You might think that if you major in biology, your only career path involves working in a laboratory. Don’t break out the test tubes just yet; there are a lot of careers for biology majors you might not have considered.
Biology majors are excellent candidates for many health science professions, and we recommend a biology undergraduate program to anyone considering one of our graduate health science programs. A background in biology prepares you for any career that involves working with the human body.
Allied Health Professions
Allied health professionals are medical professionals who aren’t doctors or nurses but who provide health services to patients. They make up 60% of all healthcare providers in the United States.1
Biology majors are great candidates for allied health professions, especially the ones listed below.
1. Physical Therapist
Physical therapists (PTs) support patients with injuries or chronic conditions that impede their range of motion, cause pain or negatively impact their quality of life. Through prescribed movement exercises and patient education, physical therapists help individuals regain range of motion, decrease pain and reduce future injury to improve their quality of life.
As a physical therapist, you can work in a variety of settings, including:
- Rehabilitation facilities
- Private practices
- Sports and fitness facilities
A physical therapist’s daily workload consists of diagnosing and treating patients, crafting individual treatment plans, recording patient progress and educating patients and their families on recovery.
Time to completion may vary by student, depending on individual progress, credits transferred and other factors.
Good physical therapists understand how the body works at the cellular, genetic and physical levels to evaluate injuries and treatments. Biology coursework includes common prerequisites for physical therapy, including3:
- Human Anatomy and Physiology
2. Occupational Therapist
Occupational therapists (OTs) help patients refine their fine motor skills, limited by injury, illness, disability or other conditions. For example, a person who experiences a stroke may see an occupational therapist to help them re-learn how to do daily tasks. Alternatively, a child with a condition like apraxia may work with an occupational therapist to learn how to walk with flat feet instead of on their toes.
If you decide to pursue a career in occupational therapy, you can work in many settings besides a hospital. You can also work in schools, rehab centers, nursing care facilities or virtually.
A Master of Occupational Therapy degree will allow you to practice as an occupational therapist, but if you decide to pursue a leadership, advocacy or research role, earn your Doctor of Occupational Therapy (OTD).4
Occupational therapists spend a lot of time working with the human body, so earning a biology undergraduate degree will help prepare you for an OT career. You may also have many of the required prerequisites for occupational therapy programs completed, including:
- Anatomy and physiology
- Sociology or anthropology
- Medical terminology
3. Speech-Language Pathologist
A speech-language pathologist (SLP) helps patients with physical and cognitive communication disorders to improve their fluency, voice, articulation skills and other conditions related to speech and language. They often work with a team of physical and occupational therapists, audiologists and psychologists to treat many different disorders with a multi-faceted approach. You’ll need to earn your Master of Science in Speech-Language Pathology (MS-SLP) to practice as an SLP.5
Time to completion may vary by student, depending on individual progress, credits transferred and other factors.
Understanding anatomy is helpful for any speech-language pathologist, especially the anatomy of the face and throat. For this reason, biology is a recommended undergraduate major for those considering becoming a speech-language pathologist.
4. Clinical Nutritionist
A clinical nutritionist reviews a patient’s diet and medical history to evaluate their diet and nutritional needs.6 Unlike other allied health workers, they aren’t necessarily treating a disease.
Instead, they focus on overall patient health and wellness through their nutrition. They often work with a larger care team of doctors and therapists who may treat a patient for a disease. A clinical nutritionist can work in various settings, including private practices and hospitals, as long as you have a bachelor’s degree in a related field and are licensed through your state.7
5. Respiratory Therapist
A respiratory therapist works primarily with a patient’s lungs. They can diagnose lung disorders like emphysema and lung cancer and recommend treatment plans to a patient’s doctor. As part of their work, they can oversee the placement, operation and removal of ventilators and other artificial airways to help patients unable to breathe independently.8
They work in clinics, private practices or hospitals and educate patients and their families about their respiratory diagnosis and treatment options. You’ll need to complete at least your Associate of Science in Respiratory Care degree or a Bachelor’s of Health Science in Respiratory Care degree and pass your state’s credentialing exam.9
Clinical and Medical Careers
Clinical and medical careers are what you envision when you imagine working in medicine. They work directly with patients in hospitals and doctor’s offices.
A physician is licensed to practice medicine. They may have a specialization, such as family medicine, sports medicine, oncology or obstetrics, and can diagnose and treat patient injuries and illnesses. They conduct patient physical exams, revise medical histories and prescribe medications. In order to practice, you’ll need a Medical Doctor (MD) or Osteopathic Medicine (DO).10
Physicians often work with a larger care team that includes registered nurses and allied health workers to provide the best care possible for their patients. Many physicians also educate their patients and advocate on their behalf.11
7. Physician Assistant
As a physician assistant (PA), you can work across a wide variety of practice settings, from emergent care to surgery to family practice. You’ll assume high-level medical responsibilities, such as ordering and interpreting tests, diagnosing illnesses, developing and managing treatment plans, prescribing medications, performing surgical procedures, and much more.
Many people decide to become physician assistants because they typically have similar job duties as a doctor without the time and financial investment of medical school since you need your Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (MSPAS) instead of an MD or DO.12 A physician assistant program usually lasts a little more than two years, while medical school takes about four. Time to completion may vary by student, depending on individual progress, credits transferred and other factors.
8. Nurse Practitioner
A nurse practitioner (NP) is a nurse with advanced training, whether it’s a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or a post-graduate nursing certificate.13 Like physicians, nurse practitioners can specialize in specific areas of medicine, such as psychiatry, family or pediatrics.
Because of their advanced training, many nurse practitioners conduct physical exams, study medical histories and order tests to diagnose patients. Many states even allow nurse practitioners to prescribe medication and treat illnesses and injuries, while some states require them to work under a physician’s supervision, similar to a physician’s assistant.
9. Genetic Counselor
Genetic counselors specialize in genetic diseases and can focus on specific areas, such as prenatal, neurobiology, oncology and more.14 While they do not treat genetic diseases like a physician, they may be on a team of specialists who work together to treat and educate patients with genetic disorders. A Master of Science in Genetic Counseling is required to practice.15
A genetic counselor counsels patients about genetic diseases and testing. For example, if you have a parent who had breast cancer, a genetic counselor could walk you through your testing options to determine if you have BRCA1 or BRCA2 genes and are at a higher risk of developing breast cancer yourself.16 They can also help you understand the likelihood of passing a genetic condition on to a biological child.14
Finally, genetic counselors work to educate patients and their families and advocate on their behalf with insurance companies and other medical providers.
Research and Biotechnology
Research and biotechnology is a branch of medicine that focuses on learning more about medical conditions and their treatments. These professions don’t work directly with patients. Instead, they often work in laboratories.
10. Clinical Laboratory Scientist
Also called medical technologists, clinical laboratory scientists conduct tests on samples sent to them by clinical and medical workers.17 For example, when a doctor performs a biopsy, they send biopsy tissue to a clinical laboratory where a clinical laboratory scientist tests the tissue. They write up a report and send it to the doctor.
Clinical laboratory scientists may work in a hospital or clinic in an on-site laboratory, and they may also work in pharmaceutical, biotechnology or research institutions. You’ll need at least a bachelor’s degree in medical technology, clinical laboratory science or related field and the national and/or state certification required in your state.18
11. Biomedical Scientist
Biomedical scientists also work in laboratories, but unlike clinical laboratory scientists, they aren’t running tests for specific patients. Instead, they are researching new medical tests and treatments.19
Biomedical scientists design and run experiments and then analyze and report data. Many biomedical scientists specialize in specific research areas, such as infection science, blood science or molecular pathology. Biomedical scientists need a Master’s Degree in biomedical science or a related field, but to independently design experiments, an MD or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is required.20
12. Clinical Trial Coordinator
A clinical trial coordinator oversees clinical trials, which are research studies evaluating the effectiveness of new medications.21,22 After researchers develop a new treatment or medication, they conduct a clinical trial with human subjects to study how the treatment or medication works.
The clinical trial coordinator runs the clinical trial from start to finish. Their duties include:
- Recruit and pre-screen participants23
- Schedule participant visits
- Administer any medications
- Monitor participants
- Maintain trial records
- Ensure the trial adheres to all ethical and regulatory standards
- Share findings with stakeholders
No advanced degree is required as long as you have a bachelor’s degree in clinical research management or a related field.24
13. Pharmaceutical Scientist
Pharmaceutical scientists develop and test new medications.25 They study how existing drugs might treat other diseases or other molecular compounds to develop new medications. They work in laboratories and may test new medications on animals and humans to evaluate their safety and effectiveness.
