Biologists study living organisms and life in its broader extent in combination with its environment. Through research, they strive to explain the functional mechanisms, interactions, and evolution of organisms.

Includes people performing medical research, biotechnology, biochemistry, pharmaceutical research.

Other titles

The following job titles also refer to biologist:

biology science researcher
wildlife biologist
biology biotechnologist
natural science taxonomist
plant pathologist
biology research scientist

Minimum qualifications

Doctoral or equivalent level is generally required to work as biologist. However, this requirement may differ in some countries.

ISCO skill level

ISCO skill level is defined as a function of the complexity and range of tasks and duties to be performed in an occupation. It is measured on a scale from 1 to 4, with 1 the lowest level and 4 the highest, by considering:

  • the nature of the work performed in an occupation in relation to the characteristic tasks and duties
  • the level of formal education required for competent performance of the tasks and duties involved and
  • the amount of informal on-the-job training and/or previous experience in a related occupation required for competent performance of these tasks and duties.

Biologist is a Skill level 4 occupation.

Biologist career path

Similar occupations

These occupations, although different, require a lot of knowledge and skills similar to biologist.

aquaculture biologist
aquatic animal health professional

Long term prospects

These occupations require some skills and knowledge of biologist. They also require other skills and knowledge, but at a higher ISCO skill level, meaning these occupations are accessible from a position of biologist with a significant experience and/or extensive training.

Essential knowledge and skills

Essential knowledge

This knowledge should be acquired through learning to fulfill the role of biologist.

Microbiology-bacteriology: Microbiology-Bacteriology is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
Botany: The taxonomy or classification of plant life, phylogeny and evolution, anatomy and morphology, and physiology.
Virology: The structure, characteristics, evolution and interactions of viruses and the diseases they cause.
Laboratory techniques: Techniques applied in the different fields of natural science in order to obtain experimental data such as gravimetric analysis, gas chromatography, electronic or thermic methods.
Molecular biology: The interactions between the various systems of a cell, the interactions between the different types of genetic material and how these interactions are regulated.
Biology: Tissues, cells, and functions of plant and animal organisms and their interdependencies and interactions with each other and the environment.
Scientific research methodology: The theoretical methodology used in scientific research involving doing background research, constructing an hypothesis, testing it, analysing data and concluding the results.

Essential skills and competences

These skills are necessary for the role of biologist.

Conduct research on flora: Collect and analyse data about plants in order to discover their basic aspects such as origin, anatomy, and function.
Perform scientific research: Gain, correct or improve knowledge about phenomena by using scientific methods and techniques, based on empirical or measurable observations.
Apply scientific methods: Apply scientific methods and techniques to investigate phenomena, by acquiring new knowledge or correcting and integrating previous knowledge.
Send biological samples to laboratory: Forward collected biological samples to the concerned laboratory, following strict procedures related to the labeling and tracking of the information on the samples.
Gather experimental data: Collect data resulting from the application of scientific methods such as test methods, experimental design or measurements.
Collect biological data: Collect biological specimens, record and summarise biological data for use in technical studies, developing environmental management plans and biological products.
Conduct research on fauna: Collect and analyse data about animal life in order to discover the basic aspects such as origin, anatomy, and function.

Optional knowledge and skills

Optional knowledge

This knowledge is sometimes, but not always, required for the role of biologist. However, mastering this knowledge allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

