Careers in Developmental Biology: Job Options and Requirements

Oct 20, 2021

If you want to find the secrets of life, then perhaps a career in biochemistry, biophysics, or microbiology would be right for you. You could work in a research lab or as a biology instructor. Most positions require a graduate degree.

Essential Information

Developmental biology examines how simple structures within life forms become more complex. Aspects of developmental biology are applicable to humans, plants, insects and animals. Developmental biology is often taught in conjunction with cell and molecular biology. Careers often involve some form of research or lab work and may require an advanced education.

Career Researcher Cell Biologist Biology Professor
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree for assistant positions; graduate degree for advanced positions Doctoral degree Doctoral degree
Projected Job Growth (2019-2029) 4% (for all biochemists and biophysicists)* 3% (for all microbiologists)* 9% (postsecondary biological sciences teachers)*
Mean Annual Salary (2020) $104,810 (for all biochemists and biophysicists)* $91,840 (for all microbiologists)* $101,320 (for all postsecondary biological science teachers)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Options in Developmental Biology

Individuals with an interest in developmental biology earn a bachelor's degree and typically continue with schooling to obtain an advanced degree. There are a variety of options for students including a career as a researcher, cell biologist and biology professor.


Whether working as a lab technician, research assistant or scientist, research is a critical component of advancing the studies of the developmental biology sciences. Most researchers conduct experiments working within laboratories mapping human genes and studying the mechanisms of aging. Researchers investigate a wide range of species including insects, plant and animals.

Job opportunities may be available in medical, biotechnology or pharmaceutical industries. Researchers also work for government agencies in which research is critical with government being responsible for regularly funding research projects. Undergraduate degrees may be sufficient for assistant and technician positions; however, advanced research positions require a graduate education. An increase in jobs involving research in lab biology, such as biochemist and biophysicist positions, is expected between 2019 and 2029 at a rate of 4%. The mean annual salary for these types of researchers was $104,810 in May of 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Cell Biologist

Cell biologists study living organisms, particularly how to treat disease within their cells. How the cells function, their makeup and dynamic systems are all areas of study. Cell biologists experiment regularly in laboratories and calculate data to be used in confirming or changing their study goals. Biological scientists, including cell biologists, typically require a doctorate degree in order to conduct independent research, stated the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Cell biologists that can blend their knowledge of biology sub-disciplines have a vast array of career opportunities in medical and biotechnological research.

Specific job growth for cell biologists was not available, but the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides data for microbiology, a similar field. Microbiologists can expect an increase of 3% for available jobs from 2019-2029. The mean annual salary for this occupation was reported as $91,840 in May 2020.

Biology Professor

Professors are responsible for developing minds, which will continue to shape the future of science in their discipline. They are responsible for instructing and evaluating students, as well as keeping up-to-date on resent developments in their field. Some professors may also conduct original research. Professors are required to hold a graduate education; tenured professors may need to hold a doctorate in developmental, molecular or cellular biology.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts job growth for all postsecondary teachers will rise much faster than average compared with other occupations with an estimate of 9% increase from 2019 to 2029. The BLS also states the mean annual salary for postsecondary biological science teachers in May of 2020 to be $101,320.

Education Requirements for Careers in Developmental Biology

Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences

Scholars may use a four-year biological science program as a stepping-stone to a graduate program or for entry-level technical positions in the field. Students may concentrate in molecular, genetic and developmental biology. Within the program, students investigate the mechanisms of human development, as well as how errors occur. They examine biological pathways and genetic manipulation. Coursework on the following topics is included in the program.

  • Cell biology
  • Chemistry
  • Genetics
  • Physiology

Master of Science in Cell and Developmental Biology

Within a two-year master's program, students delve into advanced-level research and complete a master's thesis. Many of these programs are medically oriented. Students are afforded independent study opportunities, in addition to taking the following courses.

  • Biochemistry
  • Developmental biology
  • Molecular biology
  • Molecular genetics

Doctor of Philosophy in Developmental Biology

These degree programs can take four to five years to complete. A research apprenticeship is often required in order to graduate. Apprenticeships are conducted with current experts in the field. Common courses include:

  • Gross anatomy
  • Graduate seminar
  • Cellular structures
  • Advanced genetics

With a bachelor's degree, you can pursue a career as a research assistant, but jobs as researchers, cell biologists or college professors call for completing several years of graduate studies. There are a variety of sub-disciplines, many concerned with medicine, that can be pursued in developmental biology.

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