How Long Does Biology School Take?

If you’re interested in the study of life, you’re probably thinking of becoming a biologist. A degree in biology will enable you to work in laboratories or in the field doing research with other scientists. You can concentrate on studying plants or animals and increase people’s knowledge about their behavior and habitat. You may opt to focus on studying a particular species for the rest of your life, as some noted zoologists have done, or you can share your knowledge about biology in general as a teacher to students in elementary, high school or college. A biology degree will also pave the way for you to work as an environmental advocate who will help in the conservation efforts of various species, work towards the preservation of various ecosystems and influence government policies for the better.

To be able to do these things, you will need to go to biology school. The entry point towards a career as a biologist is a bachelor’s degree in biology, wildlife biology, zoology, ecology or a closely related field. These programs typically cover such topics as anatomy, cellular biology and wildlife management. As in other college degrees, you will also be required to take core classes in English, math, fine arts, history and the humanities in addition to science-related courses like botany, chemistry and physics. It will also be to your advantage to take computer science courses because biologists now rely on such software programs as geographic information systems to be able to complete their research.

A bachelor’s degree in biology or related field typically takes four years to complete. However, there are ways for you to graduate faster. For example, you can enroll in an accelerated program that will allow you to take up some courses in the summer and substantially shorten your time in college. If you have what it takes to be able to add an extra course to your existing load for each semester and there are no conflicts in schedule, then taking up extra courses will also substantially shorten your time in biology school.

However, a four-year bachelor’s degree is often not enough for those who aspire to conduct their own research or teach in the university. Obtaining a master’s degree in biology or related field of specialization is often the next step in a career as a biologist. This will normally take a couple of years to complete with a fulltime schedule. A master’s degree program will typically be more research-intensive. Since you will be working together with a professor, you will most likely be given teaching assistantship duties as well. Be prepared to devote at least 40 hours a week on your coursework and research tasks and at least another 15 hours a week for your responsibilities as a teaching assistant.

A master’s degree in biology or related field will often be sufficient for higher level positions or for teaching in high schools. However, if you aspire to conduct your own research or teach biology in colleges or universities, a PhD degree in biology is often a requirement. To be able to graduate from a doctoral degree program in biology, you will need to complete your own research and submit and defend your dissertation and pass comprehensive exams. A doctoral degree in biology typically takes anywhere from five to six years to complete on the average but you can complete this earlier or longer than this. A major factor that will determine how long you’ll be able to obtain your PhD is your research. If you have the funds for your dissertation and your experiments succeed then you’ll become a doctor in biology in just five years or less. However, if you encounter issues with your personal life or run out of funds to conduct your research then you’ll most likely be staying in postgraduate biology school for a longer period of time.

Career Spotlight: Biologist

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