Osteology: The scientific study of human and animal skeletons, bone structure and specific bones. Osteology examines the bone structure as a whole and specific bones. The research can focus on diseases, function or pathology of bones.
Biological chemistry: Biological chemistry is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
Fish identification and classification: The processes which allow the identification and classification of fish.
Herpetology: The field of zoology that studies amphibians and reptiles.
Lepidoptery: The field of zoology that studies moths.
Animal welfare legislation: The legal boundaries, codes of professional conduct, national and EU regulatory frameworks and legal procedures of working with animals and living organisms, ensuring their welfare and health.
Ornithology: The scientific field of biology that studies birds.
Aquatic species: The care and maintenance of aquatic biological species.
Pollution legislation: Be familiar with European and National legislation regarding the risk of pollution.
Mycology: The field of biology that studies fungi.
Pharmacology: Pharmacology is a medical specialty mentioned in the EU Directive 2005/36/EC.
Oceanography: The scientific discipline that studies oceanic phenomena such as marine organisms, plate tectonics, and the geology of the ocean bottom.
Fish biology: The study of fish, shellfish or crustacean organisms, categorized into many specialised fields that cover their morphology, physiology, anatomy, behaviour, origins and distribution.
Pollution prevention: The processes used to prevent pollution: precautions to pollution of the environment, procedures to counter pollution and associated equipment, and possible measures to protect the environment.
Assessment of risks and threats: The security documentation and any security-related communications and information.
Mammalogy: The field of zoology that studies mammals.
Fish welfare regulations: The set of rules that apply in fish harvesting methods which ensure fish well-being.
Applied zoology: The science of applying animal anatomy, physiology, ecology, and behaviour in a particular practical context.
Entomology: The field of zoology that studies insects.
Ecology: The study of how organisms interact and their relation to the ambient environment.
Toxicology: The negative effects of chemicals on living organisms, their dose and exposure.
Anthropology: The study of development and behaviour of human beings.
Biotechnology in aquaculture: Biotechnology and polymerase chain reactions for studies in sustainable aquaculture production methods.
Quality assurance methodologies: Quality assurance principles, standard requirements, and the set of processes and activities used for measuring, controlling and ensuring the quality of products and processes.
Fish anatomy: The study of the form or morphology of fish species.
Chemistry: The composition, structure, and properties of substances and the processes and transformations that they undergo; the uses of different chemicals and their interactions, production techniques, risk factors, and disposal methods.
Pathology: The components of a disease, the cause, mechanisms of development, morphologic changes, and the clinical consequences of those changes.
Biosecurity: Be aware of the general principles of the concept of bio-security and in particular, the disease prevention rules to be implemented in case of epidemics endangering public health.

Optional skills and competences

These skills and competences are sometimes, but not always, required for the role of biologist. However, mastering these skills and competences allows you to have more opportunities for career development.

