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Occupational Profile

Biologist

Biologists conduct research to learn more about living organisms and ecosystems, manage natural resources, and develop new practices and products in such diverse fields as environmental conservation, medicine, pharmacology, forestry, forensics, nanotechnology, biosynthesis and pest control.

  • Avg. Salary $84,973.00
  • Avg. Wage $45.86
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary
  • Outlook N/A
  • Employed 2,600
  • In Demand Lower
Also Known As

Botanist, Conservation Biologist, Fisheries Biologist, Marine Biologist, Naturalist, Research Scientist , Plant Biologist, Wildlife Biologist, Zoologist

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

43%
43%
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Provincially Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
NOC & Interest Codes
The Biologist is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Biologists
NOC code: 2121.1
INNOVATIVE

Interest in synthesizing information to conduct ecological and environmental impact studies and to prepare reports, and to develop new practices in biological research

OBJECTIVE

Interest in precision working with instruments and equipment to conduct experiments in plant and animal growth, heredity and breeding

DIRECTIVE

Interest in consulting to advise on issues related to biological processes and research and the development of new products; may supervise biological technologists and technicians and other scientists

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. 
It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Duties
Updated Mar 18, 2016

Some biologists work primarily in the field, organizing and participating in field inventories or surveys, documenting species and relevant data for various types of studies, consulting purposes, environmental impact assessments, reclamation or other purposes. Other biologists conduct laboratory research and offer advice and expertise to others. In general, biologists:

  • inventory and identify organisms (for example, plants, animals or communities)
  • organize and implement field studies to analyze and monitor such things as population dynamics, genetics or habitat 
  • take samples and conduct tests in laboratories
  • conduct research to understand how organisms develop and function
  • apply biological principles to further medicine and health studies 
  • analyze and interpret data, and write scientific papers and reports
  • use statistics and mathematical models for applications (for example, estimating the number and kinds of organisms in a specific place, identifying trends in population sizes, understanding molecular and cellular processes)
  • assess harvest rates and sustainable yield for harvested fish and wildlife species
  • consult with stakeholders and the public at large to explore resource management options
  • make recommendations regarding the sustainable development of resources
  • recommend operating conditions for industrial activities to negate or minimize environmental damage
  • provide information and make presentations to schools, clubs and interest groups
  • supervise the work of biological technicians and other staff.

Biologists may have a wide variety of job titles depending on their area of specialization. For example, aquatic biologists may be called fisheries biologists, invertebrate biologists, limnologists or marine biologists depending on the types of organisms (for example, fish, plankton) and habitats (ocean or freshwater environments) they study.  

There are many specializations in each of the following broad areas of study.

Botanists and plant biologists study plants and plant systems (plant growth, development, function, distribution, origin, as well as applications in medicine, agriculture and synthesis) and related environmental issues such as conservation, re-vegetation or weed control. For example, they may:

  • design reserves and recovery plans for threatened plant species
  • identify plants and conduct plant inventories
  • develop biological control strategies to combat pest insects and weeds
  • reclaim old mining and oil drilling sites to stabilize the surface and facilitate the recovery of natural vegetation 
  • study the effects on natural vegetation of pollutants discharged into the air by factories or vehicles 
  • study how habitats change after a disturbance such as a fire (ecological succession)
  • study plant specimens in greenhouses and laboratories
  • conduct evolutionary or taxonomic studies
  • study the physiology and synthesis of valuable plant products
  • develop biotechnological processes to facilitate the production of valuable commodities including drugs, foods, fuels and other chemicals
  • study prehistoric plant fossils.

Fisheries biologists study freshwater fish and their habitats. For example, they may:

  • study the relationship between water quality and the health of a fishery
  • identify fish, aquatic plants and insects (fish food)
  • develop and evaluate fish management programs
  • manage fish hatcheries
  • study life history features relevant to the sustainability of fisheries.

Marine biologists study bacteria, plankton, plants and animals that live in oceans and seas and on their shorelines. For example, they may:

  • study and develop models to predict the behaviour, distribution, evolution or relationships of organisms that live in marine environments
  • study the effects of light, temperature, physiology and nutrients on the growth of plants and animals in the sea
  • study the effects of pollution on plant and animal life in oceans (water chemistry)
  • develop new food sources and other useful products from the sea.

Wildlife biologists study wildlife (birds, reptiles, mammals, amphibians), wildlife habitat and environmental interactions (for example, the effects of fire), and apply their knowledge to the management of wildlife resources and natural habitats.

For information about other areas of study, see the Biochemist, EcologistEntomologist, Food Scientist, Geneticist, Microbiologist, Pharmacologist and Toxicologist occupational profiles.

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 18, 2016

Biologists' working environments range from offices and laboratories to research ships and remote, rugged terrain. Some work primarily outdoors collecting and identifying specimens, taking samples, and surveying and documenting populations. Others work primarily indoors in offices, classrooms and laboratories.

