.

.

.

Jobs Outlook: Biological Scientists




Despite projected as fast as the average job growth for biological scientists over the 2002-12 period, doctoral degree holders can expect to face competition for basic research positions. The Federal Government funds much basic research and development, including many areas of medical research that relate to biological science. Recent budget increases at the National Institutes of Health have led to large increases in Federal basic research and development expenditures, with research grants growing both in number and in dollar amount. At the same time, the number of newly trained scientists has continued to increase at least as fast as available research funds, so both new and established scientists have experienced difficulty winning and renewing research grants. Currently, about 1 in 3 grant proposals are approved for long-term research projects. If the number of advanced degrees awarded continues to grow, as seems likely based on enrollment trends, this competitive situation will persist. Additionally, applied research positions in private industry may become more difficult to obtain if increasing numbers of scientists seek jobs in private industry because of the competitive job market for independent research positions in universities and for college and university faculty.

Opportunities for those with a bachelorís or masterís degree in biological science are expected to be better. The number of science-related jobs in sales, marketing, and research management, for which non-Ph.D.s usually qualify, is expected to exceed the number of independent research positions. Non-Ph.D.s also may fill positions as science or engineering technicians or health technologists and technicians. Some may become high school biology teachers.

Biological scientists enjoyed very rapid gains in employment between the mid-1980s and mid-1990s, in part reflecting increased staffing requirements in new biotechnology companies. Employment growth should slow somewhat as increases in the number of new biotechnology firms slow and existing firms merge or are absorbed into larger ones. However, much of the basic biological research done in recent years has resulted in new knowledge, including the isolation and identification of genes. Biological scientists will be needed to take this knowledge to the next stage, which is the understanding of how certain genes function within an entire organism, so that gene therapies can be developed to treat diseases. Even pharmaceutical and other firms not solely engaged in biotechnology use biotechnology techniques extensively, spurring employment increases for biological scientists. Expected expansion of research related to health issues, such as AIDS, cancer, and Alzheimerís disease, also should create more jobs for these scientists. In addition, efforts to discover new and improved ways to clean up and preserve the environment will continue to add to job growth. More biological scientists, including some botanists, will be needed to determine the environmental impact of industry and government actions and to prevent or correct environmental problems, while some will find opportunities in environmental regulatory agencies. Botanists also will use their expertise to advise lawmakers on legislation for environmental protection and for ways to save environmentally sensitive areas. There will continue to be demand for biological scientists specializing in botany, zoology, and marine biology, but opportunities will be limited because of the small size of these fields.

Biological scientists are less likely to lose their jobs during recessions than are those in many other occupations because many are employed on long-term research projects. However, an economic downturn could influence the amount of money allocated to new research and development efforts, particularly in areas of risky or innovative research. An economic downturn could also limit the possibility of extension or renewal of existing projects.