Q: I am working on my associate’s degree in Biology. I was going to pursue my bachelor’s, however I am afraid that I will not find a good job because of all the rumors I’ve heard about this degree. Eventually, I want to pursue a higher degree but wanted advice as to what to do next. Should I keep going with a bachelor degree’s or should I major in something else, like nursing or something specific? Any advice would be greatly appreciated.
A: Congratulations on furthering your education in one of the expected growth areas within the US. It is probably better to rely on facts, rather than rumors, about the job prospects for a biology major.
According to a May, 2009 Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) report, STEM occupations (jobs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) represented nearly 8 million jobs (or 6%) of the jobs in the US. Also according to the May, 2009 BLS report, STEM occupations were high-paying. For all STEM occupations the mean annual wage was $77,880. STEM occupations are often in knowledge-rich fields where education-level matters. You are smart to consider furthering your education beyond an associate’s. Most of these knowledge-rich fields will require a bachelor’s degree or even a master’s degree. In some fields, a doctorate may be preferred or even required.
I believe there is a mix of factors when considering what is the best path for you. Consider the following:
1. What courses do you like? What courses do you dislike?
2. What are your strengths? Are you a strong writer? Do you enjoy building spreadsheets?
3. What areas are expected to grow within the field of biology? Is there a specific field within biology which appeals to you?
4. Try to work in a few different roles through internships, summer jobs or volunteer roles. If you don’t enjoy a particular role, that’s ok. It is better to discover that now than later.
5. Research pay scales for different roles.
A biology degree could open many doors for you. A bachelor’s in biology could lead you to working in a pharmaceutical company or in a university. Or if you enjoy writing and biology, technical writing might be a path worth considering. Biology majors have landed jobs in zoos, aquariums, hospitals, labs, environmental organizations, colleges and universities, government agencies, research organizations and museums.
Registered nurses are in demand and this demand is expected to continue. As we, as a country, grapple with healthcare, including healthcare reform, obesity and living longer, nurses will continue to be in demand.
Neither path is wrong. However, you have to find out which path you would enjoy. Many of us spend 40 or more hours per week working at our jobs. Make sure you like most of what you do.