Some pharmaceutical scientists may also work outside the lab to advocate for pharmaceutical developments with corporations and government agencies. No advanced degree is required, although a Master of Science (MS), Master of Public Health (MPH), Doctor of Medicine (MD), Doctor of Pharmacy (PharmD) or Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) is recommended.26
Public Health and Epidemiology
Public health is a field of medicine that studies and seeks to improve human health in a community.27 Much of their work focuses on preventing the spread of disease.
This profession requires you to earn a Master of Public Health or a related field.28 They analyze data and share their findings and recommendations with stakeholders, usually government agencies and healthcare providers. For example, when COVID-19 first appeared, epidemiologists studied its spread to make recommendations such as standing six feet from another person.
Many epidemiologists work in a government setting, such as for the Center for Disease Control (CDC) or National Institutes of Health (NIH), and may choose to specialize in an area of epidemiology, such as infection control or bioterrorism. Fieldwork may be required to study a disease where it is appearing. This profession requires you to earn a Master of Public Health or a related field.
15. Public Health Specialist
A public health specialist works with doctors and epidemiologists to mitigate the spread of disease.29 They work in a community to promote healthy lifestyles and behaviors (such as vaccination) that prevent the spread of diseases. Some public health specialists enforce state health and safety laws and conduct community surveys to learn more about health-related behaviors. No advanced degree is required unless you want a leadership role, in which case you’ll need a Master of Public Health (MPH).30
16. Health Policy Analyst
A health policy analyst crafts and enforces public health policies. They work with legislators to draft and pass public health legislation and advocate for healthcare reform. They also create and oversee community public health programs.
Most health policy analysts work for government entities, nonprofit organizations, political action committees (PACs), professional organizations and community organizations.31
You’ll need one of the following degrees for this position32:
- Master of Public Health (MPH)
- Master of Health Administration (MHA)
- Master of Public Administration (MPA)
- Master of Public Policy (MPP)
Healthcare Administration and Management
Healthcare administration and management roles focus on running a hospital or healthcare organization. People in this field blend medicine with business management.
17. Healthcare Administrator
A healthcare administrator manages a hospital or health system.33 They are responsible for the day-to-day management of the facility and do not interact with patients. Their roles range from middle management to CEOs, and they can oversee a department within the system or the entire organization.34
Time to completion may vary by student, depending on individual progress, credits transferred and other factors.
In their leadership position, a healthcare administrator may be responsible for any of the following:
- Maintaining facilities
- Organizing and overseeing services and programs
- Staffing the facility
- Creating and adhering to a budget
- Managing public relations
18. Healthcare Consultant
Hospitals and healthcare organizations hire healthcare consultants to help them run more effectively and efficiently. Their job is to find problems and present solutions, especially regarding reducing costs and increasing revenue without sacrificing quality of care. You’ll need to earn you Master of Health Administration (MHA) or a master’s degree in healthcare management.36
19. Health Services Manager
A health services manager is in charge of improving the quality of patient care within a hospital or healthcare system.37 They enforce healthcare laws and regulations, create schedules for employees and develop healthcare policies for the organization. A Master of Health Administration (MHA) or Master of Public Health (MPH) is required.
Health Sciences Education and Outreach
The health sciences education and outreach field educates people about health-related topics. They may teach future and current medical professionals like those on this list or the public.
20. Medical Science Writer
Medical science writers are a type of technical writer that specializes in medical topics. They may write for medical practitioners, medical insurance providers, users of medical products or patients.38
They can write any of the following:
- Educational materials
- Healthcare policies
- Instructions for medical products
- Magazine articles
- Marketing materials for medical products
21. Community Health Worker
A community health worker is similar to a social worker in that they work primarily to educate and advocate on behalf of community members.40 They often work with underserved or high-risk communities to ensure they get the necessary healthcare.
Community health worker duties include:
- Conducting health screenings
- Providing basic first aid and health services (vaccines, blood pressure screenings, etc.)
- Offering referrals
- Assisting people with getting the healthcare they need
- Helping people fill out insurance applications
- Interpreting healthcare services to patients
- Driving patients to appointments
No advanced degree is required, but an advanced degree in a related field is recommended.40
Continue Your Journey to a Biology Career With USAHS
A biology major is a great way to gain the foundational knowledge you’ll need to be successful in many rewarding health science careers. In addition to learning essential information about biology to help you succeed, a biology major will include coursework that meets most prerequisites for your health sciences career.
