What Can You Do with a Major in Biology?

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Your guide to glide from campus to career

This book helps you get from the lab to life! Whether you're considering majoring in biology, choosing a college or classes, or already have your degree and your lab coat, this is your definitive guide to diverse career opportunities, some of which you probably haven't considered. It goes beyond the basics to address specific concerns of biology majors with valuable ...

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Overview

Your guide to glide from campus to career

This book helps you get from the lab to life! Whether you're considering majoring in biology, choosing a college or classes, or already have your degree and your lab coat, this is your definitive guide to diverse career opportunities, some of which you probably haven't considered. It goes beyond the basics to address specific concerns of biology majors with valuable information, including:
* Advice on college and curriculum choices—— courses, internships, advanced degrees, and more
* Tips to energize and expand your job search
* Profiles of real graduates, their jobs, and how they got them
* Eye-opening, objective information from a healthcare professional, education and outreach program manager, zookeeper, science reporter, healthcare attorney, and public health consultant
* Overviews of typical salary levels, hours, and work environments
* Extensive additional resources, including Web sites, professional organizations, periodicals, and more
* Licensing requirements

Learn what your peers in the work world like about their jobs—and what they don't. Learn about the routes they took and the mistakes they made. Then you'll be prepared to thoroughly examine your options and chart your course to success!

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780764576065
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
  • Publication date: 3/1/2005
  • Series: What Can You Do with a Major in... Series , #5
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 144
  • Product dimensions: 5.32 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 0.32 (d)

Meet the Author

JENNIFER A. HOROWITZ is a graduate of Columbia University with a degree in education of the gifted from Teachers College and in writing from Barnard College. She has worked in New York City schools, with educational publishers and authors, and as an advisor to parents of gifted children.

BART ASTOR is the author of numerous books, articles, and interactive programs that have appeared in national magazines and Web sites. He is a contributing author and editor for various college guides and publisher of the College Planning Quarterly, a national newsletter on college admission and financial aid.

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Read an Excerpt

What Can You Do with a Major in Biology


By Bart Astor

John Wiley & Sons

ISBN: 0-7645-7606-2


Chapter One

Majoring in Biology

There is probably no area of specialization in today's world undergoing more change than the field of biology. Dramatic progress has revolutionized the science, and approaches using mathematics, chemistry, physics, and technology have led to extraordinary changes in the method of teaching biology. As a result, you will see wide disparity in the curricula at different schools, depending on the degree to which the university is a world leader in research. There will almost always be some kind of core curriculum essential to building a student's breadth of knowledge in bio.

In this book we will focus on that core since the breadth of instruction is so wide. And as new areas of exploration open new frontiers, not every college will offer every specialty within biology. In some ways that will make your choice of college harder and in some ways easier. If, for example, you are an A student with an interest and work experience in, for example, genetic engineering, your choices of curriculum will be limited to those colleges offering opportunities for advanced research in highly specialized fields. In contrast, if you are in high school and, like most of your classmates, did well and enjoyed your high school biology classes, may have even taken Advanced Placement courses, and think you want to major in biology, you may be looking for a curriculum thatoffers a broader scope of courses. In that case you will be looking at programs that provide you with a greater overview of the various fields from which you can choose.

In the accompanying table, you can see the fields of college study under biological sciences in the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Take note that premed is listed as just one of the subspecialties. As I said at the outset, many colleges offer a premed major for those who are looking to enter medicine and become doctors. The curriculum for a premed is usually quite similar to that of bio majors.

Degrees and Curricula

Many colleges with a major in biology, except for the most selective and specialty-oriented, offer two kinds of degrees: a Bachelor of Arts (B.A.) and a Bachelor of Science (B.S.). These two degrees have overlapping but different requirements.

See the sidebar for the requirements for a B.A. degree at an excellent university, but not one considered to be in the very top echelon of colleges.

As you can see, students must take 32 credit hours in biology, including introductory courses, cell biology, animal biology, microbiology, ecology, and genetics. In addition, students aiming for a B.A. take a year of chemistry, a statistics course, and two other science courses.

The B.S. major, on the other hand, requires significantly more science: 12 additional hours of biology, an additional year of chemistry or geology, a year of physics, and an additional year of math.

In contrast, another college-a more selective, prestigious one- offers only one kind of biology degree. At this school, you can complete only a B.S. program, and you must select from among three choices:

* Biological sciences (a broad-based major) * Molecular and cellular biology * Ecology, evolution, and organismal biology

The core curriculum for all three specialties requires that students take three basic bio courses: introduction to biology, introductory lab work, and genetics, plus one year each of general and organic chemistry, including labs. In addition, depending on which specialty is chosen, students must take 30 hours of biology courses (approximately 10 courses), some of which are lab courses, and an upper-level seminar or independent study. These can be in a variety of subjects depending on the field of specialty: cell biology, biochemistry, botany, zoology, evolution, insect ecology, biology of insects, biological clocks, ecology, plant-animal interactions, statistical methods in biology, molecular evolution, and environmental toxins.

Furthermore, to enroll in an honors program at this university, students must write a thesis and present an oral defense of that thesis, similar to what Ph.D. candidates are required to do, although not original research, as is often required for doctorates.

As you can see, the curricula for these two colleges is fairly similar in that both will require 10 or more courses specifically in biology as well as three or more science or math courses. In general, these colleges are typical of the course requirements, although comparing some can be difficult because some colleges are on the semester schedule; others are on the quarter system; some use credit hours; some use units and define the term locally; some offer a greater variety of choice in sciences and other electives; and others limit the number and type of electives.

Minor in Biological Sciences

Many colleges and universities offer students the chance to major in one discipline and minor in another. Essentially, that means you are choosing one primary area of study as well as a secondary specialty. This will appear on your transcript when you graduate.

To minor in bio, students are usually required to take the same introductory courses required of majors, including the lab course, a course in genetics, and three other upper-level biology courses. In addition, of course, you would have to take all of the courses required of the other department in which you are majoring. Although that may require a large commitment of time, many students do so successfully.

If you are considering majoring in a different subject area and minoring in biology, you should speak with an advisor to make sure it is possible at the college you are attending and that you will be able to coordinate the courses easily. Because of the time demands of biology- in particular, the time required for lab courses-some colleges do not permit a minor in bio, especially if the major is in another course requiring lab courses. In addition, it might be impossible to take the required courses in the allotted time because not all courses are offered each semester.

Minors in Other Departments and Double Majors

Many colleges also permit biology majors to minor in another discipline or to double-major in two areas, one of which can be biology. Often the two fields are related, such as with chemistry or mathematics. But indeed, students have combined biology with such diverse areas as foreign languages, music, and fine arts.

Because of the inherent time commitment required, doing a double major in engineering is difficult. But with careful planning and guidance, this also can be accomplished. The university featured earlier, like many others, does not permit students to do a double major (or a minor) in two of the biology fields it offers. In other universities, it may be possible to double major in two bio fields, although probably not recommended.

College Rankings

Ranking colleges is a popular pastime about which I have very strong negative feelings. To me, rankings are of little value to students. I say that for a number of reasons: (1) the rankings are quite subjective; (2) a high ranking in one major (or even one area of biology) does not necessarily mean a similar ranking in another major or area; (3) you can find little difference between, say a ranking of 25 and 30; and (4) a college that is excellent for one student might be subpar for another. Certainly, you would agree that there is no real difference between colleges ranked as numbers one and two. If you are the kind of student that thrives in a small college atmosphere, but you attend a more highly ranked college that is large, was that a good choice for you? Maybe not. Just because a college is ranked high one year-just before you start your freshman year-is there any guarantee that by your senior year it will still be ranked highly? And which is more important, a high ranking based on strong faculty and research, even though in your first two years you will be taking introductory courses, or a high ranking when you're a senior and have access to some of these great faculty members?