Depending on their specialty, biologists may be away from home for weeks at a time working outdoors in all kinds of weather conditions, or they may spend considerable amounts of time working with computers in offices or equipment in laboratories.

Physical requirements also vary considerably in this occupation. Office and laboratory work may require no significant lifting but field work can be extremely demanding (for example, lifting a 50 kilogram net on a rolling ship).

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Mar 18, 2016

Biologists need the following characteristics:

  • initiative and an open-minded approach to interpreting data
  • an interest in nature and an appreciation for all forms of life
  • an interest in mathematics and statistics
  • good observation skills
  • the ability to pay close attention to details and keep precise records
  • the stamina and endurance required for field work
  • problem solving skills, especially in remote field situations
  • good oral and written communication skills
  • the ability to work well independently and in a team environment.

They should enjoy:

  • synthesizing information and finding innovative solutions to problems
  • working with equipment and instruments at tasks that require precision
  • co-ordinating and supervising the work of others
  • working with other scientists.
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 18, 2016

A 4-year bachelor of science degree in biological or environmental science is the minimum requirement for entry to this field.  A master of science degree generally is required for work as a field biologist, administrator, environmental consultant, professional biologist in industry or advisor with an international assistance agency. A doctoral (PhD) degree and experience as a post-doctoral fellow are required to work as a researcher or university professor.

Bachelor's degree programs in environmental studies may not meet the minimum education requirements to become a Professional Biologist (PBiol). Students interested in becoming a PBiol are advised to consult the Alberta Society of Professional Biologists.

Courses in marine science are offered through the Bamfield Marine Sciences Centre on Vancouver Island and may be taken for university credit through either University of Alberta or University of Calgary.

Students interested in a particular specialty are advised to consult a faculty advisor before selecting undergraduate courses.


Required Education

The following schools offer programs and courses that meet this occupation’s educational requirements. Other eligible programs and courses may be available.

Ambrose University

St. Mary's University


Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 18, 2016

Biologist

Biologists study living organisms and apply their scientific knowledge in various fields.

Legislation

Professional Biologist is a protected title under Alberta's Professional and Occupational Associations Registration Act. This means that to call yourself a Professional Biologist, you must be a registered member of the Alberta Society of Professional Biologists (ASPB). At present, you can call yourself a "biologist" if you are not a registered member of ASPB.

Education

Membership requires: (1) at least 3 years of acceptable work experience, (2) a bachelor's degree, master's degree or doctoral degree in biological sciences from an approved educational institute, or equivalent and (3) 2 letters from professional referees (preferably, at least 1 from a Professional Biologist). For official, detailed information about registration requirements, visit the ASPB website or contact the ASPB.

Working in Alberta

Biologists who are registered and in good standing with a regulatory organization elsewhere in Canada may be eligible for registration in Alberta if registered biologists in the 2 jurisdictions have similar responsibilities and competencies. For more information, see What if I am already certified in another province or territory? and the Alberta regulatory authority (below).

To find more information on the certification process for internationally educated biologists, see Biologist Registration Process on the AlbertaCanada.com website.

Contact Details

Alberta Society of Professional Biologists
370, 105 12 Ave SE
Calgary, Alberta
Canada T2G 1A1
Phone: 403-264-1273
Email: pbiol@aspb.ab.ca
Website: www.aspb.ab.ca

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 18, 2016

Biologists are employed by:

  • environmental and engineering consulting firms 
  • chemical, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies
  • companies in the agriculture, food, natural resource and utility industries
  • medical and veterinary research organizations
  • health and educational schools
  • federal, provincial and local government departments and agencies.

Competition for positions often is keen. Related summer, part time or volunteer work experience is a valuable asset when seeking permanent employment. A master's or doctoral degree is required for research and academic positions.

Biologists are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 2121: Biologists and Related Scientists. In Alberta, 80% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 18, 2016

Biologists and related scientists
NOC code: 2121

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $19.50 $54.74 $33.14 $31.25
Overall $27.99 $68.42 $45.86 $43.04
Top $33.00 $106.05 $61.02 $56.29

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

A: High Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

High Reliability, represents a CV of less than or equal to 6.00% and 30 survey observations and/or represents 50% or more of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Industry Information
Health Care & Social Assistance
Public Administration
ALBERTA, ALL INDUSTRIES
Professional, Scientific & Technical Services

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

43%
43%

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

33%
33%

Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

16%
16%

2015 Vacancy Rate

5%
Related High School Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Environment, Forestry and Related Studies
  • Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 18, 2016

Alberta Society of Professional Biologists website: www.aspb.ab.ca

ECO Canada (Environmental Careers Organization) website: www.eco.ca

Fisheries Management Career Paths (Alberta Environment and Parks) website: aep.alberta.ca

Oceanlink website: www.oceanlink.info

For more information on career planning, education and jobs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Mar 16, 2016. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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