Help me help my daughter who's just graduated with a BS in Biology.
August 7, 2022 9:19 AM   Subscribe

The title is pretty much the question. My daughter is 26 (this month), just graduated with a BS in Biology. What now? Looking for suggestions on what fields might want the degree and also things like making a decent resume with not much to put on it and generally anything that might help someone just getting started in adult life.

Bonus info:

Her grades weren't especially great and she's burnt out on school right now. The original biology plan was to become a vet as she likes animals. The vet plan came after a misguided attempt at something she wasn't really interested in that resulted in 2.5 years of college that ended in a do-over.

She's worked at Mom's dry cleaner running the front desk (cashier) but that's her only work experience.

Her parents (Hi!) are well enough off that she's got a place to live and all that but Mom has already gone-off about employment once (and it's been less than a month). Mom is Korean with the Asian mom thing that puts a lot of pressure on kids. Daughter is a female clone of me, so introverted, brainy, but not in a useful way, and kind of passive in her approach to life. She's responsible and takes care of things but she doesn't really know what she wants and I was in the same boat and kind of never got out of it so I'm not sure how to help.

I'm open to advice and suggestions for her and for me on how to help her.

I found this (from 2007) and a few other things but I thought I'd get the 2022 update.

Thank you
posted by Awfki to Work & Money (33 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
My friend was able to get a job as a vet tech with an unrelated undergrad degree. The pay isn’t necessarily great but it’s solid experience.
posted by showbiz_liz at 9:28 AM on August 7, 2022 [4 favorites]

If your location info is correct, there are several biotech companies in the area, has she checked them for entry level jobs? Also fed and state govts can be good employers for natural sciences. Check, US fish and wildlife also has offices in the area, and there maybe similar state DNR agencies too.

Part of the problem is biology is a vast field. Some people work in bio doing wet lab stuff, some people catch and count birds, some do mostly computer stuff. and everything in between. She can either drill deep into her preferences, or review her skills to see if she might be qualified to do stuff she hasn't been considering.
posted by SaltySalticid at 9:33 AM on August 7, 2022 [6 favorites]

Where does she live? If she’d like to consider a fed job I’m happy to assist
posted by arnicae at 9:52 AM on August 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

The federal estuary research reserve near me is often hiring entry-level, straight out of college biologists for field work at their research center. My sense is that there are similar jobs at similar facilities at the state and federal level all over the country. If I was a young person with a biology degree who loved animals, enjoyed being outside, and wasn't desperate to pay back mountains of student loans, I'd apply for one of those jobs in a dang heartbeat. Does she have any faculty she worked with who would go to bat for her, maybe make a phone call or write an email?
posted by saladin at 10:00 AM on August 7, 2022 [10 favorites]

Does she want to work in biology? I have a BS in biology and my first few years out of college I did lab work but since then my jobs have been mostly unrelated to my degree. So I don’t think there’s any reason to confine her to biology-related jobs unless that’s actually interesting to her.

Seems like one good strategy would be to just get her signed up with a temp agency or two. She can get some real-life work experience outside of the family business, which may help her get a handle on her work likes/dislikes.
posted by mskyle at 10:00 AM on August 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

Her college probably has support for alumni. They can help with polishing her resume and interview prep, and maybe offer some connections.
posted by BrashTech at 10:01 AM on August 7, 2022 [9 favorites]

First, thanks for helping your daughter. None of this comes easy.

Her career (not "job") search may gel slowly and she should fight any feeling of becoming discouraged. You haven't mentioned how she's feeling about this. Maybe she's feeling unsure of what she's qualified to do, I don't know. However, if she casts a wide enough net and keeps plugging, she's likely to eventually find an employer that she is qualified to work for and that sees her potential. So, keep your chin up, and best of luck.
posted by JimN2TAW at 10:05 AM on August 7, 2022

a young person with a biology degree who loved animals, enjoyed being outside, and wasn't desperate to pay back mountains of student loans

Note that working for virtually any level of government in the U.S. (including tribal, which may be relevant here) will qualify you for public service loan forgiveness after ten years.

The starting salary for these kinds of positions tends to be on the lower side, but the benefits (including salary matching in the federal 401(k) equivalent) are good, the work is stable, you start vesting in a pension after only five years, and there's usually a clear path for progression in responsibility and salary over time.

