BGSU Biology major FAQ

We get a lot of questions about the careers our popular Biology major can prepare you for. It’s a great stepping stone to careers in medicine. It’s also a foundation for careers in science, conservation, ecology, forensics and agriculture.

We’ve pooled the most frequently asked questions here, with our considered responses. Our admissions counsellors are available if you have more questions, or you can start the application process for your biology major right now.

The short answer is lots of things - biology is a good foundation subject for a wide variety of careers. Studying the building blocks of life positions you for a career in the life sciences, studying disease, or the affects of disease on human life, animal or plant life, or the complex interactions of organisms.  

We are going to break down our answer into two sections, options within biology and biology related career options. 

Careers within the field of Biology

Your options with a B.A. or B.S. in biology, if you want to stay within the field, are not just limited to more study, although BGSU offers both a master’s and PhD program in biology.  You can apply directly to work at jobs within professions where you will use your science education.

In the wildlife arena, an undergrad specialization of ecology and conservation biology can lead to a career for government, or private companies doing fieldwork in wildlife management, ecology, farming, conservation and restoration, or natural resources management. 

You’ll mix lab work, office work and fieldwork, gathering samples from the land or the water. For example, the Great Lakes Center for Fresh Waters and Human Health at BGSU leads national research into understanding and preventing toxic algal blooms that plague portions of the Great Lakes and freshwater sources around the world and pose a threat to the health of humans and wildlife.

An undergraduate specialization in conservation biology sets you up for careers in forestry or agricultural research in the private or public sector. For example, the U.S. Department of Agriculture lab in Wooster, Ohio, that researches new varieties of corn, soybean and wheat.

Careers examining man’s affects on the environment are in demand at the moment. Global warming and its effects on the biological world will need more manpower as the crisis heightens. Governments, nonprofit agencies and companies are involved in this area.  

Careers in microbiology may lead to work in diagnostic labs in hospitals, public health laboratories, private medical or veterinary diagnostic laboratories, and private companies.  

A biology major can also lead to work in medicine - more on that later - epidemiology and public health, dentistry, optometry, pharmaceutical sciences or neuroscience. 

Biology adjacent careers

Biologists have many desirable skills and, as well as expertise in the scientific process and diligence in lab work, their familiarity with living systems is a foundation for many rewarding careers.

Medicine is perhaps the largest of these. We’ll discuss biology and its role in pre-med undergrad courses elsewhere in this FAQ, but medicine is, at its core, the care for biological systems, so the principles you will learn in the BGSU biology major are a good foundation for many medical careers.

As well as the caring professions like nursing, physicians, allied health and veterinary medicine, biology majors are a good fit for the biotechnology sector, now valued at over $100 billion - and growing. This ever changing industry develops new drugs and advances medical technologies through the new science of genetic modification and engineering.  

Jobs for biology majors in hospitals, public health laboratories, private medical or veterinary diagnostic laboratories, and private companies will all grow over the coming years according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Other biology careers

Other areas, such as advanced energy research, need biology skills and knowledge. Scientists are deriving energy from biological sources like biomass. This is a new area with a growing workforce.

Food science, fermentation, brewing and baking, cosmetics development, and alternative fuel development all present career opportunities to the student of biology.

The U.S. military can provide a fertile career path for biology graduates, with opportunities in the U.S. Army Medical Research and Development Command or becoming a Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) Specialist.  

As a large landowner, the Army has an active workforce looking at environmental science and employs engineering officers. The armed forces also have other opportunities in microbiology careers.

Many of the current BGSU biology students fell in love with biology in their AP Bio class in high school. Studying the principles of living systems at the molecular, cellular and organismal level, the evolution of life, and scientific methods opens up an exciting window into the mechanisms of life.

The first two years of a biology major take a deep dive into those mechanisms. The focus is learning the basics so you can apply those concepts to your chosen specialization in the last two years of your studies.

While the workload is not onerous, you will be required to demonstrate in-depth knowledge of biological information and research methods. Your advisors, fellow students and the BGSU Academic Support team can all help you find study methods that work for you.

After your first two years, you are challenged to apply your knowledge and lab skills to a wide variety of fascinating subjects.

For the sheer variety of careers that are available, a biology major is a great starting point on your career path. A biology major opens up a range of medical careers with high earning potential and rewarding work helping people achieve and maintain their health.   

Biology relates to more than just health. The scope for adding new knowledge through original research is perhaps greatest for those that start in the biological sciences.  

Biological research involves new medical discoveries, curing diseases, inventing new treatments, or discovering the causes of current disease. Biology majors made the heroic effort to create the COVID-19 vaccines in record time.  

As well as helping people, you can also help preserve our world. Environmental biology is a key profession for understanding the problems and discovering the solutions for our living planet.

BGSU Biology graduates demonstrate the wide variety of careers available. Our graduates are employed at Abbott Laboratories, Midwest Physician Anesthesia Services, the Ohio Sea Grant College Program, Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, and the Environmental Protection Agency, to name a few.

Quite a lot, to be honest. So much of science is based on drawing conclusions from data. The best way to interrogate numerical data is with a solid understanding of math.  

For the BGSU biology major, you will use algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and many concepts from pre-calculus. Gaining confidence with a variety of statistical methods is necessary for designing valid experiments to test a hypothesis.  

