done
in recent years has resulted in new knowledge, including the isolation and
identification of genes. Biological scientists will be needed to take this
knowledge to the next stage, understanding how certain genes function
within an entire organism, so that medical treatments can be developed to
treat various diseases. Even pharmaceutical and other firms not solely
engaged in biotechnology use biotechnology techniques extensively, spurring
employment for biological scientists. For example, biological scientists
are continuing to help farmers increase crop yields by pinpointing genes
that can help crops, such as wheat, grow in more extreme climate
In addition, efforts to discover new and improved ways to
clean up and preserve the environment will continue to add to job growth.
More biological scientists will be needed to determine the environmental impact
of industry and government actions and to prevent or correct environmental
problems, such as the negative effects of pesticide use. Some biological
scientists will find opportunities in environmental regulatory agencies,
while others will use their expertise to advise lawmakers on legislation to
save environmentally sensitive areas. New industrial applications of
biotechnology, such as new methods for producing biofuels, also will spur
demand for biological scientists.
The Federal Government is a major source of funding for
basic research and development, including many areas of medical research
that relate to biological science. Large budget increases at the National
Institutes of Health in the early part of the decade led to increases in
Federal basic research and development expenditures, with research grants
growing both in number and dollar amount. However, the increase in
expenditures slowed substantially in recent years. Going forward, the level
of Federal funding will continue to impact competition for winning and
renewing research grants.
There will continue to be demand for biological scientists
specializing in botany, zoology, and marine biology, but opportunities will
be limited because of the small size of these fields. Marine biology, despite
its attractiveness as a career, is a very small specialty within biological
Doctoral degree holders are expected to face competition for
basic research positions in academia. Furthermore, should the number of
advanced degrees awarded continue to grow, applicants for research grants
are likely to face even more competition. Currently, about 1 in 4 grant
proposals are approved for long-term research projects. In general, applied
research positions in private industry are somewhat easier to obtain, but
may become more competitive if increasing numbers of scientists seek jobs
in private industry because of the difficulty finding positions in colleges
Prospective marine biology students should be aware that
those who would like to enter this specialty far outnumber the very few
openings that occur each year for the type of glamorous research jobs that
many would like to obtain. Almost all marine biologists who do basic
research have a Ph.D.
People with bachelor's and master's degrees are expected to
have more opportunities in nonscientist jobs related to biology, in fields
like sales, marketing, publishing, and research management. Non-Ph.D.s also may fill positions as science or
engineering technicians or as medical health technologists and technicians.
Some become high school biology teachers.
Biological scientists are less likely to lose their jobs
during recessions than those in other occupations, because many are
employed on long-term research projects. However, an economic downturn
could influence the amount of money allocated to new research and
development efforts, particularly in areas of risky or innovative research.
An economic downturn also could limit the possibility of extension or
renewal of existing projects.
Note: Some resources in this section are provided by the US
Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor