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Biologist

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

Also Known As

Botanist, Naturalist, Research Scientist, Zoologist

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Biologists (2121.1) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Biologists and Related Scientists (C021) 
  • 2011 NOC: Biologists and related scientists (2121) 
  • 2016 NOC: Biologists and related scientists (2121) 
Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Biologists

2006 NOC: 2121.1

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group
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

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

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 for this NOC group 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 About Interests

Abilities

Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Duties
Updated Mar 31, 2019

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

  • Identify and inventory organisms such as plants and animals or micro-organisms and fungi
  • Organize and implement field studies to analyze and monitor such things as population dynamics, genetics, or habitat
  • Take samples and conduct tests in laboratories
  • Research how organisms develop and function
  • Apply biological principles to advance medicine and health studies
  • Analyze and interpret data and write scientific papers and reports
  • Use statistics and mathematical models for applications, such as estimating the number and kinds of organisms in a specific location, noting trends in population sizes, or understanding molecular and cellular processes
  • Assess harvest rates and sustainable yield for fish and wildlife species
  • Consult with stakeholders and the public to explore resource management options
  • Identify the causes of plant diseases
  • Make recommendations for the sustainable development of resources
  • Recommend operating standards 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
  • Present scientific data to the public and stakeholders

Many biologists who do research are also required to teach.

Biologists take on 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, such as plant growth, development, function, distribution and origin, as well as applications in medicine, agriculture, and synthesis. They also study related environmental issues such as conservation, re-vegetation, and weed control.

Fisheries biologists study freshwater fish and their habitats.

Marine biologists study bacteria, plankton, plants, and animals that live in oceans and seas and on their shorelines.

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

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

Working Conditions
Updated Mar 31, 2019
  • Strength Required Strength requirements vary

Biologists work in a variety of environments, from offices and laboratories to research ships and remote, rugged terrain. Some work mostly outdoors, collecting and identifying specimens, taking samples, and surveying and documenting populations. Others are usually indoors in offices, classrooms, and laboratories. Depending on their specialty, biologists may be away from home for weeks at a time in all kinds of weather.

Physical demands vary considerably. A biologist in the office or laboratory may not have to do any heavy lifting. However, field work can be extremely demanding, such as lifting a 50-kilogram net on a rolling ship.

Traits & Skills
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Biologists need:

  • Initiative and an open-minded approach to interpreting data
  • An interest in nature and an appreciation for all forms of life
  • An aptitude for math and statistics
  • Communication and presentation skills
  • Observation and problem-solving skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Stamina for field work
  • The ability to work independently and as part of a team
  • Critical thinking

They need to keep in mind safety precautions and ethical standards while carrying out their duties. They should enjoy:

  • Synthesizing information
  • Finding innovative solutions to problems
  • Working with equipment and instruments on precision tasks
  • Co-ordinating and supervising the work of others
  • Working with other scientists

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2011 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Top 10 Skills Employers Are Looking For

Biologists and related scientists

2011 NOC: 2121

This chart shows which job skills are currently in highest demand for this occupational group. It was created using this occupation's 10 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Oct 29, 2021 and Aug 28, 2022.

Review these skills to learn:

  • Whether or not this occupation matches your skill set
  • What training you may need to get these skills
  • What skills to highlight in your resumé, cover letter, and interview.
Personal Suitability: Team player
Personal Suitability: Effective interpersonal skills
Personal Suitability: Excellent oral communication
Personal Suitability: Excellent written communication
Personal Suitability: Client focus
Teleworking Information: Remote work available
Business Equipment and Computer Applications: MS Excel
Business Equipment and Computer Applications: MS PowerPoint
Business Equipment and Computer Applications: MS Word
Business Equipment and Computer Applications: MS Outlook
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2019
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary

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. They may be taken for university credit through the University of Alberta or the 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

To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2019
  • Certification Provincially Regulated

Certain professional titles or duties within this occupation are protected by provincial legislation. Requirements vary if you use these titles or perform these duties.

The related legislation is shown below. If there are multiple related legislations, select a certification heading to learn about each one.

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 [pdf]. 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.

For information on what you need and other details, visit the certification profile Biologist.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2019

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 institutions
  • Medical laboratories
  • Federal, provincial, and local government departments, and agencies such as Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada
  • Post-secondary institutions

Competition for positions can be strong. Related summer, part-time, or volunteer work experience is a valuable asset when looking for permanent employment. A master’s or doctoral degree is a must for research and academic positions.

Industry Concentration

This section shows the industries where the majority of people in this occupation work. The data is based on the 2016 Census.

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups.

In the 2121: Biologists and related scientists occupational group, 79.3% of people work in:

Employment Outlook

Employment outlook is influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • Time of year (for seasonal jobs)
  • Location in Alberta
  • Employment turnover (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation
  • Trends and events that affect overall employment, especially in the industry or industries from the previous list

In Alberta, the 2121: Biologists and related scientists occupational group is expected to have an above-average annual growth of 2.1% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 58 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

Note
NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

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

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2019

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Biologists and related scientists

2016 NOC: 2121
Average Wage
$48.26
Per Hour
Average Salary
$92,613.00
Per Year
Average Hours
37.1
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
12
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

Source
2019 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey

NOC 2121 Wage Profile

Unless otherwise noted, the data shown here is for all industries and all regions in Alberta.

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.

To see the full survey data for this NOC group, visit the wage profile.

Other wage sources
To make an informed wage and salary decision, research other wage sources [pdf] to supplement this data.

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.


Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top

Hourly Wage

For full-time and part-time employees
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $23.08 $53.84 $35.12 $32.21
Overall $32.45 $67.40 $48.26 $50.11
Top $36.06 $110.04 $65.88 $62.26

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.

Pay brackets for hourly wages

  • Starting pay: average pay offered for entry-level positions
  • Overall pay: average pay across all employees in this occupation
  • Top pay: average pay offered to top-paid employees

Industry Information

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

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years
49%
49%)
Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties
11%
11%
Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months
14%
14%
Vacancy Rate
N/A
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Environment, Forestry and Related Studies
  • Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 31, 2019

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

ECO Canada – Environmental Careers Organization Canada website: www.eco.ca

Fisheries Management Career Paths (Alberta Environment and Parks) website: www.alberta.ca/careers-fisheries-management.aspx

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 31, 2019. 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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