Many people who earn an undergraduate degree in biology go on to medical school or other advanced professional school to continue their education, but some people take a break at the Bachelor
of Science level and work for a few years before returning to school. In some biotechnology companies and research labs, the minimum required education is a master’s degree, though there are also many interesting jobs for those with a BS degree in Biology.
The core courses for the degree in biology are similar at most universities. You will be required to take courses in General Biology, Chemistry, Physics and Mathematics. Choosing electives is where you have more freedom to select classes geared toward your individual interests. Some people choose electives in botany and marine biology, while others may choose to study molecular science by taking advanced courses in genetics and biochemistry. Depending on the electives you choose in school while completing your degree, you will graduate with some basic skills that can translate into a great career.
There are always lab positions available for new grads in the Biotechnology Industry. This is a perfect first job for honing your lab skills and discovering the kind of work you like to do. Many companies create biological research materials like growth mediums and biological additives that are in demand by research labs. Some parts of the job include manufacturing the products by following an established standard operating procedure, quality control testing of the manufactured products to ensure that they meet required standards, and bottling, packaging and labeling the finished product. Working at a biotechnology company offers new graduates a chance to polish their lab skills, learn how to operate various types of lab equipment, and learn the overall basics of manufacturing biological products. There is also the aspect of process improvement where the employee can contribute ideas to improving the manufacturing process.
Pharmaceutical Company Careers
A job at a pharmaceutical company is more difficult to secure without experience. Pharmaceutical companies are more regimented because the products they make are for human consumption and the FDA has strict manufacturing requirements for any product intended for human consumption. An entry-level job at a pharmaceutical company may be appropriate for a person who has a high degree of attention to detail as well as those who prefer to work within a lot of structure. There is less freedom to contribute ideas in development of products and strict adherence to protocols and procedures is required.
Independent Testing Labs
There is the opportunity for new graduates in either Biology or Chemistry to work in an independent testing facility. These facilities run on contracts from large Pharmaceutical companies and perform the routine testing of human samples. When a drug is in the later stages of development, it is tested on humans to see how it reacts in the body. Commonly, blood is drawn or urine is collected and sent off to the testing lab for analysis. Depending on the desired compound, various chemical extraction methods can be used to isolate and quantify the compound. An entry level Biology or Chemistry graduate has the necessary knowledge and education to perform this testing with training on specific protocols and procedures, and under the supervision of a staff scientist. Working in an independent testing lab is a great way to gain lab skills and learn to work effectively and accurately because there is an enormous emphasis on deadlines in this work.
Many research labs hire new biology graduates to perform the routine testing necessary in research. Under supervision by a PhD, a research technician or technologist can carry out various tests and perform a wide variety of laboratory tasks. Working as a research technician offers the most varied work environment, and depending on the supervising scientist, an excellent opportunity to learn. Some of the things you could do as a research technician or technologist include growing cells for use in experiments, maintaining animal stocks for testing, and mixing up reagents and solutions for use in experiments. There is also the emphasis on recording all data and documenting all procedures in a laboratory notebook. The chance of being published as a contributor in a scientific journal is also a strong reason why many graduates seek out research positions after graduating.
An undergraduate degree in biology may be seen by some to be a stepping stone to a career in medicine or the first academic achievement on the long educational road in pursuit of a doctorate degree. But there are plenty of opportunities in science for those who possess a BS in biology. And gaining industry or laboratory experience after earning your undergraduate degree is a great way to decide what you want to study in graduate school.