Colleges Offering Biology Programs

Although there are many reasons to disregard rankings, I do believe it is essential to look at lists of colleges to determine whether or not you have a chance of getting accepted. The last thing you want is to find yourself not accepted at any college.

With that in mind, I offer the following lists of colleges to help you get a leg up on which colleges to apply to. I have provided a partial list of colleges that offer excellent biology programs, broken up by whether they are highly selective (admit under 50 percent of applicants) or less selective (admit more than 75 precent of applicants) and listed in alphabetical order (not ranked). Because of the number of colleges offering biology as a major, this list is just a sample. For more information about them and other colleges, I recommend you use one of the excellent handbooks available, listed in the Appendix.

Entrance Requirements

Before starting your college biology program-whether you are seeking either a B.A. or B.S. degree-you must have completed a specific number of courses in high school or prep school. Following are the minimums and recommended numbers of required years of precollege study.

Skills and Abilities Required to Succeed in This Major

It should come with little surprise that success in biology requires strong quantitative and analytical skills. Keep in mind, however, that much of this is learned through coursework and study. It's not something you already know! It's helpful, of course, to have an aptitude for science and to be analytical in your approach to your studies. But you should not rule out a career in biology, even if you found some of the coursework in high school challenging. Some of our greatest scientists and mathematicians-Albert Einstein, to name one-struggled through their courses in fields in which they later excelled.

That said, it does help to have some particular skills in order to succeed as a biology major and, later on, as a professional. Of course, practical knowledge of the fundamentals of biology and other technical areas, such as chemistry and math, is important, and much of that you can pick up in high school. But in addition, there are some other areas in which you should feel comfortable. For example, you should have good oral and written communication skills since many positions in the bio field require writing articles and speaking to individuals as well as to small and large groups. You could be working in the field of public health, for example, where dealing with the public is a major part of your job. Or you could be writing up your experiments and presenting papers on them, so being able to write clearly will help you. Again, writing is a skill you can learn through practice and study. But you should know going in that you will likely do a lot of writing if you stay in the biology field.

You should feel comfortable working with data and information because analysis and interpretation are key parts of being a scientist. And you should probably feel comfortable working with scientific equipment if you intend to conduct research. Again, these can both be learned in high school and advanced studies.

Apart from the specific skills you need to succeed, there are some other areas where specific abilities can help when you graduate with a degree in biology.

First of all, you should have a basic curiosity about the world. Much of scientific research and work requires that you think about how things work or how they are. And being creative in your thinking will also help you "think outside the box," so you don't just accept things as they are.

Secondly, since researchers, writers, and scientists do much of their work alone-designing studies, analyzing data, or writing up results- the ability to work independently will help you. At the same time, you will want to have the ability to work as part of a team, because rarely are studies done by just one person.

Wrap Up

Now that you know a little about what it will be like to be a biology major and what might be required of you, we will talk about how to choose a college and how to pay for it. We will provide insight into what admission officers are looking for in college admission applications. Admissions professionals repeatedly say that the most important part of a college entrance application is the transcript. For some colleges, that one factor will make or break the decision. So it will be important for you to look at the courses you took with a critical eye. Did you challenge yourself? Will that reflect in your transcript?

We'll also discuss test scores, letters of recommendation, extracurricular activities, and the personal statement to give you an idea of how they affect the decision of whether or not you are admitted.

In the next chapter, we talk about how you can afford to go to the college of your choice even if your family's resources are limited. We demonstrate that no student, regardless of ability to pay, will be denied the opportunity to attend. Yes, we understand and point out that a great deal of need-based financial aid is in the form of loans that students-and their families-have to pay back later. But we make the clear point that getting a college education is well worth the financial risk.

(Continues...)



Excerpted from What Can You Do with a Major in Biology by Bart Astor Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

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Table of Contents

Introduction.

1. Majoring in Biology.

2. Choosing a College for Biology Majors.

3. Internships and Attending Graduate School.

4. Career Possibilities.

5. Breaking into the Job Market.

6. Case Studies.

7. Final Thoughts.

Appendix: Resources.

Index.

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