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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.

  • Avg. Salary $92,613.00
  • Avg. Wage $48.26
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary
  • Outlook above avg
  • Employed 2,700
  • In Demand High
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) 
Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

49%
49%
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Provincially Regulated
  • Strength Required Strength requirements vary
Interest Codes
The Biologist is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Biologists
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 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

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.

  • Strength Required Strength requirements vary
Skills & Abilities
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
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2019

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


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 31, 2019

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.

What You Need

Membership requires:

  • At least 3 years of acceptable work experience
  • A bachelor’s degree, master’s degree or doctoral degree in biological sciences from an approved educational institute, or equivalent
  • 3 letters from professional referees (preferably, at least 1 from a Professional Biologist)

For official, detailed information about registration requirements, visit 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 in Canada? and ASPB.

To learn about certification for internationally educated biologists, see Biologist Registration Process.

Contact Details

Alberta Society of Professional Biologists
370, 105 12 Ave SE
Calgary, Alberta T2G 1A1
Canada

Call: 403-264-1273
Email: info@aspb.ab.ca
Website: aspb.ab.ca

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.

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 [pdf] in this occupation is 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 (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • Size of the occupation

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

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 58 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.

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Biologists and related scientists

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 $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.

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
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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