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Working as a Biologist [NOC 2121]

Job Description

Biologists carry out research to gain knowledge of living organisms, to manage natural resources, and to develop new practices and products related to medicine and agriculture.

Biologists and related scientists may specialize at the macroscopic level, in fields such as:

  • zoology, ecology and marine biology

or at the cellular and molecular level, in fields such as:

  • genetics, pharmacology, toxicology.

As a Biologist, you perform the following duties:

  • Plan and conduct studies about the environment, and characteristics and behaviour of plants and animals
  • Conduct ecological and environmental impact studies and prepare reports
  • Study, identify and classify plant and animal specimens
  • Conduct experiments in plant or animal growth, heredity and breeding
  • Supervise biological technologists and technicians and other scientists.

As a Microbiologist and cell and molecular biologist you perform the following duties:

  • Research human, animal and plant tissues and cells
  • Create studies to test, evaluate and screen drugs and pharmaceuticals
  • Conduct molecular or biochemical studies and experiments into genetic expression, gene manipulation and recombinant DNA technology
  • Discover, develop, evaluate and commercialize new products
  • Supervise biological technologists and technicians and other scientists

Industry Overview

The employment opportunities for biologists in BC are good. There are currently more than 2000 registered members of the College of Applied Biology of British Columbia.

New jobs will be in private sector research or joint projects involving both the private sector and government. You may also find employment with the growing number of bio-tech firms located in BC.

Another area of increasing opportunities is in the environmental industry. Consulting firms specializing in environmental, horticultural, and ecological restoration are expected to create new employment opportunities for biologists.

As a new entrant to this industry in BC, you may need to consider contract and part-time work and self-employment. Project-based work is replacing some permanent full-time jobs in government and education.

Job Outlook in BC

Biologists & Related Scientists

Expected annual growth and job openings for biologists and related scientists

Chart from WorkBC

WorkBC provides job openings in BC regions from 2015-2025:

Region Expected # of Job Openings Average Annual Employment Growth Expected Increase in Employment
Vancouver Island 290 0.9% 75
Lower Mainland / Southwest 700 1.4% 255
Thompson-Okanagan 120 0.6% 25
Kootenay 60 0.0% 0
Cariboo 70 1.6% 25
North Coast & Nechako 50 0.0% 0

You can learn more about working as a Biologist in BC from:

Types of Employers

Almost two-thirds of biologists work in the private sector in large corporations and small business. The remaining one-third is employed by the public sector in either education or government.

Employers include:

  • Governments
  • Universities
  • Environment Consulting Firms
  • Resources and Utility Companies
  • Chemical and Drug Companies
  • Bio-tech Firms

Salary

The median annual salary for biologists and related scientists working full-time in BC is $72,996.

Wages vary depending on the type of biologist, the areas of specialization, level of education and employer. Full time permanent employees generally receive employee benefits in addition to their salary.

Contract, part-time and self-employment are increasingly common in this occupation.

Sources: WorkBC Career Profiles and Career Cruising database (Profile for Biologist).

Job Bank Canada Wage Report provides hourly wages for biologists in BC regions:

hourly wages for biologists in BC regions

Source: Job Bank Canada

Working Hours

Many biologists are required to work more than a regular work week schedule of 8 hours a day, 5 days a week.

In the early years of your career, you may do a lot of lab or field work for more senior researchers and may work long hours. You also spend time at lectures and conferences that fall outside regular work hours.

If you are involved in large research projects, you may also work irregular hours, perhaps more than 50 hours a week when a deadline is approaching. Travel may also be required when doing fieldwork or attending conferences.

Source: Career Cruising

Skills, Education and Experience

Skills

  • technical communication and report writing skills
  • ability to locate, gather, organize, synthesize and analyze information
  • good spatial perception
  • innovative
  • very detail-oriented
  • good manual dexterity
  • patient
  • curious
  • interested in the living world
  • logical thinking

Sources: WorkBC & Career Cruising

Education and Experience

In order to work as a biologist in Canada, the following requirements must be achieved:

  • Bachelor’s degree in biology or in a related discipline is required for biologists
  • Master’s or doctoral degree in biology or a related discipline is required for employment as a research scientist in biology
  • Post-doctoral research experience is usually required before employment in academic departments or research institutions.

