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Careers in Cellular Biology: Job Options and Requirements

Cellular biology is generally both an undergraduate and graduate-level field of study, leading to research, laboratory, and teaching careers. Continue reading for an overview of the different programs, as well as career and salary info for some career options for graduates.

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A degree in cellular biology at the undergraduate or graduate level can lead to an exciting job in biochemistry, medicine, and biotechnology, among others. A bachelor's degree is enough to get started, although some positions, like biological science instructors, need a graduate-level degree for work.

Essential Information

Cellular biology degree programs prepare graduates for diverse careers in the field of biological sciences. Degrees in this field are available at the undergraduate through doctoral levels. These levels of education correspond to certain jobs within these career paths. That being said, it is possible to find entry-level cellular biology positions with an undergraduate degree. Keep reading to explore some of these career options within this field.

Career Titles Microbiologists Biological Technicians Biological Science Instructors
Education Requirements Bachelor's Bachelor's Graduate-level degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 4%* 5%* 16%*
Median Salary (2015) $67,550* $41,650* $75,320*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Options

Careers in cellular biology are available in a variety of fields, such as biochemistry, medicine, biotechnology and genetics, to name a few.

Some of these career options include heavy research. Others require quite a bit of hands-on work. The job options discussed below cover the research careers, those jobs in the laboratory setting, and the university teaching path.

Researcher

Research cellular biologists generally specialize in laboratory research, although working in the field may be necessary to collect samples and gather information. Research may include developing and testing new pharmaceuticals, testing food and cosmetics to ensure their safety and researching causes of disease.

Job Requirements

Researchers usually need a Ph.D. in Molecular and Cellular Biology to ensure they understand how to conduct research and accurately report on their discoveries. Some entry-level jobs, such as university research assistantships, may only require a bachelor's degree. Research cell biologists interact with both scientific and non-scientific minds, so the ability to communicate their findings with nonscientists is paramount.

Molecular Biologist

These scientists focus their studies on molecules and the processes that occur within molecules. They may work on defining how genes become defective, understanding how biological conditions affect molecules and researching how to manipulate gene structures.

Job Requirements

Due to the close-knit nature of cellular and molecular processes, molecular biologists often complete cellular biology degree programs. Completing a bachelor's degree in cellular biology can be enough to begin a molecular biology-related career in biochemical production or in teaching advanced high school biology. However, it is quite common for molecular biologists to have finished an advanced degree program in molecular or cellular biology. Common courses include:

  • Developmental biology
  • Cellular mechanisms
  • Computational biology

Biology Lab Technician

Biology, or biological, lab technicians work as assistants to cellular biologists. While it's an entry-level career, techs need to be well-versed in the use and sterilization of lab equipment, such as microscopes, cell counters and other robotic lab equipment. Lab techs gather samples and conduct tests as requested by scientists. They may assist in less intensive research as well.

Job Requirements

Biology lab technicians generally need at least a bachelor's degree for career entry. Many may complete a degree in biology with courses such as the following:

  • Cellular biology
  • Genetics
  • Biotechnology
  • Ecology

Instructor

Instructors primarily teach at the collegiate level, encouraging creative minds in science to benefit cellular biology-related industries, such as the biotechnology and biomechanics industries. Instructors may find time for research projects on the side as well.

Job Requirements

Cellular biologists who are educated in advanced degree programs and prefer to teach may choose to become instructors. Teaching at the collegiate or university level requires a minimum of a master's degree. Many cellular biology instructors complete a doctoral degree program in molecular and cellular biology.

Cellular Biologist

These scientists study microscopic living systems and organisms. They can work across a spectrum of private industries or government agencies. Cell biologists focus on the uses, functions, development and lives of cells and their related systems and interactions.

Job Requirements

Molecular and cellular biology subjects are regularly taught together in education programs. A bachelor's degree in cellular biology may be permissible with additional career experience in order to become a cellular biologist, but many cellular biology careers require the completion of a master's or doctoral degree program. Common courses include:

  • Developmental biology
  • Cellular mechanisms
  • Computational biology

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not offer employment and salary information for all of the jobs listed in this article, but it does provide information for a number of closely related careers. According to their website (www.bls.gov), microbiologists earn a median salary of $67,550, and have an employment increase expectation of 4% between 2014 and 2024. Biological technicians are listed as earning a median income of $41,650 per year, and are estimated to see an employment increase of 5% during the same time period. Biological science instructors are paid a median salary of $75,320 per year, and the employment outlook statistics for biology instructors at the postsecondary level is projected to increase by 16% from 2014 to 2024.

A cellular biology degree can prepare students for careers as researchers, microbiologists, biology lab technicians, instructors, and cellular biologists. Researchers, cellular biologists, and instructors need a graduate degree for their work, while a bachelor's degree is sufficient for molecular biologists and biotechnology lab technicians. All of these careers focus on the research of living things and some can be dominated by heavy research activities or hands-on laboratory work.

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