An Online Introduction

to Advanced Biology




Introduction:  Biology Career Areas





Students dont 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.

If you feel strongly that your future career will involve science, you may want to read this reference about the educational choices you will need to make along the way.  It is a very general primer that applies to many scientific disciplines, not just biology.

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 (thats an exaggeration, but not much of one).

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 are most likely in a field at least related to human health - its where the money is.

Some other biology subfields are popular but offer small hope of a successful career - there just arent that many jobs available.  These would include marine biology, wildlife biology, 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.


The next book section deals with biology of the molecular level, which is the level at which most of modern research is aimed.  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.

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.






Online Introduction to Biology (Advanced)

Copyright 2003 - 2011, Michael McDarby.

Reproduction and/or dissemination without permission is prohibited.  Linking to these pages is fine.


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