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Cellular Biologist: Education Requirement and Career Information

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a cellular biologist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree paths, courses, and job duties to find out if this is the career for you.

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A few of the career opportunities for a cellular biologist include work as a biochemist or a microbiologist. These occupations are found across a variety of industries, such as research and development, pharmaceutical manufacturing, government and education. A master's or doctorate degree is required to work as a cellular biologist.

Essential Information

Cellular biologists study cells, including their function, systems, structure and interactions with living organisms. These biologists typically work in medical fields, and are often focused on the treatment of disease. Many work as microbiologists, biochemists or biophysicists. A career in cellular biology typically requires the completion of an advanced degree program.

Required Education Master's or doctorate degree
Projected Growth (2014-2024)* 8% (biochemists and biophysicists); 4% (microbiologists);
Average Salary (2015)* $82,150 (biochemists and biophysicists); $67,550 (microbiologists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education Requirements for Cellular Biologists

Bachelor of Science in Biological Sciences

Obtaining a bachelor's degree in a biology or math-related field provides preparatory education for those interested in becoming a cellular biologist. Some degree programs offer major courses in cell or molecular biology, as well. Several universities allow undergraduates to engage in some form of biology experimentation through faculty or graduate-level research projects. Common courses in these 4-year degree programs include:

  • Chemistry
  • Biology
  • Physiology
  • Laboratory research

Master of Science in Cell and Developmental Biology

Students in master's degree programs in cell and developmental biology prepare for academic or research-related careers in the field. Completing these degree programs often serves as a basis to propel students into doctoral degree programs, though master's graduates can qualify for several entry-level research and laboratory assisting positions. Common courses include:

  • Stem cell biology
  • Developmental biology
  • Human diseases

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Cell Biology

Doctoral degree programs allow students and scientists to pursue advanced research work in cellular biology or enter academia. Due to the flexible nature of Ph.D. programs, students can take 5-7 years to complete them and focus on a specific discipline in the field, such as genetics, neural development or cytokinesis. Common requirements include:

  • Molecular biology
  • Cell biology seminars
  • Research projects

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Career Information for Cellular Biologists

While the career options available to cellular biologists vary greatly, they typically focus on health-related functions, such as those related to animals, plants or human beings, or life-related activities in a variety of living systems or organisms. These objectives can be accomplished in many industries, including agriculture or academia. Cellular biology can concentrate on a number of specialties, such as biotechnology, nuclear energy, environmental pollution or medical sciences, in private, nonprofit and governmental sectors.

In conducting their work, cell biologists use a several different sciences in their daily tasks. They could combine genetics, biochemistry, cell biology, pathology, microbiology and physiology within a career or a single experiment. They perform extensive laboratory work and could participate in experimental or clinical trials with animals or humans.

Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) stated that occupational opportunities for microbiologists were expected to grow 4% from 2014-2024, which is slower than the average for all careers (www.bls.gov). Opportunities for biophysicists and biochemists were projected to increase by 8% during the same period. In 2015, the BLS reported an annual average salary of $82,150 for biochemists and biophysicists, and microbiologists had an average salary of $67,550. The BLS asserted that careers in biophysics and biochemistry are competitive, and funding is dependent upon grants from the U.S. National Institutes of Health and National Science Foundation; funding levels fluctuate with the economy.

The educational background required to become a cellular biologist is significant, so prepare to commit many years to post-secondary study. Some of the subject areas of specialization within cellular biology include biotechnology, environmental pollution and nuclear energy. Jobs for microbiologists are projected to increase by just 4% in the years 2014-2024, while jobs for biochemists and biophysicists are projected to grow by 8% in that time period.

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