On Becoming a Scientist
About Biotech Ads on AE WYW Index

Careers in Life Science

There is a wide variety of different specialized fields in the biological sciences, and the list is growing rapidly. You can choose to work with a particular type or group of organisms, such as birds, viruses, or trees. You can work with a particular system within an organism, such as cells, tissues, or whole organs. You can focus on the interaction between organisms and their environment in a particular area, such as the ocean, desert, or forest. Or you could focus on the chemical, physical, or medical aspects of living things.

Although many life scientists are primarily involved in research and development, and work in the laboratory or field, you may decide you want to work in another area within the science. There are many jobs available in such areas as management, administration, service work, sales, teaching, financial support, legal support, writing, illustrating, or photography. You do not have to work in a laboratory for scientific training or thinking to be useful. Some life scientists are employed by zoos, museums, aquariums, botanical gardens, schools, libraries, farms, health clubs, parks, the government, and research foundations.

The following is a small sample of some of the different fields and jobs available in biology.


Agronomists work to improve the quality and production of field crops. They apply scientific methods to develop new growing methods and to make crops more resistant to diseases and pests. They also plan and conduct experiments that relate to the planting, cultivating, and harvesting of crops.

For Additional Information:

American Society of Agronomy
677 South Segoe Road
Madison, WI 53711


Anatomists study the form and structure of animal bodies. They determine the ability of animal bodies to regenerate destroyed or injured parts, and investigate the possibility of transplanting whole organs or tissues fragments, such as skin.

For Additional Information:

American Association of Anatomists
9650 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20814

Animal Scientist

Animal scientists conduct research in selecting, breeding, feeding, managing, and marketing of domesticated animals.

For Additional Information:

American Society of Animal Science
309 West Clark Street
Champaign, IL 61820


Biochemists specialize in the chemical composition and behavior of living things. Their work is vital for understanding of reproduction, growth, and heredity. Biochemists may investigate such things as causes and cures of diseases, or transferring characteristics of one kind of plant to another. Some study the effects of food, hormones, or other substances on various organisms.

For Additional Information:

American Society of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
9650 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20814

Biomedical Engineer

Biomedical engineers research and develop new ways to help people who are handicapped because of the malfunction of some organ of the body. Biomedical engineers have created such devices as artificial hearts, kidneys, limbs, and joints.

For Additional Information:

Biomedical Engineering Society
P.O. Box 2399
Culver City, CA 90230


Biophysicists study the physical principles within living cells and organisms. These scientists specialize in such things as how the eye converts the energy of light into a signal to the brain, how plant or animals respond to gravity, and how radiation affects living matter.

For Additional Information:

Biophysical Society
9650 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20814


Botanists study plants and the environment. Some study all aspects of plant life, while others specialize in areas such as identification and classification of plants, the structure of plants, or the causes and cures of plant diseases.

For Additional Information:

American Society of Horticultural Science
701 North Asaph Street
Alexandria, VA 22314

Developmental Biologist

Developmental biologists study the development of an animal from a fertilized egg through the hatching process or birth. They also study causes of healthy and abnormal development.

For Additional Information:

Society for Developmental Biology
9650 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20814


Ecologists study the relationship between organisms and their environment. They particularly look at the effects of such things as soil conservation, pollutants, rainfall, temperature, or altitude on all the organisms in an environment.

For Additional Information:

American Institute of Biological Sciences
1401 Wilson Boulevard
Arlington, VA 22209


Epidemiologists study the patterns of disease within a population. They are also concerned with determining how diseases are caused and how they spread.

For Additional Information:

Assn. for Professionals in Infection Control and Epidemiology
1016 Sixteenth St, NW
Sixth Floor
Washington, D.C. 20036

Food Scientist

Food scientists study the chemical, physical, and biological nature of food to learn how to safely produce, preserve, package, distribute, and store it. They also work to make food nutritious, flavorful, and wholesome.

For Additional Information:

Institute of Food Technologies
221 North LaSalle Street, Suite 2120
Chicago, IL 60601


Foresters manage, develop, and protect forest areas and their resources. Foresters map forest areas, estimate timber amounts, calculate future forest growth, and manage timber sales. They determine which areas need special care or treatment, such as reseeding. They also help protect trees from fire, disease, and harmful insects.

For Additional Information:

Society of American Foresters
5400 Grosvenor Lane
Bethesda, MD 20814-2198


Geneticists study the process of inheritance. They perform experiments to determine what causes different traits and inherited disorders, and investigate how these traits are passed on from one generation to the next. They may also devise methods for altering or producing new traits.

For Additional Information:

Genetics Society of America
9650 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20814


Horticulturists work with orchard and garden plants such as fruit and nut trees, vegetables, and flowers. They try to improve plant culture methods for communities, homes, parks, and other areas, as well as for increasing crop quality and yields.

For Additional Information:

American Society of Horticultural Science
701 North Asaph Street
Alexandria, VA 22314


Immunologists study the way in which the body protects itself against foreign invaders such as parasites, viruses, and replacement organs. These scientists research ways to develop vaccines to protect against disease and medicines to cure or prevent allergic reactions. They also investigate ways to help control reactions to blood transfusions and transplants.

