Employment of biological scientists is expected to increase
much faster than the average
for all occupations although there will continue to be competition for some
basic research positions.
Employment change. Employment of
biological scientists is projected to grow 21 percent over the 2008ó18 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 decadesóreflecting, 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 conditions.
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 science.
Job prospects. 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 and universities.
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.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor,
Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2010-11 Edition
Find related resources below:
Biological Scientist Income
Biological Scientist Training and Qualifications