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Careers in Biology & Psychology
Career options for those interested in both biology and psychology typically fall under the categories of neuroscience and ethology. Neuroscience involves the study of the nervous system from anatomical, biochemical and physiological standpoints. Ethology involves studying animal behavior based on ecological and evolutionary effects. If education beyond the bachelor's level is not an option, shoot for a position as a research assistant. If the sky's the limit, opportunities exist for doctors of philosophy (Ph.D.), doctors of veterinary medicine (D.V.M.) and medical doctors (M.D.).
Doctorate-Level Careers in Neuroscience
Psychiatrists are medical doctors who complete traditional medical training and residency requirements. These doctors treat patients for disorders relating to mental, behavioral and emotional problems. Clinical psychologists go a different route, completing doctoral programs rather than medical programs. Clinical psychologists also treat patients, but, without the use of medical means such as pharmacology. Both of these doctors might work in medical institutions, rehabilitation centers, school systems and correctional facilities, as well as in private practices. Psychologists who focus on research and teaching rather than treatment generally work for universities.
Doctorate-Level Careers in Ethology
Ethologists study animal behavior and how various stimuli can affect that behavior. Research laboratories hire ethologists to study the effects of new drugs on animal behaviors or the links between disease and behavior, and to see to the care and well-being of animals. Government agencies hire ethologists to work in wildlife programs. Zoos, museums and aquariums often hire ethologists with D.V.M. degrees and additional education in another field of biology, such as animal husbandry or a taxonomic discipline, such as mammalogy or primatology. Doctoral programs for ethologists can cross into comparative psychology, behavior ecology or sociobiology.
Master's- and Bachelor's-Level Careers
For those not ready to pursue doctorates and who have an interest in focusing on human behaviors, career options can include social work or rehabilitation counseling, both of which typically require master's degrees. Research is another option. Full-time positions as research assistants are often available to candidates with either bachelor's or master's degrees, and part-time opportunities exist for interns and others currently in pursuit of degrees. On the ethology side, zoos and museums hire research assistants and educators focused on biological and behavioral sciences to prepare displays and give tours and lectures. Additional requirements for educators typically include a background in secondary or adult education.
Preparing for These Careers
Washington University in St. Louis recommends that undergraduate students who are interested in exploring career paths straddling both biology and psychology go the route of a double major in both biology and psychology, or elect a major in biology and a minor in psychology. Advanced courses in neuroscience are also recommended, along with at least one course in statistics. Immaculata University recommends that students also work on developing strong writing skills to enable greater opportunities in careers that involve scientific publishing. Wheaton College in Massachusetts advises students who want to progress into graduate programs to gain research experience at the undergraduate level.
- Washington University in St. Louis -- Department of Biology: Careers in the Life Sciences
- University of Arizona -- Department of Psychology: Program Overview Ethology and Evolutionary Psychology
- Indiana University -- Center for the Integrated Study of Animal Behavior: Careers in Animal Behavior
- Immaculata University: B.A. in Biology/Psychology
A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.
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