An alternative to being a Medical Doctor, if you want to do without the stress and long schooling, is to be a P.A.
Just like doctors, there are many types of Physician’s Assistant, and likewise, you can work in a clinic or hospital. A P.A. essentially takes the place of the doctor in common medical situations, and work under the supervision of their Medical Doctor. The P.A. is not the doctor, but assists the doctor in his/her tasks, and at the same time, knows his/her own limits as to what can be done to assist a patient at hand. They are licensed mid-level practitioners who are able to take medical histories, diagnose and treat patients. They can prescribe medication, and mainly act as physician extenders. Whatever the doctors feel and are willing to train them to do, they can. As a PA, you would practice under the Medical Doctor’s license.
For example, a friend of mine is a Dermatology P.A., and works in Beverly Hills, CA, and works with patients on matters of the skin, such as acne, eczema, fungal and bacterial skin infections, and of course, skin cancer. She finds the highlights of her days come from doing minor surgical procedures, such as skin biopsies and excisions. She also does cosmetic procedures, such as Botox, fillers, and laser procedures. She got here by completing 4 years undergrad at UCI, also earning her B.S. in Biological Sciences, and then spending about 2 years in the P.A. program at Samuel Merritt College. Online, the average salary of a P.A. can range from $71K – $86K annually. Though a downfall is that you are paid less than a Medical Doctor, you go through less schooling, can pay off your loans faster, and earn a very decent salary for the work you will do.
Another common field that many B.S. degree scientists will fall into is research. Many of my friends have gone into this field, working for Allergan, Amgen, Watson Pharmaceuticals, and other companies that you may have heard of.
Currently, one of us is working at the National Institute of Health, which is basically where all of the United States turn to for any health and medical information. He is also currently a Ph.D. candidate at Georgetown University, after completing 4 years at UC Riverside, graduating with a B.S. in Neuroscience. Currently, he is working on cancer research, working with top scientists from around the nation, and testing new drugs on various cell strains. After he finishes his Ph.D., he plans to work for a pharmaceutical company. Research scientists can earn anywhere, on average, from $57K to $95K, depending on what you are doing, how in demand your work is, and who you work for.
Another individual is actually one of the leading Bioinformatics Principal Scientist at Pfizer. With technology advancing so rapidly, Bioinformatics is a hot prospect because we can use technology in collaboration with research to analyze data and improve research in a myriad of ways. A great deal of math, science, and technology are orchestrated in a way that suits his work at Pfizer. He actually graduated with a B.S. in Biology from UC Davis before completing his Ph.D. at UC San Diego. He is also working on cancer, and uses his research skills to find cures for cancer in the lab, as well as organizing data into databases on the computer, as well as writing web programs to access and analyze them. Notice that he didn’t graduated with a degree in Information Technology; however, his personal love of using technology is very strong, and it carried over into his work. He enjoys his job because he can contribute to humanity, can utilize his creativity in science and technology, and has flexible hours (hey, he can work at home and spend more time with his family!). Online, the starting salary can range between $60K to $90K. Clinical Researchers can earn anywhere from $21K – $35K as a lab technician (something you could do while you are in college to get some lab/research experience), to an associate (average $51K – $65K), manager (average $85K), to Clinical Research Physician (average $90K – 200K).
A soil scientist collects soils as data, groups similar soils together, and draws on aerial photos to create soil maps. A typical day for him included driving out to the forest, collecting and analyzing soils and data in the summer, and creating maps in the winter when it got cold. He earned a B.S. in Soil Science at Cal Poly Pomona for 4 years, and was able to start working with the Natural Resources Conservation Service right away. The salary ranges, on average, between $50K – $75k. Unfortunately, after 5 years, he decided he didn’t enjoy the field work anymore, and transferred to the NRCS’s office in Reno, where his understanding of technology landed him the job as the Information Technology Specialist, which he enjoys very much!
Keep in mind that as the future draws near, more and more scientists will be needed in the Environmental field. Whether it be analyzing soil composition here in California or in Brazil, or finding patterns, trends, and the composition of chemicals and life in the air, water, or land, because of our deteriorating environment, one should really keep in mind the growing importance of working in such a field in the future. I can bet my new shoes that in the next few years, careers that link Earth and Biological sciences, as well as technology, will grow in high demand as our world searches for solutions and answer to help our planet.
