Biological Scientist Job Description

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A biological scientist studies living organisms and how they relate to the environment. Because the understanding of life processes is important to developing new products and processes for health and industry, this is a very important part of what biological scientists do.

The research biological scientists do is usually comprised of either basic or applied research. When the research is basic research, there is no goal in mind and scientists are simply seeking to understand more about life processes in general. Applied research is done to solve a particular problem or to develop a particular product. Biological scientists usually specialize in a particular area, because the area of biological science is so broad. For example, zoology and microbiology are two areas of biological science one can specialize in.

With basic research, humans' knowledge of living organisms is the focus, but it's geared toward improving the environment and taking care of humans' health. Biological scientists are usually very active in the laboratory, whether it be in a university setting, private industry, or in the government.

Because biological science is so geared toward research, most biological scientists pursue postdoctoral fellow positions or postdoctoral fellowship positions as part of their career. In all areas of research, they must usually obtain funding by submitting grant proposals for projects, and this funding comes from private foundations, colleges, universities, the federal government, or agencies like the National Institutes of Health or the National Science Foundation.

The knowledge biological scientist's gain from their research is used to improve the human condition in general, and therefore focuses on improvements in a number of areas. For example, in the medical field, biological scientists may work on developing new drugs and new treatments for disease and on new medical diagnostic tests, or they may focus on energy production, such as development of new bio fuels or other energy sources for consumption. They may find new ways to grow food or increase crop yields, and so much more. The type of research they do is almost limitless in what it can focus on.

Most often, biological scientists work in teams with other professionals, including technicians, scientists from other disciplines, engineers, business managers, and so on.

Education Required

Biological scientists need a PhD in biology or a sub-field of biology to work in independent research and development. They may also have just a masters or bachelors degree when they are just starting out, but a PhD is usually required for independent research. Those pursuing biological science as part of their career paths commonly undertake postdoctoral fellow or postdoctoral fellowship positions. Postdoctoral fellowship positions are important to those in biological science because they not only provide research experience specific to a particular scientist's area of study, but this also allows a particular scientist to publish his or her research findings. These types of postdoctoral fellowship positions also let these scientists build a body of published research, which can assist them in establishing themselves in academia, with a permanent university faculty or college position.

Outlook and Salary

Because the biological sciences vary so widely, salaries, too, vary widely. However, a biological scientist who is just starting out with a bachelor's new degree can expect to make about $33,000 a year. Those with advanced degrees have average salaries of about $80,000 to $90,000 year. The job outlook is also very good, although competition for academic positions will continue to be fierce, as it has been.
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