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The dreaded question: "What are you going to do when you graduate?".

The good news is there are so many things you can do with a degree in Biology.

Immediately after graduation, you have three main options:

1) Get a job

2) Do an internship

3) Go to graduate school (Biology graduate programs in Virginia)

Keep in mind what your final career goal is when deciding what to do next. Don't be afraid to take some time to decide. Deferring your enrollment in grad school for a year will not hurt you in the long run and it could save you from getting halfway through a program and then realizing that it's not what you want to do.

For all sorts of Careers resources and links, visit the Career and Academic Planning website.

Start Early

If you have a specific career goal in mind, there are things you can do as early as your freshman year that will help get you on the right track for the future. 

Get involved in Undergraduate Research

If you intend to go to graduate school, or if you plan to work in a job that involves research, lab work or field work, finding a faculty member in the biology department who does research in a related area and working with them is a great way to get a head start! Most jobs that you apply to will probably be looking for previous experience, so this is your chance to get some before you have even graduated.

For a more information and a list of faculty research interests, see the Research page.


If you are aiming for a career in a health profession, volunteering at a hospital or clinic that does the kind of work you are interested in not only looks good on your applications, but it gives you a better idea of what kind of work you would actually doing after you graduate.  There are lots of places both here in the Harrisonburg community and your home community where you can do volunteer work.  In addition, the local rescue and fire departments are always looking for good volunteers.

Write Your Resume

It’s never too early to start your resume.  Whether you plan on getting a job/internship right after you graduate or go on to graduate school, you’re probably going to need a resume of some sort.  Check out the resume section of the Career and Academic Planning website to get ideas on how to put together your first draft, and then make an appointment to have it reviewed.  If you don’t have a draft ready to have someone look at, just attend a Resume Workshop; dates and locations are listed on the Career and Academic Planning calendar; just choose “Resumes” in the dropdown menu to see all workshops.  Think about how much less stressful it will be to just update a document rather than start one from scratch when the time comes!

When the time is right for you to send in applications, a cover letter is a crucial step in the application process.  In addition to reviewing your resume, Career and Academic Planning can also give you some good tips for your cover letter as well.

Meet with your advisor

Your academic advisor is a great resource, whether you’re trying to figure out which classes will best prepare you for your post-graduation plans or helping you determine which path you want to pursue.  Meeting with your advisor is particularly important if you are in one of the pre-professional health programs (pre-med, pre-dentistry, pre-optometry, pre-pharmacy, pre-vet, pre-physician assistant, pre-physical therapy, pre-occupational therapy or pre-forensic science).  Most application processes for graduate health programs begin at least a year before you plan to attend—meeting regularly with your pre-professional health advisor will ensure that you’re not missing any important deadlines.

If you think you might be interested in going to graduate school, be sure to mention that to your advisor. They will be able to tell if there are courses that you really should take, even though they aren’t strictly required for your degree, to give you the best chance when applying to grad schools.

Go to the Career and Internship Fair

Believe it or not, the best time to go to the Career Fair is NOT when you’re looking for a job!  The best time to go is before you’re ready to look for a job.  Why?  Because that way, you can get used to the environment and have a better idea of what to expect the next time, when the stakes are higher.  Chances are you’ll be nervous enough just because you’re trying to connect with an employer; why make it worse because you aren’t familiar with the environment?

If you choose to attend Career Fair at any point, make sure to dress professionally.  This doesn’t mean you have to go all out in a suit, but you should look presentable.  Ripped jeans, sweatshirts, and flip-flops don’t always make the best impressions.  Remember, you never know who you’re going to meet—the person you chat with today might be interviewing you for a job tomorrow. 

Not sure which path is right for you?

The good news is that you have lots of options with a biology degree…but that’s often the trouble too.  If you’re not sure which direction you’d like to go in after graduation, talk to your academic or visit an advisor in Career and Academic Planning. 


Here are some online resources to get you started:

JMU Career and Academic Planning

101+ things you can do with a degree in biology [or download ]

American Institute of Biological Sciences - Careers

American Society for Microbiology - Careers

Careers in Science and Engineering (online book)

Science Magazine - Careers

Emporia State University (KS)

American Institute of Biological Sciences:

Nursing Schools

NIH Careers

The Graduate Record Examination (GRE)

Aerotek: Science Recruitment company. Specializes in filling scientific skill sets for the medical, pharmaceutical, chemical, and food & beverage industries. Virginia rep: Tori Muscolino (