The University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences (USAHS) Master of Science in Physician Assistant Studies (MSPAS) has applied for Accreditation-Provisional from the Accreditation Review Commission on Education for the Physician Assistant (ARC-PA). USAHS anticipates matriculating its first MSPAS class in January 2024, pending achieving Accreditation-Provisional status at the September 2023 ARC-PA meeting. Accreditation-Provisional is an accreditation status granted when the plans and resource allocation, if fully implemented as planned, of a proposed program that has not yet enrolled students appear to demonstrate the program’s ability to meet the ARC-PA Standards or when a program holding Accreditation-Provisional status appears to demonstrate continued progress in complying with the Standards as it prepares for the graduation of the first class (cohort) of students. Accreditation-Provisional does not ensure any subsequent accreditation status. It is limited to no more than five years from matriculation of the first class.
The entry-level occupational therapy master’s degree program at the Dallas, Texas, campus has applied for accreditation and has been granted Candidacy Status by the Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE) of the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA), located at 6116 Executive Boulevard, Suite 200, North Bethesda, MD 20852-4929. ACOTE’s telephone number c/o AOTA is (301) 652-AOTA and its web address is www.acoteonline.org. The program must have a preaccreditation review, complete an on-site evaluation and be granted Accreditation Status before its graduates will be eligible to sit for the national certification examination for the occupational therapist administered by the National Board for Certification in Occupational Therapy (NBCOT). After successful completion of this exam, the individual will be an Occupational Therapist, Registered (OTR). In addition, all states require licensure in order to practice; however, state licenses are usually based on the results of the NBCOT Certification Examination. Note that a felony conviction may affect a graduate’s ability to sit for the NBCOT certification examination or attain state licensure.
Students must complete 24 weeks of Level II fieldwork within 24 months following completion of the didactic portion of the program.
- Explore Health Careers, “Allied Health Professions Overview,” Explore Health Careers, https://explorehealthcareers.org/field/allied-health-professions/.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Physical Therapists,” Occupational Outlook Handbook, last modified September 2023, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physical-therapists.htm.
- Best Accredited Colleges, “What Class Do You Need To Get a Bachelor’s Degree in Biology?” Best Accredited Colleges, last modified October 2021, https://bestaccreditedcolleges.org/articles/what-classes-do-you-need-to-get-a-bachelors-degree-in-biology.html.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Occupational Therapists,” Occupational Outlook Handbook, last modified September 2023, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/occupational-therapists.htm.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Speech-Language Pathologists,” Occupational Outlook Handbook, last modified September 2023, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/speech-language-pathologists.htm.
- Learn, “What Is Clinical Nutrition?” Learn, https://learn.org/articles/What_is_Clinical_Nutrition.html.
- Public Health Degrees, “Dietitian vs. Nutritionist: Degree and Careers Comparison,” Public Health Degrees, last modified September 2021, https://www.publichealthdegrees.org/careers/become-registered-dietitian/dietitian-vs-nutritionist/.
- American Association for Respiratory Care, “What Is an RT?” American Association for Respiratory Care, https://www.aarc.org/careers/what-is-an-rt/
- All Allied Health Schools. “How To Become a Respiratory Therapist: Education & Licensing,” All Allied Health Schools, https://www.allalliedhealthschools.com/specialties/respiratory-therapist-training-career-overview/.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Physicians and Surgeons,” Occupational Outlook Handbook, last modified September 2023, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physicians-and-surgeons.htm.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, “What Physicians and Surgeons Do,” Physicians and Surgeons, last modified September 2023, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physicians-and-surgeons.htm#tab-2.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Physician Assistants,” Occupational Outlook Handbook, last modified September 2023, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/physician-assistants.htm.
- Cleveland Clinic, “Nurse Practitioner,” Cleveland Clinic, last modified January 2023, https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/24651-nurse-practitioner.
- National Society of Genetic Counselors, “About Genetic Counselors,” National Society of Genetic Counselors, https://www.nsgc.org/About/About-Genetic-Counselors.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Genetic Counselors,” Occupational Outlook Handbook, last modified September 2023, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/genetic-counselors.htm.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “BRCA1 and BRCA2,” Hereditary Breast and Ovarian Cancer, last modified June 2023, https://www.cdc.gov/genomics/disease/breast_ovarian_cancer/genes_hboc.htm.