Monitor fish mortality rates: Monitor fish mortalities and assess possible causes.
Perform laboratory tests: Carry out tests in a laboratory to produce reliable and precise data to support scientific research and product testing.
Develop management plans: Develop management plans to maintain fisheries and habitat, or restore them when necessary.
Deliver online training: Provide training by using online technologies, adapting the learning materials, using e-learning methods and communicating online. Instruct virtual classrooms.
Write research proposals: Synthetise and write proposals aiming to solve research problems. Draft the proposal baseline and objectives, the estimated budget, risks and impact. Document the advances and new developments on the relevant subject and field of study.
Communicate verbal instructions: Communicate transparent instructions. Ensure that messages are understood and followed correctly.
Develop aquaculture strategies: Cultivate strategies for aquaculture plans based on reports and research in order to deal with specific fish farm issues. Plan and organise work activities in order to improve aquaculture production and tackle further problems.
Administer treatments to fish: Administer treatments to fish, including vaccination of fish by immersion and injection, continually monitoring fish for signs of stress.
Communicate specialised veterinary information: Communicate the relevance of and the advances in the area of specialisation to general practice veterinarians and to non-veterinarians.
Adapt communication style according to recipient: Adapt communication style to that of the recipient of the message in order to create a rapport.
Speak different languages: Master foreign languages to be able to communicate in one or more foreign languages.
Prepare fish treatment facilities: Prepare fish treatment facilities to effectively isolate contaminated fish during treatment. Control the application of treatments to avoid contaminating other stock, containers and the wider environment.
Perform lectures: Present lectures to various groups.
Analyse cell cultures: Analyse cell cultures grown from tissue samples, performing also screening of the cervical smear to detect fertility issues.
Develop fish health and welfare management plans: Develop a plan which lists risks from outdoor factors, such as predators, and pests.
Provide advice to hatcheries: Provide recommendations for the installation and well functioning of hatcheries.
Assess environmental impact in aquaculture operations: Measure the environmental impact of a company’s aquaculture operations. Take into account factors such as quality of the sea and surface water, fish and sea plant habitats and risks regarding the quality of air, odour and noise.
Use different communication channels: Make use of various types of communication channels such as verbal, handwritten, digital and telephonic communication with the purpose of constructing and sharing ideas or information.
Ensure animal welfare in slaughtering practices: Respect the needs of livestock and apply the regulations regarding animal welfare in the meat and meat products manufacturing sector. Respond correctly to animal issues from unloading until stunning of the animals.
Analyse fish samples for diagnosis: Analyse samples or lesions from farmed aquatic species for professional diagnosis and treatments.
Keep task records: Organise and classify records of prepared reports and correspondence related to the performed work and progress records of tasks.
Handle the disposal of chemicals: Dispose of chemicals and treatments safely according to site waste management procedures.
Collect samples for analysis: Collect samples of materials or products for laboratory analysis.
Create training materials: Develop and compile training items and resources according to didactical methods and training needs and using specific types of media.
Prepare fish treatment plan: Prepare health treatment plans to meet specific fish disease requirements.
Use specialised equipment: Use specialised equipment such as electron microscope, telemetry, digital imaging analysis, global positioning systems, and computer modelling in studies and analyses of production methodology.
Develop environmental policy: Develop an organisational policy on sustainable development and compliance with environmental legislation in line with policy mechanisms used in the field of environmental protection.
Preserve fish samples for diagnosis: Collect and preserve larval, fish and mollusc samples or lesions for diagnosis by fish disease specialists.
Discuss research proposals: Discuss proposals and projects with researchers, decide on resources to allocate and whether to move forward with the study.
Conduct ecological research: Conduct ecological and biological research in the field and in controlled conditions, using scientific methods and equipment.
Apply teaching strategies: Employ various approaches, learning styles, and channels to instruct students, such as communicating content in terms they can understand, organising talking points for clarity, and repeating arguments when necessary. Use a wide range of teaching devices and methodologies appropriate to the class content, the learners’ level, goals, and priorities.
Diagnose aquatic animals disease symptoms: Observe and describe symptoms and lesions of fish, molluscs, and crustaceans. Monitor abnormal fish behaviour in feeding, swimming, and surfacing.
Communicate technicalities with clients: Communicate with and support clients and veterinarians in case of problems. Provide feedback to production and management.
Identify risks in aquaculture facilities: Identify the hazards and evaluate the risks to health and safety in aquaculture facilities.
Analyse blood samples: Analyse blood samples using computer-aided and manual techniques, looking for white or red blood cell abnormalities and other risk factors.
Communicate in an outdoor setting: Communicate with participants in more than one language of the European Union; handle a crisis following guidelines and recognise the importance of proper behaviour in crisis situations.
Conduct fish mortality studies: Collect fish mortality data. Identify causes of mortality and provide solutions .
Develop aquaculture breeding strategies: Create and develop an aquaculture breeding strategy using a variety of techniques; naturally spawned fish eggs, induced spawning of fish eggs, environmental controlled spawning, hormonally regulated fish spawning, broodstock recruitment by genetic selection.
Carry out internet research: Execute efficient search on the internet in order to gather relevant information and share it with others.
Write routine reports: Compose routine reports; identify appropriate forms or documents to record data from manual inspections and/or electronic systems. Write clear observations as required. A written report is usually a summary of readings from the routine performance of the reticulation system.
Screen live fish deformities: Screen for deformities in live fish including larvae