If food interests you, you might want to consider becoming a dietician!
One of my friends is a Registered Dietician, working at a hospital in Los Angeles. Though she didn’t graduate with a degree in Biology, it’s possible to still get yourself into this field with the right classes, so you may want to talk to your university/college counselor about it. She graduated with a B.S. degree in Dietetics and Food Administration with an emphasis in Nutrition, from Cal State Long Beach. She followed that with a 2 year internship at the University of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey. Her current job allows her to provide appropriate medical nutrition therapy to patients in the hospital, as well as nutrition education and continuity after they leave the hospital. She also provides nutrition counseling in areas such as Diabetes, Weight Management, Cardiovascular Health, Pregnancy, Kids, and Fitness, to name a few. A typical salary in this field earns, on average, about $45K to $56K.
Although we all dread going to the dentist, we need them to help maintain the health of our teeth. And as we all know, there is little pain that can compare to a horribly bad toothache! We tend to think that all dentists work in Dental Offices, but they can work in many other places as well. For example, one of my friends is a dentist for the Air Force, treating all the branches of the military (that includes the Army, Navy, Marines, and the Coast Guard) to make sure “they are all dentally ready to be deployed”, as she says, being able to directly support the troops even though she’s not on the front lines. Though she is currently working as a civilian General Dentist, the past four years before, she was working as a member of the Air Force, and had the title of “Captain”. As a Captain, she was responsible to take all the fitness tests, along with other Air Force members! After graduating with a B.S. in Biology at UC Irvine, she spent three years at the University of the Pacific School of Dentistry to earn her D.D.S.
A typical dentist’s salary (not of the Air Force) can range on average from $96K to $123K, depending on how long you work as a dentist.
If you enjoy working with people, yet love your science, this may be the best way to go!
I might be biased. After all, I am a teacher, and have taught middle school for the past 7 years. Middle school??? Yes! But that is a personal preference…I started out wanting to teach AP Bio, High School, as does every Biology major who wants to become a teacher. However, that changed during my Teaching Credential program, while working with both sectors of secondary education. I found the middle school aged kids endearing, challenging, and rewarding.
First of all, I too graduated with a B.S. in Biological Sciences after 4 years at UCI. Because I loved the school so much, I spent another year there in the Teacher Credential program, and started teaching then and there. Within the next two years, I also completed my Master of Art in Teaching Elementary and Secondary Education. I work in Riverside, CA, and a teacher salary there can range from $46K – $90K, increasing every year, and not including any extras a teacher may do (coaching sports, for example). Schooling may be relatively short (without a Masters degree anyways), but the real education comes in the classroom, with first hand experiences. At the same time, paying off for your education is shorter, and extra helpful with the APLE program, which paid off $11,000 of my undergraduate and graduate classes at UCI for teaching science in a rural, designated low income school.
Teaching is great because I can share what I love in the sciences, be challenged in working with inner-city kids who may be tough to crack, head field trips and work with parents, build character in the youth of tomorrow, be creative in my lesson designs and classroom designs alike. As the Department Head, I’m also a liaison between the school district and our Science department, to ensure quality education to our students. As in any job that works with children, you must have patience, energy, creativity, knowledge, humor, and discipline. The best reward comes when students come back the next year, remembering the things we learned in class, inviting me to their high school graduation, visiting before they leave for college, and even when they’re engaged! Our public school system is in dire need of great science teachers, and perhaps you can do that with your Biology degree too!
Remember, these aren’t your only choices – you have no limit in a study that focuses on life itself. You could work with people, animals, chemicals, plants, underwater, in the air, cells, food, water…you could write, draw illustrations, work in another country…anything! For more ideas, check out here for 50 Things To Do with a Biology Degree, and here. Heck, you could even work for the FBI! You have a versatile degree. Now it’s up to you on what you plan to do with it, so explore, investigate, gather data, and enjoy. After all, isn’t that what science all about?