(NOC 2121)


These comments apply to the career grouping of Life Science Professionals, which includes Biologists.

Currently your work prospects are rated FAIR because:

Biologists and related scientists work in a wide variety of fields: bacteriology, botany, ecology, genetics, marine hydrology, microbiology, toxicology, virology, zoology and the like. This wide variety of disciplines leads most of those in this occupation to specialize, even if they start off with a multidisciplinary background. Mobility between these work sectors is low. Note that biologists and related scientists are sometimes in competition with those in other occupations such as chemists and agronomists in some of these sectors.

In the circumstances, changes in employment levels in the various sectors of this occupation can depend on a host of factors; among the factors that have the greatest influence are scientific discoveries, public opinion, the level of government spending, and changes in legislation.

Scientific discoveries open up new fields of endeavour for biologists and related scientists. These can be in basic research, or in the research and development of products based on the results of basic research. Examples of new fields are the deciphering of the human genome, application of genetics to plants (GMOs) and animals (cloning, implanting of human genes into animals, and so on) and the use of microorganisms in the treatment of waste water and contaminated soil. This should have a definite positive impact on the demand for biologists and related scientists in the years ahead.

In one sector of the population, such discoveries provoke numerous reactions concerning ethical issues and the ecological and health consequences of their application. For example, cloning and the implanting of human genes into animals, either to produce drugs or to make grafts, raises numerous ethical questions. The use of GMOs arouses fears about their long-term effects, and the preservation of biodiversity. For example, some people are afraid that GMOs may completely displace the original products, and that we may be unable to reintroduce them because of the appearance of harmful effects: more resistant insects, new plant diseases, long-term health effects, and so on. The public is asking questions, looking for guarantees, and demanding more research and protective measures. These pressures are forcing companies and government agencies to order more research and testing of these products, which promotes employment in this occupation.

Changes in public spending also have an important influence on the demand for biologists and related scientists. The government cutbacks of the 90s reduced their numbers in public administration and the health sector. However, the recent improvement in public finances has led to, among other things, an increase in research grants to universities.

However, since the country's finances have further deteriorated because of the last recession and governments are concentrating their new spending on the health (and to a lesser extent, education) sector, we cannot expect to see a substantial increase in government spending in biology-related fields unless these fields are affected by the aforementioned public pressures. This factor should therefore contribute only slightly to employment growth in this occupation in the next few years.

Passage of legislation may increase the volume of work for biologists and related scientists. For example, the adoption of the new forestry regime could have a positive impact on the hiring of botanists. Similarly, the law extending patent protection for pharmaceutical companies when new drugs are developed has had a positive effect on the demand for microbiologists, bacteriologists, pharmacologists and virologists in recent years. It stimulated R&D (including clinical testing) in pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies. Water management policy is another example of legislation that affects the demand for biologists and related scientists. In the years ahead, the trend in legislation should continue to favour employment in this occupation.

The factors that influence employment in this occupation most generally demand a high level of theoretical training. This undoubtedly explains the difficulty those with a bachelor's degree have experienced in finding work related to their education. These trends definitely favour those with a master's or a doctorate.

Since these factors are positive in general, it is expected that the number of biologists and related scientists will increase sharply over the next few years.

Job Seekers: 10,874
Job Openings: 10,440

Job prospects for this career are rated Limited

Last Updated: May 10, 2012