If she's still very passive (but neurotypical) at 26, though, I would consider using a very light touch here. At some point, she does have to start ordering her own life.
posted by praemunire at 10:09 AM on August 7, 2022 [10 favorites]

One thing to remember is that it's ok to end up in a different field from what you studied as an undergrad -- my profession now has nothing to do with what I studied then, and I know a lot of people in the same situation. That's not a failure and doesn't mean that time was wasted, it's just that not everyone is on a super linear track where they study a subject, then get an entry level job in that field, and then stay and progress until retirement. Some of us need to try different things or fully switch directions a time or two, and that is ok even if older members of the family find it weird or vicariously stressful.

So one option here is that she dips her toes into a few things until something either really clicks, or she just finds something that is ok for now and different decisions can be made later as her interests develop and change. And, one of the best things you can do is to help buffer her from criticism or pressure from other family members. It's just not helpful, especially when those ideas are coming from a different epoch.

Assuming she wants to look at biologist roles, the past thread you linked had a number of answers pointing to lab work and field work, as well as entry level regulatory and permitting work. All of those tend to need junior staff, and there is an understanding that people in those roles are frequently building their resume and so there are paths from those entry points to more skilled/senior work.

Lastly, it isn't for everyone, but for the people for whom it is a good fit, there can be a lot of value in applying for one of the more structured programs like Teach for America, Peace Corps, Americorps, etc. The pay is low but they are perfect for trying something out and building a resume, whether that is towards applying to grad school or looking for a real job.
posted by Dip Flash at 10:11 AM on August 7, 2022 [5 favorites]

Response by poster: We're on the North side of Atlanta.
posted by Awfki at 10:22 AM on August 7, 2022

Does she want to do science communications (sci comm, a super growing field), scientific project management (I have a friend who runs clinical trials from his basement with a two year biotech degree and makes bank), handle IRB stuff, help people plan their lab and order the equipment? In other words, does she want to do science or help manage science? As noted above, "science" is a big place and narrowing that that distinction will help with the job searching too.
posted by joycehealy at 10:24 AM on August 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

One thing you can do is going to a jobs site aggregator like, start putting in keywords as they come to mind, and seeing what pops out. See what she actually seems interested in and what doesn't hit. but yes, also, please hit up alumni services and her school's career services office.
posted by joycehealy at 10:25 AM on August 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

Her college should have provided her some sort of career counseling advice, so I’d start there for advice, guidance, and connections. Alumni org might be helpful, but also I’d just look at their career services program/department. Also, is there anything that her Bio department offers in this area?

Doing some sort of work right now might be helpful, yes, but washing dishes or serving coffee is not super-useful for a professional resume (at least in my profession — I work in libraries). Networking, serious job hunting, poking around on Indeed and LinkedIn would impress me more in a candidate. She’s burnt out, but maybe a self-guided course or two might give her some sense of forward motion.

Is there any chance she is actually job hunting right now, but it doesn’t look like it on the outside? Sometimes it takes a while, and it can involve a lot of… looking at a computer, regularly monitoring career sites, etc.
posted by cupcakeninja at 10:32 AM on August 7, 2022

I would spin the dry cleaning job as something a bit more, since it is family run would assistant general manager be too much? Laundry Operation Supervisor? I don't think that would be a stretch as I'm guessing she's exposed to quite a bit about running a business and her duties were not strictly as a cashier. It would help add a bit of pop.

I agree with others on looking for government jobs. People I knew who had the luxury of not needing the highest paycheck had a real leg up long-term in their careers.
posted by geoff. at 10:36 AM on August 7, 2022

Response by poster: Thank you all. Responding to a few questions/comments:

I suggested the alumni services and will ask how that went.

I don't think she feels great about any of it right now. Probably pressured and anxious. She's seen a therapist, but not recently.

I think she's actively looking but she doesn't really know how to look and I don't either. I've got a lot of IT experience so when I was last out of work I updated Linkedin and the recruiters did the rest but I don't think that works for entry-level.

The science communications thing might be up her alley. She reads/writes a lot and has always had artistic hobbies.

One thing asking here has brought to my attention is that I need to have an actual conversation with her rather than the brief interactions we've been having. I think she's stressed and would like some space but maybe I need to step in before I step back, if you see what I mean.
posted by Awfki at 10:44 AM on August 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

Peace Corps.
posted by cyndigo at 11:04 AM on August 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

Has she looked at Environmental Scientist jobs? There’s a lot covered in that title, my current job is an inside government desk job, but it’s also been jobs where I did outdoor surveys, construction monitoring, and spent hours sitting under trees watching birds. If she’s looking at job listings that’s a good place to start.
posted by lepus at 11:06 AM on August 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

Many of the people I know who entered the workforce with a B.S. in bio's first job was working doing the grunt work clinical trials on animals. It's unpleasant work but it is something that can be obtained with just a degree and no experience.
posted by Candleman at 11:19 AM on August 7, 2022

If she reports that the career center is "useless", remind her that she only needs to find one helpful person. If that still fails, I imagine there are folks who do this role for hire.

