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Careers in Biology

An undergraduate degree in Biology can prepare the able student for many different careers. This page provides a brief set of resources about the most commonly-cited career goals. It's a good place to begin exploring your career options, especially if you use it in conjunction with the services of the ODU's Career Management Center.

The list is broken down into two categories: Professional Health and Everything Else. Professional Health careers include medical, veterinary, physicians assistant, pharmacy, physical therapy, and dental schools. Everything Else includes marine biology, conservation biology, forensics, human genetics, zoos/aquaria, and yes, how to become an animal trainer at Sea World.

PROFESSIONAL HEALTH

Many students major in Biology with the intention of pursuing post-baccalaureate work leading to a career in one of the allied health professions. Such programs are usually very competitive. Many require, in fact if not in theory, GPA's of 3.5 or better, along with extracurricular experiences such as volunteer work, shadowing health professionals, internships, etc.

    Medical School
  • Based on data from the matriculating class of 2010, the successful applicant to medical school had a science GPA of 3.60, a non-science GPA of 3.74, and an overall GPA of 3.66 as well as competitive MCAT scores.
  • The American Association of Medical Colleges has a good introduction to medical careers at their website, Considering a Medical Career.

Veterinary School
  • Getting into vet school can be tougher than getting into medical school, primarily because there are fewer vet schools than medical schools. Virginia Tech sets the highest bar in the region, but it's not that much higher than other schools. The successful applicant at Tech had a 3.53 GPA, a competitive GRE score, 400-600 hours of experience working with a veterinarian, a variety of experiences working with both large and small animals, and had work experience in the field.
  • The AAVMC website is a great resource, especially because it offers links to college specific requirements, which can vary quite a lot from one vet school to another.
  • The UC Berkeley Career Center has a nice article on Being A Veterinarian .

Physician's Assistant
  • Eastern Virginia Medical School reports that its average recent matriculants had 3.5 GPA's; EVMS also requires a B- or better in prerequisite courses (Human Anatomy and Physiology, Chemistry, Microbiology, Psychology, Mathematics and Statistics).
  • Visit their website for more information about their program.

Pharmacy School
  • Pharmacy school is another competitive one; VCU reports that it expects its next class of successful matriculants to have 3.5 GPA's; it estimates further that it will interview 250 applicants and accept around 130.
  • Visit the VCU School of Pharmacy's website for more information.

Physical Therapy
Dental School
  • The American Dental Education Association has a website for prospective students covering many of the details of the admissions process and links to accredited schools.
  • VCU's School of Dentistry website has a very good section for prospective students, including valuable hints for applying, selection criteria, etc.

EVERYTHING ELSE: THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF BIOLOGY!

Marine Biology
  • Our excellent undergraduate program in marine biology can lead to a wide variety of careers. Jobs are competitive, so go for a combination of good grades and lots of hands-on experience.
  • The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration has a great website about careers in marine biology.

Conservation Biology
  • The field of conservation is another one that offers broad and varied opportunities for students. As with marine biology, jobs in this field are competitive and will require excellent qualifications.
  • For more information, check out the University of Wisconsin's Careers in Conservation website.

Forensics
  • The explosion of "CSI"-style TV shows has led to an increase in the number of students interested in combining studies in biology and criminal justice for careers in forensic science. It's actually a little more complicated than that!
  • The American Academy of Forensic Sciences has an excellent website, So You Want To Be A Forensic Scientist!, describing the various types of forensic scientists and the kinds of preparation required for each.
  • Dale Nute, an adjunct professor at FSU, offers this article, Advice About a Career in Forensic Science.
  • Take a moment to review VCU's Program in Forensic Science to see what an academic program focused specifically in this area looks like.

Human Genetics
  • With amazing new molecular techniques, the deciphering of the human genome, and new research on the molecular basis for everything from disease to behavior, it's no surprise that genetics is not only a rapidly growing career field, but one that is expected to continue growing rapidly for a while. Students interested in this field will need excellent knowledge of cell biology and biochemistry, as well as quantitative and communication skills.
  • The American Society of Human Genetics provides an excellent website on Careers in Genetics describing different careers and how to prepare for them.

Zoos and Aquaria
  • The idea of being a zookeeper, aquarist, or other zoo/aquarium professional is attractive to many. These jobs can be highly competitive and a combination of strong academic credentials, lots of hands-on volunteer time, and good networking skills are very helpful.
  • The Saint Louis Zoo's So You Want To Be A Zookeeper page is good for introducing the different kinds of zoo/aquarium jobs and how to prepare for them.
  • Animal Trainer at Sea World. Many students start their college career with fairly naive ideas about what this kind of job entails. However, we've had a few students who have actually become animal trainers at Sea World, so it can definitely be done! The best place to start is at the horse's mouth: Animal Training at Sea World and Busch Gardens.