University graduates still have the best chances in a generally difficult job market. Among graduates, biologists are not in the worst position, provided they have learnt, in the course of their studies, to analyse complex problems, work out solutions, present their results in a suitable form and are well-versed in the use of modern media.
The best career prospects for biologists are in molecularly oriented research areas, such as microbiology, genetics, molecular biology, cell biology, animal physiology and plant physiology. As biologists have to compete with chemists, biochemists and pharmaceutical chemists for many positions, a good knowledge of biochemistry, pharmacology, organic chemistry and pharmaceutical chemistry can be of great advantage when applying for a job.
The career options open to biologists are manifold. We can only try to list the most important among them here.
Positions in research and teaching. Requirements: doctoral degree, and sometimes Habilitation. The present job situation is very tight.
Research in institutions, such as Max Planck Institutes, federal research facilities, Fraunhofer Institutes and major research centres, such as nuclear research centres and cancer research centres.
The situation for postdocs is quite favourable at present. A permanent position is, however, difficult to find. A doctoral degree is the usual requirement.
Firms in the chemistry, pharmacy, food, cosmetics, plant protection and genetic engineering sectors should be considered.
Biologists are mainly employed for research, development of new products and marketing. Microbiologists with proficiency of the areas of metabolism and microbial genetics as well as genetic engineering and biotechnology, geneticists, animal physiologists and plant physiologists are particularly sought after. A doctoral degree is a definite advantage.
Industrial firms also employ biologists for medical-scientific documentation, authorization and registration of medicinal products, scientific guidance and training of sales representatives as well as for the sale and distribution of products.
Botanists and zoologists are particularly in demand. Work ranges from the care of animal and plant collections documenting biodiversity to taxonomic, systematic and biogeographic research. The care of collections on exhibit and data banks is a further possibility.
Positions as editors in school book or scientific publishing companies. This sector is also suitable for teaching graduates.
Work as scientific journalist with press, radio or television. An additional qualification in journalism is usually necessary.
Zoological, botanical, serological, genetic and narcotics analysis
Development of medical equipment
Public Health Service/Hospitals
The state public health departments employ a small number of biologists. University hospital research facilities also employ biologists with a Diplom. Chances of securing a permanent position or of promotion are rare.
Botanical and Zoological Gardens
Scientific work in addition to administrative work
Environmental Protection, Nature Conservation
Employment with district administrative authorities (Landratsämter) or regional administrative authorities (Regierungspräsidien), municipalities, environmental protection agencies and nature conservation organizations is a possibility but relatively few jobs are available. In this area, more and more-self employed biologists are working in an advisory capacity and taking on assignments from industrial firms and government agencies. In third countries, particularly in the tropics, there are good chances of finding a job within the framework of developmental projects. Experience with nature conservation legislation and administrative law is of advantage.
There are many possibilities of setting up as a self-employed biologist. Apart from start-up capital, working experience and a lot of contacts are essential. The following areas are particularly worth considering: environmental protection (consultation), environmental analytics, nature conservation and town and country planning (mapping, surveying), commissioned research, scientific journalism and publishing.