It can be really helpful to search linked in (and any school alumni directories) for biology majors.

There are worse resources out there than what color is your parachute? Your local library might also have resources for job seekers. There's also O*NET.

Temping can be a good way of getting professional experience in a variety of different settings.

I would encourage your daughter to consider doing some volunteer work. Not only does it help with the resume, it can also help providing meaning and structure.

I think a lot of first time job seekers have analysis paralysis. And so a reminder that a recent graduate doesn't need to find "the perfect job"... just an "an adequate one."
posted by oceano at 11:24 AM on August 7, 2022

Amplifying two points others have raised:

First, temping. My wife has a very similar background to your daughter, in terms of a later-than-customary graduation with a different degree than she entered college going after. She was able to get her foot in the door of an industry (pharma supply chain) via temping. For her, she landed in supply chain more or less randomly, realized she liked it and was good at it, and then ended up specializing in pharma for much the same reason. She's now mid-career in a biotech/pharma company, and got in the door through temping.

Second, I understand why people are pushing "career" vs. "job," but at the same time, I went into college thinking I was going to be a physicist, graduated thinking I was going to try to be on a film production crew, went to grad school for interactive art, and ended up writing code at a big tech company. This is common in my family, though I gather some people think you should have a life plan and stick to it. Trying some things does not mean she's committed for life, especially at the entry level, and there's space to try things, learn what works, and adjust. At my point in my career, I am choosey about roles because there are things I like and things I don't like, and I want to optimize my job so I can do the things I like and set myself up for more opportunities to do those things in the future when I need a new job. But right now, additional info is useful to have!
posted by Alterscape at 11:34 AM on August 7, 2022 [6 favorites]

Lab tech is a common first job after a BS in Biology. There is a wide variety here- academic research labs, medical diagnostic labs, biotech, environmental, and more. These jobs don't pay much but can be stepping stones into a science career. It is s very difficult and a long process to get hired into a federal givernemt job (e.g. at CDC), and much easier to work as a contractor or for a state or local government (e.g. public health lab).
I'd suggest looking into temp agencies that focus on tech and science. My advice is that your daughter should be looking for entry level science jobs, something she can do for a year or so to build up her confidence and get some work experience related to her degree.
posted by emd3737 at 11:59 AM on August 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

Nthing the suggestion to volunteer, but in a sustained way, not a one-off kind of thing. Some kind of structure and interaction with the outside world is really helpful post-college (and really just in general).

I was impressed by my local Audubon Society's volunteer intake process -- they are very clear on what they need (janitorial at the wildlife rehab center, data entry, event staffing, etc etc) and what kind of time commitment (weekly, episodic, at least 6 months etc). Here's the Georgia Audubon's volunteer page!

Taking classes (arts? creative writing) are another way to get out of the house and feel productive.

Lastly, one potential job option is working for a legislator (county supervisor? state level?). It's a great way to get the lay of the land and meet a zillion people.
posted by spamandkimchi at 12:56 PM on August 7, 2022

Some other possibilities... South River Watershed Alliance or Trees Atlanta? Your daughter probably knows about local-to-you organizations or maybe already follows some on social media?
posted by spamandkimchi at 1:08 PM on August 7, 2022

I have a friend who earned a Biology BS pretty late in life, and they went into natural resources management, spent the better part of 20 years rebuilding the shorelines of a small chain of lakes. If your daughter likes physical outdoor work with additional long-term planning, community engagement, and more sciency stuff, she might find that appealing. Looking at staffing for parks departments or watershed districts/agencies/etc might be a place to start.
posted by GenjiandProust at 1:44 PM on August 7, 2022 [3 favorites]

There are lots of options for a biology degree, both in biology and also in other places, as others have noted. At the same time, likelihood of getting into vet school at this point is relatively low. It is REALLY hard to get into vet school, significantly harder than to get into med school, because there are so few schools. The people that I know who got into vet school started working on it when they were in high school or earlier.
posted by rockindata at 2:32 PM on August 7, 2022

One thing asking here has brought to my attention is that I need to have an actual conversation with her rather than the brief interactions we've been having. I think she's stressed and would like some space but maybe I need to step in before I step back, if you see what I mean.

