Education and Career Planning Resources

Trying to decide on a major or a degree program can seem overwhelming.  How do you find educational programs?  What do all of those different degrees mean?  How do you find jobs and internships to gain experience or learn about a new field?  Explore some of the resources that can help answer these questions.



  1. Community College, Biotechnology Degree and Certificate Programs (via Bio-Link)
  2. Four-Year Colleges and Universities


  1. Create a Resume
  2. Find Internship or Job Listings
  3. Write a Cover Letter
  4. Interview Skills and Tips
  5. Your Online Presence



Associates Degree: Typically a two year degree providing training in a given field of discipline.  
Prerequisite: Usually a high school diploma or equivalent.  
Examples: medical assistant, paralegal, computer-related fields, data processing, and various forms of public service.

Bachelors Degree: Typically a four year degree providing more thorough training in a particular field or discipline.
Prerequisite: Usually a high school diploma or equivalent. Some students complete an Associates Degree prior to a Bachelors degree, which reduces their time required at a four-year college or university.
Examples: Biology, Chemistry, Computer Science, English

Masters Degree: Specialized training within a discipline, with a specific area of focus. Often includes an original contribution to the field (in the form of a thesis).  Masters degree programs vary in duration but are often two to three years.  
Prerequisite:  Bachelors Degree
Example: Master of Science in Biology; Thesis Title: Categorizing the bird species found near the San Francisco Bay.

PhD (Terminal Degrees): Extensive training in a field or discipline.  Includes higher order thinking about the discipline, as well as the ability to undertake unique and independent research to further the body of knowledge of the field (including a thesis project, sometimes called a dissertation).  Sometimes referred to as a “terminal degree” because it is often the highest and last degree earned in a particular field.
Prerequisite:  Bachelors Degree.  Some programs require a Masters Degree as well.
Example:  PhD in Ecology; Thesis Title: Evaluating the effect of climate change on the migratory patterns of native California birds.  

Professional Degrees: Training in a discipline or subject matter in order to practice in that field.  Usually licensed or regulated by a governing body or association.
Prerequisite:  Bachelors Degree.  
Examples: Medical Doctor (MD), Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM, a.k.a. veterinarian), Juris Doctor (JD, a.k.a lawyer)

Career Paths in Biomedical Research + Biotechnology.  For more about the degrees described above, and how one moves along the paths from one to another, check out this great publication from Shoreline Community College and the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County.


Trying to figure out the costs of college?  The National Center for Education Statistics has created the College Navigator to help you not only find colleges and programs by state, degree type, and institution type, but also to see how much tuition costs, what type of financial aid is available, admissions policies, and graduation rates.  Check out the College Navigator at:

With the cost of education going up every year, students may wonder if the cost is worth it in the long term.  Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce has looked at this in depth for many years.  Below are some of the articles highlighting what they've found.

The College PayoffEducation, Occupations, Lifetime Earnings.  In addition to links to the PDFs of the Press ReleaseExecutive Summary and Full Report, this page contains some of the key findings, including the Earnings Overlap (how much folks with more education tend to earn compared to folks with less education) and the "rules" of the education and earnings game.

The Chronicle of Higher Education is the No. 1 source of news, information, and jobs for college and university faculty members and administrators.  They have published a number of articles about the findings of the Georgetown University team, and what students should consider when considering college.

Americans: Over- or Under-Educated? By Richard Vedder.  August 8, 2011
I have to hand it to Anthony Carnevale. He is persistent. He and his Georgetown colleagues have issued a series of reports with one overriding message: There is a big, and probably growing, payoff to earning a college degree.  The last of a series of reports does offer some interesting data and observations. It is true, for example, that the choice of college major matters in terms of a personal return on an investment in college, and that there are important differences based on other demographics, such as gender and ethnicity.  But the overall message is that typically there is a big payoff to going to college.Click the link above to read more...

When it Comes to Earnings, Higher Education Isn't the Whole Story.  By Beckie Supiano. August 4, 2011.
How much money people make has a lot to do with how educated they are, but sometimes less-educated people earn more.
This spring, Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce injected some nuance into the debate over what a college degree is worth when it released a report showing how what people study in college affects their earnings. That report, based on the center's analysis of a trove of new data from the U.S. Census Bureau, compared workers whose highest degree was a bachelor's. Now the center is following up with a new report that works to untangle the relationship between earnings and education more broadly. Click the link above to read more...

