Evolutionary biologists study evolution, which means “change over time.” However, evolutionary biology focuses on a specific form of change: the random mutations of living organisms leading to the development of new organisms and new traits. Evolutionary biologists are interested in learning more about the process of evolution and explaining this process to students. The salary for evolutionary biologists varies depending on where they are employed.
Evolutionary biologists fall into two categories. Some evolutionary biologists work for research organisations in the private and public sector where they participate in a research team, conducting experiments that are intended to expand the global body of knowledge regarding evolution. Other evolutionary biologists are university faculty. As faculty members, they are responsible for teaching university classes on biology with an emphasis on evolution. They conduct research, just like biologists in the non-academic sector. These academic biologists must write about their research and get it published in academic journals and books. These academic evolutionary biologists are also expected to perform administrative work such as counselling biology students.
Working in a research lab can expose the evolutionary biologist to chemicals and infectious agents that can harm the evolutionary biologist if safety precautions are not taken. The laboratory is usually a very clean and safe environment. While postsecondary evolutionary biologists usually work 12 to 16 hours in the classroom, they also work on their research for hours that are set by them. Biology scientists outside of the academic realm tend to work 40 hours a week, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
A doctorate is usually needed to be an evolutionary biologist. Before obtaining a doctorate, the evolutionary biologist must complete a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree. Evolutionary biologists must have good communication skills to be able to explain difficult to understand concepts to coworkers and students. They must also have good written communication skills to be able to write clear journal articles, reports and books. Some scientists have to work in outdoor environments exposed to adverse weather conditions, which requires that the evolutionary biologist have good physical stamina. These biologists must also be creative and highly analytical to be able to come up with research topics and to be able to make sense of data collected from experiments. Creativity is also needed by faculty to find ways to motivate and teach students.
Between 2008 and 2018, the need for evolutionary biologists is expected to grow by 15 per cent in the education field and by 21 in the research science field. Growth is driven both by the demand for pharmaceutical products and by environmental concerns, which lead to society wishing to understand more about biology.
The median annual earnings for biological scientists in 2008 were £53,846 and the median annual earnings for postsecondary teachers were £38,239.