No college student should major in biology

I used to give that advice to the students in FSU’s Honors Program when I was Director of the program years ago.  I also gave this advice to a group of middle school students and parents I met with near the end of the last school year.  One parent actually gasped when I said it.

Why do I say it?  People who are going to make a living in the life sciences in the future are going to be working at the microscopic level.  Majoring in biochemistry provides a student with the tools to do this.  A student who wants to be a marine biologist should major in biochemistry.  All aspiring physicians should do so as well (unless they have the sense to major in physics or biomedical engineering, the majors that have the highest average scores on the Medical College Admissions Test).

Those stories you hear about STEM Ph.D. grads who can’t find jobs?  They are often about biologists (the unemployment rate among physics Ph.D.’s continues to hover around 2% according to the AIP).  Starting salary data for new bachelor’s degree recipients in biology are dismal.  The data the local biology department provided in response to last year’s data request from the Governor’s Office was broadcast to the entire College of Arts and Sciences faculty by the Dean’s Office.  That report, too, was dismal.

It’s also worth noting that the local biology teacher education program (associated with FSU-Teach) doesn’t meet the standards for biology teacher education set by the National Science Teacher Association (NSTA).  The FSU program doesn’t require a second semester of physics, which is when students learn about the electricity and magnetism that is both prescribed by the NSTA standards and at the core of modern molecular biology (it’s the electromagnetic force that holds biological molecules together).

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