High Demand for Science Graduates Enables Them to Pick Their Jobs, Report Says. By Paul Basken.  October 20, 2011
A couple of years ago, a pair of researchers at Georgetown University and Rutgers University concluded that, contrary to widespread perception, the United States produces plenty of scientists and engineers.  The problem, wrote Harold Salzman of Rutgers and B. Lindsay Lowell of Georgetown, is that fewer than half of all college graduates in science and engineering actually take jobs in those fields.  Click the link above to read more...


What do you want to be when you grow up?  Many adults don't have an answer to that question.  Take the time to learn about different careers and types of work before you make a decision.

If you're interested in a particular career or field, you may find this worksheet helpful (PDF).  It was designed as part of NWABR’s Introductory bioinformatics curriculum on genetic testingcontains a questions to consider when researching a career, including educational requirements and programs, and salary range.

Learn more about "Washington State: High Demand Jobs in the Life Sciences." developed by the Workforce Development Council of Seattle-King County.  While this publication was developed with Washington State students in mind, it contains a number of job descriptions and related career information that is helpful to any student considering a career in the life sciences.

"Jobs in Biotechnology: Applying New Old Sciences to New Discoveries." This publication from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS) contains the type of occupational information the BLS is so good at compiling: descriptions of working conditions, employment and earnings, and an explanation of the type of training required to pursue careers in a variety of biotechnology-related professional.  From medical research and development to biomedical engineering, this booklet is a must read for students considering the life sciences, but not about which particular field to pursue.

For more information about particular careers, check out NWABR's Exploring Careers webpage, which contains interviews with career professionals and additional information about each career.

You can also search by career at the Bureau of Labor and Statistics' online Occupational Outlook Handbook.

What will be the Hot Jobs in 2018?  Click here to learn what the Wall Street Journal has to say about the future job market.

List of Biotech Employers by State:  This is a great resource compiled by our partners at Bio-Link.  Clickable by state and type of employer (biotech company, research institutions, universities).


More on Salaries: 2011

Curious about what you would make in different career fields?  
The Scientist
 compiles and publishes an annual salary survey after receiving information from over 4,500 participants.  This detailed report contains information by field, academic versus industry positions, men versus women, and by region of the country.  The results are interactive -- click on graphics and sort results based on your interests.  The authors also present an overview of their findings, and suggestions about future trends.  

Science magazine Career Site

Science magazine is one of the preeminent publications in many areas of science, from biology and geology to engineering and climate science.  The Science Careers site contains a number of useful resources, including tips for job searches and career planning, as well as a number of publications and booklets helpful for students planning their education and careers.  Check out some of the resources below to learn more.

"Career Basics: Advice and Resources for Scientists from Science Careers."  This publication contains useful information for students considering careers in the life sciences (particularly those involving graduate work), as well as what happens after you complete your schooling.  Follow the link above to download the entire booklet, or scan and download individual chapters.

Looking for a job?  While this publication was developed for scientists with their PhD, this booklet has some helpful tips about job searches, job fairs, the importance of networking, writing cover letters, and how to shine in a job interview.  "Career Trends: The Informed Job Search." (free registration required)

No matter what field you're in, relationships are important.  "Career Trends: Building Relationships."
Excerpt: Relationships with colleagues will be important throughout your scientific career. Building and sustaining these relationships is the focus of the latest booklet from Science Careers. Learn more about relationships with your advisers, mentors, collaborators, and the rest of your network. This booklet can help you use communication skills, collaborating, informational interviews, and online social networking sites to guide you through your career. Line your career path with the tools to succeed. (free registration required)

Every wondered what is really involved in running your own lab?  Check out "Career Trends: Running Your Lab" to learn more.
Excerpt: Running a lab effectively is a complex undertaking that involves managing many things including people, time, projects, and budgets. Many scientists never receive formal training on running their lab but instead learn how to do it from mentors who have been successful. This booklet brings together advice and tips from Science Careers in order to help you be successful in running your own laboratory. (free registration required)

Love science but don't want to work at a lab bench?  Check this out:  "Career Trends: Careers Away from the Bench"
Excerpt: From technology specialists to patent attorneys to policy advisers, you can learn more about the sorts of careers that scientists can pursue and the skills you will need to develop in order to succeed in nonresearch careers. (free registration required)


The number of women in science continues to grow!  