I haven’t seen anything in your post or follow-up comments about her having asked for this assistance, so you might want go into that conversation with the awareness that she very well might just want the space to do this herself. It’s not like she’s unaware of the fact that she needs to find a job.
posted by a box and a stick and a string and a bear at 2:54 PM on August 7, 2022 [2 favorites]

Hi from a biology faculty member at one of those colleges in the northern suburbs of Atlanta! If she was one of my students, I would be delighted to receive an email from her asking for job help. Did she have an upper level class she loved? She should reach out to the professor. Helping alums is part of our job, and we really are glad to do it, whether she wants to talk through options with someone or just have them email jobs to her from time to time. Feel free to send me a MeMail if talking to me might be helpful to her!

If she enjoys field work at all, there are at least two local AmeriCorps conservation corps programs hiring right now. Chattahoochee Trail Corps and Southeast Conservation Corps. Nationwide, there are lots of other AmeriCorps possibilities out there perfect for a recent grad, including NCCC (more outdoors work) and Public Health AmeriCorps. They even have a AmeriCorps Fit Finder that will help match her with programs she might be interested in. (Yes, I am an AmeriCorps alum, and yes, it changed my life right out of college when I didn't know what to do with myself.)

Georgia DNR posts their jobs in an old-fashioned, difficult to browse way, but they are good jobs.

I know less about indoor biology jobs in Atlanta. There are a ton of biotech companies in the northern suburbs that hire for a range of positions. Several of them are nutraceutical companies, which was not a word I'd even heard of until my students started getting those jobs. If she took micro or cell and enjoyed the lab work at all, they're great jobs that pay well.

Also check the careers pages at the research universities: Kennesaw, Georgia State, Georgia Tech, and UGA all routinely hire lab techs, field techs, data managers, etc.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:26 PM on August 7, 2022 [17 favorites]

I should have also said USA Jobs. CDC, NPS, EPA, USGS, USFS, and USFWS are the most obvious local agencies, but there are Atlanta offices of many of federal agencies as well.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:41 PM on August 7, 2022 [1 favorite]

I had a rush of empathy over this. My brave, canny, laconic 26yo daughter left home at 17¾ to seek her fortune; quipping "No degree is the new degree". She came back this late Spring a bit battered by a series of unfortunate events. I've been careful not to have anything like a come into the headmaster's study talk at with her. Poor woman has enough on her baggage carousel without me wading in with what I know. I'm quite confident that she'll get bored with cooking up a storm and mowing the lawn and set out again when she's ready. If done properly college can be exhausting - so !congratulations! not everyone makes it through the bs to get a BS: add "grit" and "finish" to your daughter's resumé.

One of the techniques recommended in WCIYParachute cited above is the "informational interview" where you find someone working in a field you're interested in and cold call them to ask for 20 minutes of their time to advise about where that field is going and what opportunities there might be. Not particularly interested in any field? Fake it! [but do some research first - it's only polite]. As caddis flies are quare ugly but important indicators of environmental health, you could start with hydropsyche.
posted by BobTheScientist at 11:42 PM on August 7, 2022

Healthcare is still one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy, and has lots of jobs for which a bio degree is as good as any. For example, there are all those paperwork jobs at a hospital. Some may require a semester of training at your local community college.

The only person in my family with a bio degree had a career in grocery store management.
posted by SemiSalt at 4:58 AM on August 8, 2022

One of my relatives got a BS in Biology, then worked at the FDA for a couple of years before going back to school to get a BS in Nursing. It was the time spent working at the FDA that helped her decide she wanted to go into nursing. She got into an accelerated 2-year program as she already had a BS, and she's been quite happy in her current nursing career so far.

So don't try to frame this as a "career" search, but maybe let her knock about a few different things. Has she signed up for any temp or staffing agencies? That could be a way for her to try out different roles in different settings, get a sense of what's out there.
posted by needled at 6:01 AM on August 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

In the same vein as 'What Color is Your Parachute,' I found the book 'Designing Your Life' to be an interesting and helpful read. It also is very good about emphasizing that one job might lead to a different path, people change their careers, it's a journey, you don't have to figure it all out immediately etc.

I am a two-time Americorps alum (2007 and 2012) and nth that as a good option for people just graduating and feeling a bit aimless. Lots of different options.
posted by geegollygosh at 7:22 AM on August 8, 2022 [1 favorite]

If I had a biology background, I would get a masters in genetic counseling and go that route. Seems really interesting and there should be jobs in the future.
posted by gregjunior at 3:38 PM on August 11, 2022

« Older How Do I Delete The Blank Page at the end of Word...   |   Recommendations for disability attorney in Seattle Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.