- American Medical Technologists, “How To Become a Medical Laboratory Scientist,” AMT Blog, last modified May 2022, https://americanmedtech.org/Blog/Blog-Post/How-to-Become-a-Medical-Laboratory-Scientist.
- Rachel Drummond, “How To Become a Medical Laboratory Scientist (MLS),” Medical Technology Schools, https://www.medicaltechnologyschools.com/medical-lab-scientist/how-to-become-an-mls.
- National Health Service, “Biomedical Science,” Health Careers, https://www.healthcareers.nhs.uk/explore-roles/healthcare-science/roles-healthcare-science/life-sciences/biomedical-science.
- Master’s in Public Health, “ How Do I Become a Biomedical Laboratory Scientist?” Master’s in Public Health Degree Programs, last modified December 2022, https://www.masterspublichealth.net/faq/how-do-i-become-a-biomedical-laboratory-scientist/.
- Certified Clinical Research Professional Society, “Guide to Becoming a Clinical Research Coordinator (CRC),” Certified Clinical Research Professional Society, last modified June 2023, https://ccrps.org/clinical-research-blog/clinical-research-coordinator-certification-2.
- World Health Organization, “Clinical Trials,” World Health Organization, https://www.who.int/health-topics/clinical-trials#tab=tab_1.
- Danielle Santarelli, “What Is a Clinical Trial Coordinator?” Genesis Research Services, last modified September 2021, https://genesisresearchservices.com/clinical-trials-the-role-of-the-coordinator/
- Actalent, “Clinical Research Coordinator Jobs: How To Start a Rewarding Career,” Actalent, last modified September 2018, https://www.actalentservices.com/en/insights/articles/clinical-research-coordinator-jobs-how-to-start-a-rewarding-career.
- Explore Health Careers, “Pharmaceutical Scientist,” Explore Health Careers, https://explorehealthcareers.org/career/pharmacology/pharmaceutical-scientist/.
- Hospital Careers, “How To Become a Pharmaceutical Scientist,” Hospital Careers, https://hospitalcareers.com/career-paths/how-to-become-a-pharmaceutical-scientist.
- American Public Health Association, “What Is Public Health?” American Public Health Association, https://www.apha.org/what-is-public-health.
- Public Health Degrees, “How To Become an Epidemiologist,” Public Health Degrees, last modified September 2021, https://www.publichealthdegrees.org/careers/epidemiologist/.
- Zippia, “Public Health Specialist Overview,” Zippia, last modified June 2023, https://www.zippia.com/public-health-specialist-jobs/.
- Healthcare Management Degree Guide, “What Is a Public Health Specialist?” Healthcare Management Degree Guide, https://www.healthcare-management-degree.net/faq/what-is-a-public-health-specialist/
- New York Health Careers, “Health Policy Analysts,” New York Health Careers, https://www.healthcareersinfo.net/public-health-policy-analysts/.
- Carol Dolan, “What Is a Health Policy Analyst?” Master’s in Public Health Degree Programs, last modified December 2021, https://www.masterspublichealth.net/faq/what-is-a-healthcare-policy-analyst/.
- Explore Health Careers, “Health Administrator,” Explore Health Careers, https://explorehealthcareers.org/career/health-administration-management/health-administrator/.
- New York Health Careers, “Health Care Administrators and Medical and Health Services Managers,” New York Health Careers, https://www.healthcareersinfo.net/health-care-administrators/.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Medical and Health Services Managers,” Occupational Outlook Handbook, last modified September 2023, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/management/medical-and-health-services-managers.htm
- Indeed Editorial Team, “What Is a Health Care Consultant? (And How To Become One),” Indeed, last modified June 2022, https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/what-is-a-healthcare-consultant.
- Bidisha Das, “How To Become a Medical and Health Sciences Manager,” Indeed, last modified July 2023, https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/how-to-become-medical-and-health-services-manager.
- Sandra Coffey, “How To Become a Medical Writer in 8 Steps (With Salary),” Indeed, last modified July 2023, https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/how-to-become-medical-writer.
- Lori Alexander, Lori De Milto, and Cyndy Kryder, “Ultimate Guide to Becoming a Medical Writer, American Medical Writers Association, https://info.amwa.org/ultimate-guide-to-becoming-a-medical-writer#medical_writer_resources
- Indeed Editorial Team, “6 Steps To Becoming a Community Health Worker,” Indeed, last modified August 2023, https://www.indeed.com/career-advice/finding-a-job/community-health-worker.