Check out this publication, "Women in Science: Forging New Pathways in Biology"
Science and the L'Oréal Foundation have teamed up to produce this e-booklet focusing on 16 women in five different areas of biology research: microbiology, immunology, virology, neuroscience, and molecular biology. The essays about these scientists give you an idea of the differences and similarities between their jobs as well as some insights into their personal triumphs and struggles as they have built successful and meaningful careers. The interviews span the career spectrum from new scientists to more established researchers who have experienced the many ups and downs of a life in biology research.


The National Center for Education Statistics has created the College Navigator to help you find colleges and programs by state, degree type, and institution type.  Find information about tuition, fees, financial aid available, admissions policies, graduation rates and much more, all in one place!  Check out the College Navigator at:


List of Community Colleges by State: (provided by the University of Texas at Austin
Community colleges offer incredible educational opportunties at a very reasonable price -- especially when compared to the cost of traditional four-year colleges and universities.  Whether you're looking for a two-year Associates degree or certificate program, or you're hoping to complete the first two years of a four-year degree, community colleges can be a great option. This is a list of community colleges in the United States, organized by state, and compiled by the University of Texas at Austin.  Click on the name of the school or program to learn more.

U.S. Two-Year Colleges: The University of Toledo compiled this comprehensive list of all two-year colleges in the United States, which is also organized by state. It includes community colleges, technical colleges, junior colleges, branches of four-year colleges which focus on associate degree education, and accredited two-year proprietary schools.  Click on the name of the school or program to learn more.

Bio-Link: Educating the Biotechnology Workforce
Bio-Link is the Next Generation National Advanced Technological Education (ATE) Center of Excellence for Biotechnology and Life Sciences.  Bio-Link originated in late 1998 with a grant from the National Science Foundation as a National ATE Center for Biotechnology.  The ATE program was created to improve and expand educational programs that prepare skilled technicians to work in the high-tech fields that drive the U.S. economy.  Check out the Bio-Link website for biotechnology resources, including career profiles, information on biotech employers, and more!

Biotechnology Degrees and Certificates (provided by Bio-Link)
Community colleges offer a variety of degrees and certificates that prepare students for work in biotechnology companies and research institutions. Some of these programs are designed for recent high school graduates, others require a Bachelor's degree. Select the degree title to learn more about the degree and see a list of colleges that offer these programs


List of US Universities by State.  This is a list of universities [a.k.a. four-year schools or colleges] in the United States, organized by state, and compiled by the University of Texas at Austin.  Click on the name of the school or program to learn more.

For students in Washington State, we've compiled a list of Washington colleges and universities

Historically Black Colleges and Universities.  If you are looking for a list of HBCU's (Historically Black Colleges and Universities), this is a good place to visit. Here you will find a list of HBCU's, with links, by state. The colleges and universities in each state are listed in alphabetical order.

How to Decide?
Trying to decide which colleges or programs to apply for can be a tough decision.  In addition to tuition and location, the ranking of the college (or the education program or programs within the college) should figure in to your decision.

Best Colleges 2012.  US News and World Reports publishes an annual report on the best colleges in the country.  They also have links to a number of other useful topics, including:

  • Studying in the United States: International students increasingly want to come to the United States for college or graduate school. USA Today offers tips, rankings, and more to help you find the best school for you.
  • Applying to College: Applying to college does not begin or end with the college application. Searching and choosing the best college for you also involves knowing when to apply, deciding whether to apply early decision, crafting college essays, and preparing for interviews with admissions officials. USA Today offers tips, tools, and expert advice can make the college application process easier.
  • Finding the Right School: Finding the right college for you is just as, if not more, important than finding the best college. USA Today offers tips, tools, and expert advice to explore your options.  Includes links to the "College Application Timeline," "7 Tips for Narrowing Your College List," and "4 Reasons Why the Library Should Affect Your Decision."


Finding an internship or a job can seem overwhelming, especially if you’re new to the job market, such as a student looking for a first job or new work experience.  The process involves multiple steps, including:

1. Create a Resume:  This is a summary of your skills and experiences.
2. Find Internship or Job Listings:  Your goal is to match your skills to the skills needed for the job.
3. Write a Cover Letter: This introduces you to the company, and helps link your resume to the job listing.
4. Interview Skills and Tips:  Whether in person or over the phone, the interview is one of the biggest factors in whether or not you’re hired for the job. 
5. Your Online Presence:  Admissions offices and potential employers are increasingly turning to the internet to learn more about applicants.  Make sure that your online presence conveys your professionalism and competence.


