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From Grolier's The New Book of Knowledge
The world's diversity of living things offers the student of biology what can perhaps be best described as a mind-boggling variety of career choices. Job opportunities range from highly technical laboratory work to physically demanding fieldwork, sometimes in remote habitats.

As is the case with all scientists, an important trait shared by every good biologist is a keen curiosity about life, be it on the level of molecules or entire ecosystems. Many future biologists enjoy reading about science in magazines and watching nature shows on television. They are interested in studying and working with plants and animals. And chances are, young biologists find a good laboratory experiment fascinating.

The level of education needed to pursue a biology career depends on a person's ambitions. Virtually all careers in life sciences require some education beyond the high-school level. In preparation, high-school students should take chemistry, physics, and math classes, along with the biology courses in their curriculum. Computer science has become increasingly important as well.

A high-school diploma and several years of technical schooling qualify a person to work as an entry-level laboratory technician in many medical and research centers. Advancement in the field, however, usually depends on further education. Most biology careers require at least a four-year college degree (bachelor of science) in one of the biological sciences, and the best opportunities await those who complete graduate-level studies. Typically, a master's degree requires one or two years of study beyond a bachelor's degree, with at least two to three additional years for a doctorate. Many graduate students in the biological sciences work in their chosen field while pursuing these upper-level studies.

Over the course of a career, a biologist may conduct research, teach at the high school or college level, manage a workplace, and produce medical or industrial products. Many careers in the life sciences emphasize several of these activities at the same time. Some biologists switch from one activity to another at different stages of their careers.

Employers in the life sciences include educational institutions (from elementary schools, middle schools, and high schools to colleges and universities), government agencies, private research foundations, medical centers, zoos, botanical gardens, natural-history museums, and a wide variety of industrial, medical, and business concerns.

The American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS) offers a wealth of information on life-science careers and education. You can contact the AAAS through its Internet site ( or by writing AAAS, 1200 New York Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20005. While on the Internet, you can also visit the pages of many universities that offer majors in biology, biochemistry, and related fields.

Copyright © 2002 Grolier Incorporated. All Rights Reserved.