Biology - Molecules and Cells


 Terms and Concepts 



CHAPTER 1 - Biology Careers


Biology Careers - Subfields


For a lot of biology careers, the career path is through the research laboratory - graduate students, after earning their Bachelor's of Science (BS) degrees, do small research projects inside the parameters of what a particular academic lab (or sometimes, a combination of labs) are doing.  Students earn advanced degrees - Master of Science degrees (MS) and Doctor of Philosophy degrees (PhD) - in graduate school.  From there, they may move in postdoctoral research, similar to graduate research and kind of a "holding pattern" for careers, where they will eventually teach, and/or running their own academic labs or working in industry.

A page describing the science education process.

Students don't really go on to become "biologists" today - eventually, they will settle into one of the vast number of subfields within biology.  Students in an Introductory Biology course have a wide variety of motivations for being there.  Some have the course as a requirement for their non-biology major, some have a clear idea of what they want to do eventually, and some have only the most vague concept and may not even be sure that taking such a starting course is a good idea.

In biological disciplines, many first-year students are intending to go into medicine.  Be warned!  Getting into medical school, or veterinary school, is extremely difficult and comparable to getting into the best universities as an undergraduate:  not only will you need close-to-flawless grades, but the deciding factors may be extracurricular, everything from ethnic background and hometown to what sorts of extraordinary accomplishments or training you may have.   It is an unfortunate fact of life that the vast majority of freshman who see themselves as "pre-med" or "pre-vet" will not even finish their undergraduate education still in the sciences;  the fraction of these freshman who go on to medical careers is almost comparable to the fraction of college athletes who become professional ones (that's an exaggeration, but not much of one).  Also, be aware that specialty training is expensive - unlike graduate school, where the school pays the students (not well, but still...), you will probably taking out huge loans for medical / veterinary / dental / optometry school.

There is, however, a lot of medical research going on that is not done by doctors, so not making the grades for medical school will not necessarily keep you from a career in medicine.  In fact, most biologists doing research today are likely in a field at least peripherally related to human health - it's where the funding is.

In the near future, it is expected that a lot of technical jobs - folks doing sophisticated laboratory work, such as clinical chemists and several types of medical technologists - will come available, as around half of the people currently working these fields are within a decade of retirement age.

Some other biology subfields are popular but offer small hope of a successful career - there just aren't that many jobs available.  These would include marine biology, wildlife biology, forensics, and paleontology.  Careers in marine and wildlife biology may lead to the handful of marine research labs, but both will probably only lead to jobs as college professors at research universities or fairly low-level jobs in the particular field.

The pathway for medical school.

Medical school costs.

Getting into veterinary school.

Costs for one particular veterinary school.

Dental school.

Medical technologist jobs.

Clinical chemist jobs (which many biologists have the skills for).

Marine biologist jobs ("highly competitive").

"Forensics Biology" is a very broad designation.




This book section deals with biology on the molecular level, which is the level at which most of modern research is done.  Molecular biology, genetics, neuroscience, immunology, embryology and development, and other similar fields left the "see it with the naked eye" region long ago and are investigated in terms of what the molecules are doing.  Ecology is less molecular-based, but is primarily a statistics-driven field.  Statistics (translation: math with a heavy dose of computer applications) figure prominently in several other areas as well.

Genetic engineering may become during your lifetime what computers became during your parents', as applications beyond medicine may play out their wide-ranging potential.  Biotechnology companies may be to this generation what computer-based companies were to the last.

Bioinformatics represent the intersection of sophisticated computer systems and biology, mostly molecular biology.  The type of analysis, data collection, and database establishment that can be done with computers has led to this specialty of biotechnology.  As DNA-sequencing technology improves, a need for people who can design ways to analyze the sequences increases.  Basically, our ability to gather and catalog information has far outstripped out ability to figure out what it all means.

A source of genetic engineering news.


The potential of genetic engineering.


More information on bioinformatics (organization site).


Terms and Concepts

In the order they were covered.

  Degrees Available




General Biology 2 - Molecules and Cells

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