Source: WorkBC Career Profile

Qualifications

The College of Applied Biology of British Columbia (CAB) offers registration for biologists and allows you to use the title Registered Professional Biologist.

While registration with the CAB is not mandatory to work as a biologist in BC, it is valuable to become certified as it provides formal recognition of your skills and experience to employers.

For more information about registration and membership see:

Biologists in the environmental industry are also encouraged to seek certification by the Canadian Environmental Certification Approvals Board. Certification is available for: Canadian Certified Environmental Practitioner (CCEP), Canadian Environmental Practitioner-In-Training (CEPIT), and Auditing Certification.

More information:

Microbiologists are encouraged to seek certification by the Canadian College of Microbiologists. The College offers certification as a Registered Microbiologist (RMCCM), Specialist (SCCM), and Fellow in Clinical Microbiology (FCCM).

More information:

Internationally Trained Biologists

If you are an internationally trained biologist you must complete a multi-step process to work in BC. This includes an assessment of your education and professional credentials.

For more information:

Finding Jobs

You’ll find job advertisements in local newspapers, electronic sources, and through professional associations.

Local Newspapers

You can look at the Vancouver Sun & The Province at Vancouver Public Library for free. Check the job postings daily and the careers section in the Vancouver Sun on Wednesdays and Saturdays and, in The Province on Sundays.

Job White Pages

Also available in print at the Central Library
NOTE: You can only access this database from the Central Library or VPL branch libraries. Access is NOT available from home or outside the Library.

Online Job Postings

  • ECO Canada
    Membership required to access site (free to register)
  • Indeed.com
    Find jobs posted on a multitude of company career sites and job boards.
  • University Affairs Careers
    Job listings in the higher education sector. Can browse for jobs under “Discipline – Biological and Biomedical Sciences”.

Professional Associations’ Career Resources

Identifying the Right Position

When you browse job advertisements, you’ll find a wide range of different job titles that are relevant.

For biologists and related scientists, look at these related job titles:

  • Biologist
  • Botanist
  • Cell biologist
  • Ecologist
  • Marine biologist
  • Microbiologist
  • Pharmacologist
  • Physiologist
  • Zoologist

For a complete list see:  National Occupational Classification (for 2121)

Creating a List of Potential Employers

You can use directories to produce lists of laboratories, environmental consulting companies, biotechnology companies, educational institutions and other employers in the Lower Mainland or BC. Contact them directly to find out if they’re hiring.

  • Canadian Biotechnology
    Available at the Central Library, 660.605 C21
  • Canadian Environmental Resource Guide
    Available at the Central Library, 363.70025 C21
  • Reference Canada
    Click on “Start Search” beside Canadian Businesses, then select the “Advanced Search” button.
    Select both “Keyword/SIC/NAICS” under Business Type and “City” under Geography.
    In the top search box enter:  biologists and click LOOKUP.
    Select the appropriate headings.
    Lower down, select the Province, choose the cities, and click the “View Results” button.
    NOTE: You can access this database from a Library computer. If you are using a computer from outside the Library, you will need a Vancouver Public Library card to login to this database. After clicking on the database name, you will be asked to enter your library card number and PIN (usually last four digits of your telephone number).

Applying for a Job

In Canada, employers usually expect to receive a resume or curriculum vitae and a cover letter that identifies the position you are applying for and summarizes your relevant experience.
Use the library catalogue to find books on writing resumes and cover letters specific to your industry.
To learn about applying for jobs in Canada, use the following pathfinders:

Getting Help from Industry Sources

Industry Associations

Associations for biologists in BC and Canada can provide information and assistance. Registration and fees are required for membership.

Industry Journals

Search the Vancouver Public Library catalogue for journals related to your profession. Examples at the Central Library:

  • BioNews / Association of Professional Biologists of British Columbia
    Also available at the Central Library, 639.905 B6151