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The Pros and Cons for Careers in Biology
Biology is one of the major areas of study at any educational institution, along with other core areas like math and language. One reason for this is that biology has such a direct influence on everyday life, but another reason is that so many careers relate to the field. Advantages and disadvantages exist for all biology-related careers as a whole.
What people know about aspects of biology is very little -- doctors still don't yet have a complete understanding of brain development, for instance, and only a small percentage of the earth's species have been discovered, studied and documented thoroughly. When you choose a career in biology, you always have the ability to learn, to challenge yourself to discover and come up with something innovative.
In most biology-related careers, pay is both stable and good to excellent. For example, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of 2009, biological scientists typically earn between $60,000 and $89,000 annually, depending on their classification, with some earning well over $100,000 per year. Part of this has to do with the fact there always is a need for biological data and research, and because biology is applicable to high-demand, high-skill industries like health care. Pay also is higher because many people who study biology get graduate degrees, which command higher salaries.
Skill Application and Job Diversity
The skills necessary for a career in biology -- for instance, observation, rationalization, organization -- are applicable to many different jobs. For instance, a study of anatomy is applicable to pharmacology as much as it is prosthetic design. This means that you might be able to very easily change your career path without necessarily having to engage in lengthy and costly additional training. Put another way, studying biology makes you marketable to a large number of employers.
Perception of the Field
People sometimes perceive biology, like other science-oriented fields, as requiring high intellect, discipline and strict adherence to procedure. Therefore, although the public certainly recognizes the benefits of biological study, there often is still a tendency for biologists to get labeled as geeky, nerdy, stuffy or even boring. You must be comfortable being associated with these negative connotations.
Most biology jobs pose little to no risk to workers, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics points out. However, some jobs do pose slight risks. For example, if you do a field study, you might be exposed to inclement weather or have to engage in physical activity like lifting equipment. In laboratories, there sometimes is the risk for exposure to disease -- for instance, through an accidental needle prick -- although strict adherence to safety procedures limits the possibility of contamination.
Isolation and Attention to Detail
Some biology jobs can be lonely or isolating. For example, you can look at a microscope slide alone. In some careers, tasks are quite repetitive. You may not have the support network at work that employees in other industries do. You also must pay close attention to detail no matter how many times you do a task, to avoid making mistakes.
Wanda Thibodeaux is a freelance writer and editor based in Eagan, Minn. She has been published in both print and Web publications and has written on everything from fly fishing to parenting. She currently works through her business website, Takingdictation.com, which functions globally and welcomes new clients.