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Life Scientist: Job Description, Duties, Salary and Outlook

A life scientist may be any scientist whose work centers on the study of living things - whether plants, animals, bacteria, or humans. This occupation may require at least a bachelor's degree in a life science such as biology, chemistry, or genetics.

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Description of Life Scientists

Life science comprises a number of different fields and specializations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), several types of scientists that may be grouped under the major category of life scientist are (www.bls.gov):

  • Food Scientists
  • Epidemiologists
  • Microbiologist
  • Plant Scientists
  • Biologists

General Duties of Life Scientists

The particular duties of life scientists may depend on their field of work. Nonetheless, there are certain core responsibilities that virtually all life scientists may share, regardless of their area of study. Most life scientists may be required to conduct research either in a laboratory or in the field. Some scientists may conduct what is called basic research, which is studying a subject for the sake of understanding more about it. Others may conduct applied research, which is research for the purpose of developing a product, treatment, or technique for the market.

Specific Duties

Food Scientists

Food scientists may work for private corporations, academia or government in researching and developing many aspects of food such as nutritional content and additives. Some food scientists may also ensure that government food regulations are enforced. Although a bachelor's degree in biology, chemistry, or related subjects may be sufficient, a Doctorate of Philosophy (Ph.D.) may be required for food scientists aspiring to research and/or teach at universities.

Zoologists

Zoologists may research and study the biological and behavioral foundations of wildlife by methods such as dissecting animal cadavers or collecting biological samples from live animals. As with food scientists, a bachelor's degree may be sufficient for certain research positions. Nonetheless, a Ph.D. may be required for administrative, academic, and independent research positions.

Employment Outlook of Life Scientists

The employment outlook for life scientists in general varies depending on geography, field of practice, and education level, among other factors. For example, the BLS forecasts the number of food scientists and technicians to increase by 8% and the number of zoologists and wildlife biologists to increase by 7% between 2010 and 2020.

Salaries of Life Scientists

As with the employment outlook, the salaries of life scientists may depend on several factors, such as geography, field of practice, and education level. In 2012, for instance, the BLS reported that the average annual salary for food scientists and technologists was $64,140. But this figure sometimes changed demonstrably from state to state; food scientists and technologists in Georgia averaged $51,830 per year, while those in Massachusetts received mean annual salaries of $77,500.

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Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics