Why Study Biology & Why is Biology Important?
Nov 12, 2021
Why study biology and why is biology important?
Why study biology? Let’s answer that question with another question. Have you ever been sitting in class and wondered, “Why do I have to know this? What does it matter?” Biology is one subject for which that answer is easy.
Biological science is literally everywhere and everything. As a living being, you are part of biology. So if you want to know how a human body functions, as well as every other living organism, biology is how you find out. It’s the best and truest way to understand the world around you.
More than just that, though, biologists serve a really important function in helping us live, thrive, and survive, and there are tremendous benefits to working in biology. Read on to find out more about why this could be the subject and career path for you.
What is biology?
Hopefully, you have some idea how to answer this question since your high school general biology class was likely required to graduate. But in case you were asleep that day, how about a definition?
Alane Lim, writing on LiveScience, puts it this way: “Biology is the study of life. In general, biologists study the structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, and distribution of living organisms.”
Biology is one of the big subjects that form the building blocks of everything we understand when it comes to natural science, along with chemistry and physics. Since we have established that modern biology covers every living organism, you can imagine it’s an expansive field with many subdisciplines.
There are numerous ways to break down the different areas of biology, but Lim gives us a good place to start with four major branches:
- “Biochemistry: The study of the chemical processes that take place in or are related to living things;
- Ecology: The study of how organisms interact with their environment;
- Genetics: The study of how genes are passed down by parents to their offspring, and how they vary from person to person;
- Physiology: The study of biological processes, such as how a particular organ works, what its function is, and how it's affected by outside stimuli.”
Other key areas within biology include cell biology, environmental biology, evolutionary biology, marine biology, molecular biology, and of course, medical biology.
If you do plan to study biology, you likely have some other big questions about how it looks in a college setting. Be sure to check out our guides, “Is biology hard as a major?” and “Biology BA vs BS: What's the Difference?”
Why study biology? Why is biology important?
If telling you that this is the study of ALL LIFE isn’t enough to convince you that biology is important, it may not be entirely possible. But let’s keep going, just to make it a little more manageable to think about.
In his blog on Medium, James Right helpfully gives six of what he says are the most important reasons to study biology:
- “Biology helps us know, understand nature
- Benefits to humans
- Role in medicine
- The life of biology is research
- Environment and biology
- Biology helps us understand our bodies and the changes occurring in them”
Biology is also a key connection point for the other sciences. Knowing general biology is more than just useful, it’s vital to understanding the other scientific disciplines.
Jonathan Visick, professor of biology at North Central College, said, “Science majors, of course, need to know biology (because) there are many overlaps with biology in other science fields. For example, students in other science majors could wind up working in neuroscience (which combines psychology and biology, bioinformatics and medical informatics (biology and computer science), ecological modeling or epidemiology (math and biology), biophysics, biomedical engineering, or pharmacology (biology and chemistry).”
One similar field to biology is physiology, but there are key differences between them. If you’re trying to choose between biology and another field, you can read our guides “Physiology vs Biology” and “Biology vs Chemistry Majors” for help.
Learning in biology opens up career opportunities
The truth is that the subject of biology itself isn’t nearly as important as what you can do with it. The applications for biology are nearly endless, which makes it a great field to get into. Whether you are motivated by getting a great, lucrative job, or doing work that will have a positive impact on a great number of people, biology will give you a good chance to find that.
Alane Lim provides some prominent examples of the fields you can work in with a biology major:
- Research, whether in the lab, the field or both
- Healthcare, as doctors, nurses, veterinarians, or developing drugs and vaccines for pharmaceutical companies
- Conservation, by studying endangered species and finding out what causes their extinction and/or advocating to protect them and their environments
- Art, by finding ways to depict biological systems that help us understand how they’re composed and how they function
Writing on After School Africa, Danjuma Musa provides another good example of how thinking about the cycle of life can have applications for farming, agriculture, food production, and other systems we depend on every day: “We consume an infinite number of biological products for our survival. Livestock is an important source of food for humans, and we use them as raw materials for certain products. For example, dairy farms produce milk, beef, skin, oil, and other products.
“Even as we feed on livestock, the animals, in turn, feed on other living things, particularly plants. Then, the plants, in turn, need some elements and living organisms to survive. A biologist actively explores these vast areas in a way that enables us to understand them better. With a deep knowledge of plants and animals, we can improve their productivity and learn better ways to manage and take care of them.”
Biology is at the heart of many social and economic issues
Biology courses frequently get into matters outside and beyond the laboratory. The link between biology and vital issues like food distribution, commerce, and public health means that you can’t ignore biology and still be a properly informed and active member of society.
When asked about implications for biology in important issues and why you should pay attention whether you’re a biology student or not, Visick said, “We don't have to look much farther than the current events of right now, do we? A small handful of individuals have successfully spread so much misinformation about COVID-19, the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus, and the anti-COVID vaccine (movement) that half our country remains unvaccinated. An important reason why such efforts can succeed is that not enough people know enough basic biology that they can distinguish misinformation and disinformation from good information.”
He went on to say, “Of course, COVID is far from the only biological issue of today. Environmental policy, healthcare issues, nutrition, and diet, agriculture, reproductive issues, personal health, drugs ... many, many questions today require some understanding of biology.”
So while we all have a responsibility to know something about biology, there is a great opportunity for any biology graduate with skills in communication and education to inform the public and help us make decisions that will have a huge impact on our lives.
Satisfy your curiosity with a biology degree
If you are convinced that studying biology is important and worth it to you to study, you need to make sure you find a place that will give you a complete understanding of the subject. Look for a bachelor’s degree program like the biology program at North Central College.
The North Central program emphasizes research and will likely start you off on a research project from your first day of class. Talented, experienced faculty will give you the chance to do extensive scientific investigation into areas you are passionate about and lead you on fieldwork excursions from Costa Rica to Arizona with study away opportunities at world-class facilities right in the area, like the Shedd Aquarium and Morton Arboretum. Find out more about North Central College and what they can do for your career in biology today.
Jacob Imm is a communications specialist in the North Central College Office of Marketing and Communications. He has 11 years of collegiate communications experience and has worked with hundreds of college students. He has a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and a master’s degree from Northern Illinois University.