Advice from alumni, and the crowd wisdom at Reddit r/biology, is that "it helps to relate the math that you're learning to something that you're interested in." For example, "This statistical method is how we learn why the whales migrate this way and not that way." or "This calculus method is how we learn how the king crab metabolizes copper."  

Biologists report statistics is the one kind of math they use every day of their careers, and they quickly get to a point where they don’t realize they are using it because they are so comfortable with it.

The general advice for getting the best out of your college education is especially applicable in the biology major – spend as much time with faculty as you can and see your advisor often.  

The BGSU biology program offers work-study positions in active research labs. These are a great way to see if research and lab work are for you. You’ll get hands-on experience in real labs, see science in action, and contribute to expanding human knowledge. You’ll be able to hit the ground running on future internships, and the experience will look great on your resume.  

For approaching the biology coursework, joining student organizations like the BGSU branch of American Society for Microbiology or the Herpetology Association and sharing study insights and tips may just be the key to grasping that complex model you might have struggled with on your own.  

BGSU has several life science-focused student groups and the Natural & Health Science Residential Community. The NHSRC offers academic advice within the residential community, and previous residents report that the learning environment is especially helpful for collective study towards competitive entrance exams like the MCAT.  

Finding a specialization you enjoy comes naturally to most people, and your academic advisor can help if you have questions. It’s good to have a plan when you start, but be ready to change. Once you choose your focus, build experience and networks with faculty, fellow students, alumni and external organizations.  

95% of BGSU biology graduates report they're employed, in graduate school or starting a business within six months of graduation.

There are several organizations that might be of interest to you for membership. These include:

Tri-Beta (BBB) biological honors society; Pre-Veterinary Medicine Association (PVMA); Marine Biology Association (MBA); Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students; and the Herpetology Association. There is a directory of all the BGSU Student Organizations. These student groups, along with residential associations like the NHSRC, make for a vibrant and helpful student body. 

Biology is traditionally a strong major for those interested in going on to a master’s or doctoral level medical degree. The subjects studied can help you become a doctor, nurse practitioner, surgeon or dentist, or you can enter one of the growing allied health careers like physical therapist or occupational therapist.

Biology comprises many of the college-level courses required by the Medical College Admission Test® (MCAT®), developed and administered by the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). You certainly won’t be alone in choosing a biology major, over 60% of applicants to the MCAT majored in one of the biological sciences in 2020.

A biology major, along with some differentiators in your extracurricular activities, can provide a strong foundation for preparing for the MCAT and applying to a medical college.  

Consider your strengths and try to find ways to stand out in your medical school application. Breadth of classes, volunteering, and study abroad experiences all help make you a better candidate.

BGSU has a range of biology specializations, all taking place on campus in the university town of Bowling Green, Ohio, twenty miles south of Toledo. We have impressive biology facilities, including herpetology and microbiology laboratories, an electron and light microscopy center, an ecological research station, greenhouse facilities, and a 20,000-specimen herbarium. The BGSU Marine Laboratory contains over 3,000 gallons of seawater in over 40 aquaria offering students hands-on experience. 

Current specializations include:  

Marine & Aquatic Biology is the study of marine and freshwater organisms, their behaviors, and their interactions with the environment. Marine and Aquatic Biology is a subdiscipline of both oceanography and limnology. Graduates may find work in government, university research labs, the private sector (consulting, natural resource management, aquaculture, recreation), or with a non-governmental organization.

The Pre-Health Biology specialization prepares students for the requirements of professional health programs at the graduate level such as medicine, dentistry, optometry, pharmacy, and veterinary medicine.  

Ecology & Conservation Biology is a multidisciplinary program based on the fields of ecology and evolution, and their applied aspects in conservation biology. The program focuses on the study of living organisms across a wide variety of levels from cellular and molecular to population and landscapes.

Microbiology at BGSU focuses on critical worldwide issues that range from multi-drug resistant pathogens to harmful algal blooms. Students not only learn about these current topics but also perform environmental and medical related research in their classes. Our curriculum is unique in combining education and research to promote students’ interests in science.

Neuroscience curriculum and research activities are designed to advance the understanding of the dynamic relationship between the nervous system, mind, and behavior. Training is offered jointly by the Departments of Biology, Psychology, Communication Disorders, and Philosophy in the J.P. Scott Center for Neuroscience, Mind, and Behavior, and includes courses in neuroscience and cognition, neuroethology, behavioral ecology, and psychopharmacology.

Earnings are as varied as the professions within the biology field, overall the "Biological Scientists - other" category on the Bureau of Labor Statistics website reports a median annual salary of just over $80,000.   

Scientific research raises the median annual salary to just over $100,000. The top-paying industries are outpatient care centers, electromedical manufacturing and design, and research and development services.  

Medical careers can increase your earning potential. Physicians and surgeons earn a median wage of $208,000 a year, 50% of them studied a biology major before taking the MCAT.  

Environmental scientists earned around $71,000 in 2019.  

* Job placement and salary information was compiled by the Office of Academic Assessment through the Graduation Survey from AY2015-2018. The data are gathered around the time of Commencement and a follow-up survey six months post Commencement. For the salary question, data for programs with fewer than fifteen responses are not included. Salaries for those programs are from the National Association of Colleges and Employers Summer 2019 Survey. For questions regarding the data, contact

Updated: 04/26/2024 11:21AM