For Additional Information:

American Association of Immunologists
9650 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20814

Marine Biologist

Marine biologists study the development, function, and environment of plant and animal life in the ocean. They investigate such things as how to improve and control fishing and determine the effects of pollution on marine life. They also may search for new food and drug sources from the ocean and experiment to find ways of raising crops in underwater farms.

For Additional Information:

American Society of Limnology and Oceanography
Great Lakes Research Division
University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, MI 48109

Medical Illustrator

Medical illustrators specialize in drawing parts of the human body. Their work is used in medical textbooks and other publications, for research purposes, and in lectures and other presentations.

For Additional Information:

Association of Medical Illustrators
1819 Peachtree Street, N.E., Suite 620
Atlanta, Georgia 30309 U.S.A.

Medical Laboratory Technician

Medical laboratory technicians perform tests in medical laboratories and hospitals. They prepare tissue samples and perform laboratory tests to screen for the presence of disease and to help diagnose medical problems.

For Additional Information:

American Society for Clinical Laboratory Science
7910 Woodmont Avenue Suite 1301
Bethesda, MD 20814


Microbiologists investigate microscopic organisms such as bacteria, viruses, algae, yeasts, and molds. These scientists try to discover how these organisms affect animals, plants, and the environment. Some microbiologists specialize in medicine or agriculture, while others focus on particular organisms.

For Additional Information:

American Society for Microbiology
1913 I Street, N.W.
Washington, DC 20006


Mycologists perform experiments on fungi to discover those which may be harmful to humans or are useful to medicine, agriculture, and industry for the development of drugs, medicines, molds, and yeasts.

For Additional Information:

The Mycological Society of America
Department of Botany
University of Toronto, Erindale Campus
Mississuaga, Ontario L5L IC6, Canada


Nutritionists counsel individuals or groups on sound nutritional practices to maintain and improve health. They may develop special diets, plan and prepare meals, and budget and purchase food. They may also be responsible for the nutritional aspects of preventive health and medical care services.

For Additional Information:

American Dietetic Association
216 West Jackson Boulevard
Chicago, Illinois 60606-6995


Paleontologists study the fossil remains of plants and animals. These scientists look for evidence of change in the plants and animals to trace the evolution and development of past life. They use fossils to reconstruct prehistoric environments and geography, as well as to make models of animals that have become extinct, such as dinosaurs.

For Additional Information:

Palentology Research Institute
1259 Trumansberg Road
Ithaca, NY 14850


Pathologists study the nature, cause, and development of diseases and the changes to animals and plants caused by the diseases. They make diagnoses from body tissues, fluids, and other specimens. And they perform autopsies to determine the nature and extent of disease as well as the cause of death.

For Additional Information:

American Society of Clinical Pathologists
2100 W. Harrison Street
Chicago, IL 60612-3798


Pharmacologists develop new or improved drugs or medicines. They also conduct tests to determine the effect of drugs and their possible shortcomings or undesirable side effects. Some pharmacologists work with other doctors to study how disease can alter the effects of drugs.

For Additional Information:

American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics
9650 Rockville Pike
Bethesda, MD 20814


Physiologists study the functions of plants and animals under normal and abnormal conditions. These scientists are concerned with questions such as: What makes a plant or animal grow? What regulates the rate at which they grow? How is food digested? Why do we need blood? And how do plants breathe? They perform experiments to determine the effects of internal and external environmental factors on life processes.

For Additional Information:

American Physiological Society
9650 Rockville Pike,
Bethesda, MD 20814

Science Teacher

Science teachers help students learn about different aspects of science. Some science teachers work in elementary schools; others work in middle schools, high schools, colleges, and universities. Some may teach only a particular topic, such as cell biology or anatomy, while others cover many different topics in their classrooms or laboratories.

For Additional Information:

National Science Teachers Association
1840 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22201

Science Writer

Science writers write about scientific issues, new information, or trends for newspapers, magazines, books, television, and radio. Some science writers specialize in a particular topic, such as medicine or environmental issues, while others cover many different topics. An important part of science writing is making technical information clear and understandable.

For Additional Information:

National Association of Science Writers
P.O. Box 294
Greenlawn, NY 11740


Zoologists study the origin, behavior, diseases, and life processes of animals. Some work with live animals, while others dissect dead animals to study the structure of their parts. There are several different branches of zoology, classified by the animal group studied, including ornithology (birds), entomology (insects), mammalogy (mammals), herpetology (reptiles), and ichthyology (fish).

For Additional Information:

The Society for Integrative and Comparative Biology
401 North Michigan Avenue
Chicago, IL 60611-4267

Thinking Like a Scientist Activities

Thinking Like a Scientist Handouts

Video Guide

Life of a Scientist Projects

Resource Book Index: On Becoming a Scientist

Winding Your Way Through DNA Resource Book Index

Winding Your Way Through DNA Lectures Index

About Biotech Index

Custom Search on the AE Site