This is a summary of your skills and experiences.  Many scientists and other professionals create a curriculum vitae, or “CV,” that is an extensive list of all of your work experience, publications, and conference presentations.  

Most jobs require a simple resume – a one- to two-page summary of the experience and skills that you have that are most directly relevant to the job or internship you’re applying for.  Most employers recommend that you customize your resume for the job or internship that you’re applying for, highlighting specifically what makes you the best fit for a particular position.  

Tips:  Create your general resume before you apply for a job or internship.  Take your time, and ask your friends or family members to review your resume for you.  Make sure there are no typos!  Then, customize your resume as needed when you find a new position to which you want to apply.

For a template for developing your resume, click here: (PDF
Note: This template has an emphasis on bioinformatics skills but may be adapted for any purpose.

Additional resources for developing a resume:


Tips for Finding Internships
Ever wondered how your friends were able to find that cool internship or job? There are many resources online that can help you on your way. Many cities have resources specifically for connecting high school students with current internships from a cross-section of businesses. 

Even if your city doesn’t have such a resource, there are many ways to get started:

  • Try searching your area through other resources such as:
  • Google the terms “High School internships” with your city name to see what internships are available online.
  • Contact your school counselor and teacher and ask them about different student internships in your area you can apply for. 

Do you like biology but can’t decide what to do with your major?
For a List of Careers for Biology Majors, check out this resource created by the undergrads in Biology 350 at the University of Washington.  In addition to job descriptions and salary information, students have included tips for getting started and links to additional resources.

Searchable Job Listings includes thousands of searchable job listings.  You can post your resume and have it reviewed by many different employers at the same time.  Limiting your search to Healthcare or other fields can help you find jobs specifically in that area of employment: 

Like, some job sites contain job postings from a number of different sources.  Registration is free, and allows you to job postings from many different sources, as well as post your resume for many employers to review.  These sites include:

The Environmental Career Center (ECC) has been helping people work for a better environment since 1980. ECC assists individuals and employers alike, in matching top candidates with today’s top green employers.   Their Job Board includes listing from around the United States, and around the world! 

For academic careers, including those in research, teaching, and other areas of education check out Academic Careers Online: 

The National Science Foundation funds research and education in science and engineering, and accounts for about 20 percent of federal support to academic institutions for basic research.  Career opportunities include research, administrative, clerical, and other support services.  Learn more about NSF Career Opportunities here: 


This introduces you to the company, and helps link your resume to the job listing.  A cover letter “introduces you in four paragraphs.”  Your resume is a list of your skills and work experience, while your cover letter explains to a potential employer who you are and why you’re a good fit for this specific job.

For a guide to develop your cover letter, click here: (PDF)

Cover letter examples, with tips for how to improve them: (PDF)

Additional resources for developing a cover letter:


Whether in person or over the phone, the interview is one of the biggest factors in determining whether or not you’re chosen for an internship or job.  An interview can be very challenging, and many people get nervous no matter how many interviews they’ve had before.  Most of the same skills and tips that apply to job interviews also apply to interviews for internships or admission to academic programs.

NWABR’s Advanced bioinformatics curriculum on genetic research contains a mock interview activity.  You can see the grading rubric for the activity here (PDF), which includes tips and behaviors for a successful interview.  

Additional resources for successful interviews:


Did you know?  
According to Kaplan, a unit of the Washington Post Co:  "A new survey of 500 top colleges found that 10% of admissions officers acknowledged looking at social-networking sites to evaluate applicants. Of those colleges making use of the online information, 38% said that what they saw "negatively affected" their views of the applicant. Only a quarter of the schools checking the sites said their views were improved."

What does this mean for you?
Your online presence is increasingly important to prospective employers and to college acceptance committees. 

Here are some helpful tips adapted from University Language Services about how to make your online presence an asset, not a hindrance. 

  1. Professionalize your email.  Use something basic, like your name (, for all of your professional work and applications.  Keep your personal email ( for personal use, among you and your friends.
  2. Delete incriminating photos.  Check your Facebook page, your personal website or blogs.  Are there any photos there that might make you look less than professional?  If so, consider deleting them prior to submitting your application.
  3. Adjust your privacy settings.  Whether you use Facebook, Google+, or some other site, make sure to keep your private information private.
  4. Do an internet search of yourself. Make sure that the search results accurately reflect the person you want a potential employee or admissions committee to see.
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