Plant biologists study plants, conduct conservation activities and attempt to uncover new ways in which plants and extracts can be developed as medicines and food sources. Animal biologists study the genetics and biological makeup of various types of species and research their habitats. Wages for biologists vary based on experience level, expertise and location.
Biologists typically complete college degrees before seeking employment opportunities with government agencies, universities or science firms. A 2010 study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers found that graduates with a plant biology degree had an average starting salary of between $ 29,500 and $39,088. As of 2011, the same organization found that graduates with various types of biological science degrees had an average starting salary of $41,697. According to the same report, starting salaries rose significantly from January 2010, when the average biological sciences major received a starting salary of $28,664. For comparison, college students as a whole received starting salaries of $50,034.
A 2011 Bureau of Labor Statistics report found that wildlife biologists and zoologists across the nation had an average annual salary of $61,880. This amounts to an hourly wage of $29.75, and at the time of the survey 18,380 people were employed in the field. The lowest paid 10 percent of these scientists earned an annual salary of $36,310, while the top 10 percent of earners brought home an average salary of $94,070.
In 2011, the Bureau of Labor Statistics released predictions about job growth in various industries in the decade spanning 2010 to 2020. Job opportunities across all sectors are expected to increase by 14 percent. Life-, physical- and social-science related employment opportunities are expected to increase by 16 percent. However, employment openings for wildlife biologists are expected to grow by just 7 percent, because many biologists work for government agencies that are subject to tight budgetary restrictions. In the long term, the bureau expects hiring to increase as scientists will have to study the impacts of human expansion into new areas.
Some plant and animal biologists seek employment as teachers in colleges or high schools. Others work as researchers at universities while studying for advanced degrees in subjects such as botany or genetics. Government employed biologists often work as technicians or naturalists at state or federally owned parks or waterways. While many biologists are engaged in practical work, others gain employment as writers and produce study papers and reports for journals, magazines or newspapers.