Overview of Biological Sciences
As an area of study, biological sciences is a broad and general field with many sub-disciplines. Students who major in biological science often begin by developing a broad base of knowledge in math and the life sciences, and then choose an area of specialization as they progress to more advanced studies. A few of areas of specialization include: molecular biology, chemistry, ecology, animal medicine, and genetics. Specialized majors within the field of biological science are considered excellent preparation for careers in many areas, including healthcare, forestry and conservation, natural resource management, and other allied health professions.
Available Careers with a Degree in Biological Science
Students who graduate with a degree in biological science are often met by a wide range of opportunities when seeking employment. Many industries, such as the healthcare, research science, biotechnology, and medical industries, predictably rely heavily on graduates with a background in math and the life sciences. Notably, there are many other industries that demonstrate high demand for graduates with interdisciplinary science knowledge, or a specialization in one of the many areas of biological science. A few of these industries include: forestry, conservation, natural resource management, education, journalism, marketing, urban planning, law enforcement, and public safety. Listed below are many of the careers (at the entry and advanced levels) that are available to graduates with a biological science degree:
Wildlife and Conservation
Natural Resource Manager
Science and Education
Summary of Biological Science Degrees
The goal of biological science programs is to provide students with a comprehensive understanding of living organisms (life sciences) and the environment. Coursework in the early years of study typically focuses on the core principles of biology, such as molecular biology, cell theory, plant physiology, toxicology, microbiology and fundamentals in ecology. After students establish a strong foundation in the core areas of biology, they are provided with an opportunity to focus their studies in a sub-discipline of biology, such as: Forensic Biology, Marine Biology, NeuroBiology, Zoology, Molecular Biology, Genetics, Environmental Biology, Ecology, and many others.
Looking at the considerable number of specializations in the field of Biology one might ask, what is it that unifies each of these areas of study? The answer is that at it's core, a general biology degree and each of each of it's various sub-disciplines seek to build an understanding of living organisms and the science behind living things. If this subject matter interests you, continue reading for more information about the various degrees available to students.
Associates Degree in Biology
An associate degree in biological science is a two year course of study that aims to provide students with a foundation in math, life science and the lab skills necessary to progress to more complex areas of study. First year students should expect to participate in a large number of lectures and practical coursework, along with a considerable amount of lab-based work, especially for subjects like cellular biology, mircobiology, genetics, and epidemiology. Work in the field can be expected for courses like ecology, environmental biology and zoology.
Associate level coursework typically combines core science classes with general education courses. Students also develop an understanding of lab techniques such as:
- Use of a microscope and dissecting scope.
- Dissecting plant and animal specimens.
- Preparing simple solutions and preparing samples.
- Scientific description and drawing of organisms.
- Basic laboratory safety and cleaning methods.
Listed below are examples of the required and elective courses required by associate level programs in biological science:
Intro to Biology I and II
|Provide background in biology, covering concepts such as cell biology, anatomy and physiology, genetics, evolution and ecology.
|Introduction to the fundamental human anatomical structure and review of comprehensive clinical vocabulary.
|General introduction to human structure, functions, genetics, evolution and ecology through basic cellular level and genetics.
|An introductory examination of key concepts of plant physiology, including plant function and structure, photosynthesis, plant metabolism, and plant growth and development.
General Chemistry I and II
|Introduction to quantitative research methods in the areas of atomic and molecular structure, states of matter, and basic thermodynamics, followed by an examination of thermodynamics, equilibrium, kinetics, electrochemistry, and descriptive chemistry.
|Introduction to fundamentals of physics including topics such as mechanics, energy, momentum conservation, thermodynamics, and fluids.
Bachelor's Degree in Biology
Building an understanding of basic biological principles is a valuable and increasingly important background for many technical careers and science-related fields. An undergraduate degree in Biology is typically completed in four years, and is considered one of the top majors for students planning on working in the biological or applied sciences, or attending dental, medical or veterinary school. Students who enter a biological sciences program should expect to be challenged by this complex and rapidly changing subject.
The curriculum provided by a bachelor's degree program in Biology is designed to solidify a student's knowledge in the life and natural sciences while supporting a student's evolving interest in an area of specialization. This means enrolling in required and elective courses that address one's need for broad liberal arts courses (to build general skills) and then taking specific courses in subsequent years, as an area of focus is defined. Students are often given a choice to spend a large amount of time working in the lab, or undertaking personal research on an individual project. The programs provided below are examples of the courses a student should expect to take when enrolled in an undergraduate biology program:
|Overview of the diversities in the animal world and the development/composition of tissues and organ systems in the animal kingdom.
|Covers the unique structure and function of plants and plant cells, including anatomy, growth, and differentiation processes.
|Exploration of the phenomena that affect the maintenance, loss and restoration of biological diversity.
|Intermediate level examination ofvcurrent theories of structure and mechanism in organic chemistry and their historical development.
Ecology and Evolution
|Overview of principles in ecology, evolution and animal behavior with an emphasis on quantitative research and analysis.
|Overview of the origins of developmental biology as a science through the present day including historical experiments and modern techniques.
Master's Degree in Biology
Graduate level programs in biology prepare students for advanced careers in education, government, health, and other science related industries. Programs are typically designed to be heavily research centered and involve hands-on research and training. Students are typically required to identify an area of focus and develop an active research project that culminates in a formal written thesis. Upon completion of a thesis, students are expected to present their findings to a group consisting of faculty and peers for review. Graduates of masters-level programs are expected to meet program objectives that include:
- Clear understanding of scientific methods.
- Ability to independently develop and test hypotheses, analyze data and conduct experiments.
- Mastery of skills needed to write scientific research papers.
- Ability to comprehend and critically evaluate current published scientific literature.
- Critically evaluate and communicate detailed scientific information on biological questions.
- Ability to accurately process a cell and tissue culture.
A master's degree program in biology is comprised of lectures, seminars, and extensive lab-based work. Students are provided with the opportunity to gain a level of expertise and knowledge that exceeds what is experienced at the undergraduate level. Graduate level work is typically offered in selected areas of: Microbiology, Physiology, Molecular Biology, Genetics, Immunology, Marine Biology, Zoology, and many others. The following table includes a few of the many potential elective courses offered by master's level biological sciences programs:
Principles of Evolution
|Comprehensive study of Darwinism, contemporary biology and evolutionary change and the challenges of understanding evolution in modern society.
|Review of selected important topics in bio-statistical concepts and reasoning, including topics including tools and methods.
Principles of Toxicology
|Overview of field of toxicology covering advanced principles, target organ toxicity, the toxicity of a limited group of compounds, and an introduction to modern molecular toxicology.
|Introduction to computational modeling, including how to develop and analyze mathematical models and how to use computation to generate experiments.
Math in Medicine/Biology
|Application of mathematical models in biological phenomena.
Evolutionary Genetics and Genomics
|Examination of the organization of genes into genomes and how these change with evolution.