Students in bachelor's degree programs study subjects such as genetics, biochemistry, and biophysics as they relate to the structure and function of cells and molecules. Certificate programs provide students with advanced instruction in cellular and molecular laboratory methodologies, immunology, molecular cloning and cell manipulation techniques. Students examine problems occurring at the molecular and cellular levels and explore methods of addressing and correcting these problems in doctoral programs.
Graduate certificate programs accept applicants holding a bachelor's degree in one of the sciences, with some requiring specific science prerequisites for admission. Doctoral programs only admit students with a minimum of a bachelor's degree in a science field, and they're designed for aspiring university researchers or professors.
Bachelor of Science in Cellular Biology
Undergraduate degree programs in cellular biology are found as Bachelor of Science in Cellular Biology or a Bachelor of Science in Molecular and Cellular Biology. Cellular biology is also found as a concentration within a bachelor's degree program in biology. Research includes cellular and molecular components of cancer, viruses and other diseases as well as possible therapeutic treatments for those pathologies.
An undergraduate curriculum in cellular biology includes coursework from biology, chemistry, mathematics, and physics. Additional general education classes in areas such as English, philosophy and history may also be required. Some classes include:
- Foundations of cellular, molecular and organismal biology and cell function/structure
- The biology of evolution and histology of vertebrates
- Developmental biology and virology
- Introduction to microbiology and fundamentals of neurobiology
- Physiology of humans, plants, and animals
- Photomicrography and microscopy
Graduate Certificate in Cellular Biology
A graduate certificate in cellular biology is part of a master's degree or Ph.D. in Biology program, or a standalone certificate for those not wishing to complete a full master's degree program. Graduate certificate enrollees must have completed a bachelor's degree in cellular biology or a related field. Students must have completed courses in biology, chemistry and other biomolecular sciences at the undergraduate level. Many schools also have minimum undergraduate grade point average requirements.
The graduate certificate in cellular biology consists of 14-20 credit hours. The core of the program is biology courses with room for electives to allow students to pursue their educational or occupational goals. Students expect to take courses such as:
- Biological chemistry and endocrinology
- Molecular genetics and macromolecular structure
- Bioenergetics, biosynthesis and metabolic regulation
- Medical applications of microbiology
- Physical and chemical processes of human aging
- Genetics of natural and experimental populations
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Cell Biology
Doctoral programs in cell biology or molecular and cell biology are highly interdisciplinary, involving the life, biomedical and bioengineering sciences. Other topics addressed include the dynamics and biogenesis of macromolecular structures, prokaryotic and eukaryotic molecular biology, genetic analysis, and biochemistry. Most schools require students entering the doctorate program in cell biology to have graduated from a baccalaureate program with a major emphasis in science. Some schools also require applicants to take the GRE General Test.
In addition to advanced biology classes, the Ph.D. in Cell Biology consists of extensive research credits. Students engage in research seminars, research rotations, and original research under the supervision of a faculty mentor. Students complete a final senior dissertation project in an area of specialized research. Coursework includes:
- Yeast genetics
- Molecular basis of human diseases
- Vascular biology
- Signal transduction
- Cancer genetics
- Advanced histology
With a bachelor's degree in cellular biology, students may seek employment in fields as diverse as medicine, forensics, dentistry and biotechnology. Employment opportunities exist with universities, hospitals, governmental agencies and industrial research labs. Specific occupations include:
- Biological consultant
- Cell culture operator
- Laboratory technician
- Medical assistant
Earning a Ph.D. allows biological scientists to conduct independent research, move into administrative positions or teach at the postsecondary level. According to O*Net, several molecular and cellular biologists have received a doctorate or professional degree (www.onetonline.org). Ph.D. recipients pursue specific careers, including:
- Biological scientist
- Molecular and cellular biologist
- Biology professor
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
After completing a graduate certificate in molecular and cellular biology, students are prepared to become biological technicians in industries such as biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries. Some applied research positions are available to those with a graduate certificate, though most biological scientists are required to have a Ph.D.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that there were 72,900 employed biological technicians in May 2015. These workers may have 5% occupational growth for the years 2014 through 2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported in 2015 that biological technicians made median annual wages of $41,650.
Students may choose to transfer certificate credits to a full master's degree program. Those interested in pursuing a master's degree must request acceptance into the master's program. A master's degree requires additional research and thesis credits.
Postdoctoral fellows seek work that provides specialized research experience and the opportunity to publish research findings, and may also provide counseling and mentoring to undergraduate and graduate students. These postdoctoral experiences are useful in acquiring a permanent college or university faculty positions.
Degrees in cellular biology can prepare students for hands-on careers as biological technicians or more research-oriented professions in education and research, depending on an individual's career goals.