Maintain relationships with animal welfare establishments: Ensure good relations with other animal welfare establishments and agencies.
Develop scientific theories: Formulate scientific theories based on empirical observations, gathered data and theories of other scientists.
Assess fish health condition: Identify and prepare fish condition for the safe application of treatments.
Carry out fish disease prevention measures: Carry out disease prevention measures for fish, molluscs, and crustaceans for land-based and water-based aquaculture facilities.
Monitor treated fish: Monitor treated fish to evaluate the effect of treatments.
Interview parties in relation to animal welfare investigations: Conduct interviews of suspects and witnesses in relation to cases of alleged breach of animal related legislation.
Implement scientific decision making in healthcare: Implement scientific findings for evidence-based practice, integrating research evidence into decision making by forming a focused clinical question in response to a recognised information need, searching for the most appropriate evidence to meet that need, critically appraising the retrieved evidence, incorporating the evidence into a strategy for action, and evaluating the effects of any decisions and actions taken.
Write work-related reports: Compose work-related reports that support effective relationship management and a high standard of documentation and record keeping. Write and present results and conclusions in a clear and intelligible way so they are comprehensible to a non-expert audience.
Apply risk management processes: Identify risk and apply a risk management process, e.g. hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP).
Control aquatic production environment: Assess the impact of biological conditions such as algae and fouling organisms by managing water intakes, catchments and oxygen use.
Develop scientific research protocols: Develop and record the procedural method used for a specific scientific experiment in order to enable its replication.
Maintain aquaculture treatment records: Provide accurate information to maintain records of treatments applied.
Develop management plans to reduce risks in aquaculture: Develop a management plan to reduce the risks from pests, predators and diseases. Supervise implementation of plan, especially disease prevention measures, throughout the aquaculture facility.
Coordinate operational activities: Synchronise activities and responsibilities of the operational staff to ensure that the resources of an organisation are used most efficiently in pursuit of the specified objectives.
Perform field research: Participate in field research and evaluation of state and private lands and waters.
Conserve natural resources: Protect waters and natural resources and coordinate actions. Work with environmental agencies and resource management personnel.
Archive scientific documentation: Store documents such as protocols, analysis results and scientific data using archiving systems to enable scientists and engineers to take methods and results from previous studies into account for their research.
Prepare visual data: Prepare charts and graphs in order to present data in a visual manner.
Inspect animal welfare management: Monitor animal health and welfare management and husbandry, and analyse risk factors in relation to animal health, disease and welfare status.
Write scientific papers: Present the hypothesis, findings, and conclusions of your scientific research in your field of expertise in a professional publication.
Inspect fish stock: Collect and examine fish to evaluate the health of fish stock.
Report analysis results: Produce research documents or give presentations to report the results of a conducted research and analysis project, indicating the analysis procedures and methods which led to the results, as well as potential interpretations of the results.
Provide technical expertise: Provide expert knowledge in a particular field, especially concerning mechanical or scientific subjects, to decision makers, engineers, technical staff or journalists.
Conduct fish populations studies: Study captive fish populations to determine survival, growth, and migration.
Collect fish samples for diagnosis: Collect fish and shellfish samples for diagnosis by fish diseases specialists.
Monitor water quality: Measure water quality: temperature, oxygen, salinity, pH, N2, NO2,NH4, CO2, turbidity, chlorophyll. Monitor microbiological water quality.
Advise on legislative acts: Advise officials in a legislature on the propositioning of new bills and the consideration of items of legislation.
Report pollution incidents: Examine the extent of the damage and consequences when an incident causes pollution, and report it to the relevant institution following pollution reporting procedures.
Communicate by telephone: Liaise via telephone by making and answering calls in a timely, professional and polite manner.
Follow safety precautions in fishery operations: Comply with policies and institutional regulations to guarantee a safe workplace for employees in fishery and aquaculture operations. Deal with potential risks and dangers by taking appropriate safety measures.
Assess environmental impact: Monitor environmental impacts and carry out assessments in order to identify and to reduce the organisation’s environmental risks while taking costs into account.
Control fish diseases: Identify the symptoms of fish diseases. Apply appropriate measures to treat or eliminate diagnosed conditions.
Create natural science taxonomies: Classify living organisms according to their features, properties, and natural science families.
Advise on animal welfare: Prepare and provide information to individuals or groups of people on how to promote the health and well-being of animals, and how risks to animal health and welfare may be reduced. Provide recommendations for corrective actions.
Report on environmental issues: Compile environmental reports and communicate on issues. Inform the public or any interested parties in a given context on relevant recent developments in the environment, forecasts on the future of the environment, and any problems and possible solutions.
Seek innovation in current practices: Search for improvements and present innovative solutions, creativity and alternative thinking to develop new technologies, methods or ideas for and answers to work-related problems.
Provide on-site training in aquaculture facilities: Provide on-site training in aquaculture facilities, through instruction and demonstration of skills. Provide, implement and supervise a training development plan.
Communicate in english in a competent way: Competent use of English; R351refers to level C1 in the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages (CEFR).
Analyse work-related written reports: Read and comprehend job-related reports, analyse the content of reports and apply findings to daily work operations.

ISCO group and title

2131 – Biologists, botanists, zoologists and related professionals





  1. Biologist – ESCO
Last updated on August 8, 2022

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