How to Write a Resume for Biology Majors

Christina Wood
by Christina Wood   Career Advice Contributor 
 
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After earning your biology degree, you may envision your future in research, medicine or biochemical product development. But now that you’re writing your resume, you face a challenge: the jobs you’re considering ― even the entry-level ones ― require work experience you don’t have. Luckily, there are ways to clear this hurdle.

You can apply all the skills you developed in the lab and through paper writing to create your perfect biology major resume.

Keep reading for our seven tips to write an entry-level biology resume that will make you stand out.

1. Hone in on the job you want

The first step to writing a biology resume is to focus on the job you want. Many of the more obvious careers ― genetic counselor, doctor or biochemist ― require an advanced degree. But a wide range of professions require only a bachelor’s degree and the technical and analytical skills you already have.

In fact, jobs that call for the skills you acquired with a biology degree are so varied that you might have trouble choosing. Maybe you’re considering becoming a medical technician, a teacher or a nutritionist. With options this diverse, you will have to customize your resume and cover letter for every job to include specific information that connects you to the role and keywords used in the job description.

2. Find the keywords

The first barrier your resume has to cross is the applicant tracking software (ATS). Recruiters use these to mechanically weed out resumes that indicate the candidate might be a poor fit for the position. But an ATS is not a brilliant artificial intelligence; it simply scans for keywords.

To get past it, find the keywords in the job description ― the hard skills and requirements ― and add them to your resume. Don’t be afraid to use the same keywords that are in the job description on your resume. ATS systems can be very literal, so avoid synonyms or changing verb tenses unnecessarily. Our Resume Builder can help you get your resume past ATS systems and into the hands of a real human being.

3. Highlight your skills

Determining which skills to put on your recent biology graduate resume can be a challenge, as you might not have much work experience. Look to your coursework, internships and extracurriculars to unearth your best skills. Study the job description and think about the classes, labs, interests and other pursuits that make up your personal history and skillset.

Let’s say the job asks for math skills. Highlight the fact that you aced calculus. They’re looking for analytical skills? Think back to when you had to dig deep to find answers in a lab assignment and add those biology lab techniques to your resume.

Apply the same process to demonstrate your proven softer skills. For example, an application might require evidence that you are a good communicator. Did you work on teams? Summarize research? Design charts or graphs for non-scientists to read? You likely have more skills and experience than you think ― add the most relevant to the skills, work experience and education section of your resume, as appropriate.

4. Think creatively…

If you’re looking at resume samples with summary, work experience and education sections, plus additional sections at the bottom for interests, fitting in all your skills and experience can seem like a challenge. For your first entry-level biology resume, rethink that structure. A work experience heading begs you to include your job delivering pizza and the summer you spent as a lifeguard. After all, that’s real work. Think about the transferable skills you developed in those pizza delivery and lifeguard jobs, and incorporate them into your resume.

But those jobs won’t help utilize the critical keywords the ATS is looking for. You may be better served using a functional resume format rather than a chronological format. Check out our guide to resume formats for help choosing.

5. But don’t let creativity hold you back

Most ATS software prefers traditional fonts, so don’t try to stand out with a fancy or excessively artsy typeface. If you use an unusual font, the ATS may try to convert it to something it can read, but you have no idea how that will look. It might work fine, or it might turn your text into gibberish. Choosing a classic font will eliminate that risk. Consider classics like Georgia, Verdana, Century Gothic, Times New Roman or Century Schoolbook.

It’s also important to avoid columns and tables in your resume. The ATS will read across the page, from left to right, and turn your unusual font, columns or tables into word soup.

6. Add a little personality

Are you a black belt in karate? Do you raise birds of prey? Are you a master of Baroque guitar? Include anything that’s fascinating about you in an activities or interests section at the bottom of your resume. Maybe the hiring manager will feel an instant connection to you through one of your interests or passions. Even if you don’t have a captivating hobby, punch up this section with details instead of generalities.

“Everyone says the same thing,” says Austin Belcak, founder of Cultivated Culture. “They like reading, travel or coffee, but that’s not specific enough to make a connection. Take it deeper. If you like to read, name your favorite author or the most recent book you read.”

Instead of saying you like board games, say you are a Dungeon Master or that you have an online avatar old enough to attend middle school.

7. Be meticulous

It’s one thing to say on your resume that you’re detail-oriented, but it’s better to show it. You may have had perfect grades in your biology labs, but an error-ridden resume will not inspire confidence. Edit your resume to eliminate:

  • Misspellings
  • Awkward grammar
  • Style inconsistencies, like using round bullet-points in some sections and square ones in others

These errors will land your biology degree resume promptly in the “rejects” pile. Read your resume over, then read it over again. Ask someone else to read it. Run the spell checker. Use a grammar checker. And then do that all over again.

Need some help getting started or polishing a near-finished resume? Try our Resume Builder, or check out our collection of Entry Level Biologist Resume Samples. And after your resume is perfect, check out our Cover Letter Builder to complete a strong application package for each unique job.

About the Author

Career Advice Contributor

Christina Wood Career Advice Contributor

Christina Wood, a working writer for over a decade, has been a contributing editor or columnist for The Week, Family Circle, PC World, PC Magazine, Yahoo Tech, IT World, InfoWorld, Greatschools.org, USA Weekend and several other national publications. Her "Family Tech" column in Family Circle won a Min Award (in 2013) for best advice column. She has contributed to many other media properties including Better Homes and Gardens, Popular Science, This Old House Magazine, NASDAQ International, Working Woman, Discovery, Greatschools.org, Jaguar Magazine, and JeanKnowsCars.com.

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