Careers in Cell Research: Job Options and Education Requirements

Cellular research requires a significant amount of formal education. Learn about the education, job duties, and requirements to see if this is the career field for you.

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  • 0:01 Essential Information
  • 0:39 Cellular Scientist
  • 1:44 Lab or Research Technician
  • 2:33 Cellular Researcher
  • 3:38 Education Requirements

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Essential Information

Possible Careers Cellular Scientist Lab Technician Cellular Researcher
Required Education Bachelor's/Master's Bachelor's Master's and/or Doctorate
Projected Job Growth (2012-2024) +4%* +5%* +8%*
Median Salary (2015) $67,550 $41,650* $82,150*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Cell research focuses on the study of cells within living organisms. This research includes the studies of cell structures, systems and interactions. Extensive education is required for most careers involving intensive cell research.

Microbiology is a growing career that offers entrance into a wide variety of research fields and employment opportunities. Lab technicians facilitate the research that, for instance, microbiologists perform, making this career a good entrance point to this scientific field. Cell researchers perform their own research, publish this research, and, generally speaking, advance the field in new directions.

Cellular Scientist

Cellular scientists, also known as cell biologists or microbiologists, use laboratory equipment to study living cellular systems. These scientists research the structure and interaction of cells including their uses, development and life cycles.

The work of cellular scientists can be focused in several areas including immunology, virology, cellular physiology, food microbiology, industrial microbiology and environmental microbiology. Cellular scientists usually have completed an advanced degree program in cell biology or related studies. These biological scientists may be employed in academia, health sciences, agriculture and environmental sciences.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the occupational field of microbiologists is projected to grow by 4% over the 2014-2024 decade. Microbiologists had a median salary of $67,550 in May 2015, according to the BLS.

Lab or Research Technician

Lab technicians aid the work conducted by cell biologists and conduct research when necessary. The primary components of their jobs involve gathering samples and conducting tests. These techs use lab equipment such as robotic arms, microscopes and cell counters.

Lab technicians may also be known as lab assistants, research associates or research assistants. Their education is based in biology. Usually a bachelor's degree is required to gain career entry, which is considered an entry-level opportunity in cell research and cell biology.

The field of biological technicians is projected to grow by 5% from 2014 to 2024, according to the BLS. The BLS reported that these technicians had a median annual salary of $41,650 in 2015.

Cellular Researcher

Cellular researchers are taxed with the responsibility of writing grant proposals, in addition to conducting research and accurately reporting on their findings. Their reports may involve public dissemination of information via speeches and documented writing in scientific journals. Their results need to be consumable by all minds, scientific or otherwise.

Researchers may conduct fieldwork gathering scientific data and samples for laboratory inspection; however, the bulk of their time is spent conducting experiments in a laboratory setting. These professionals require the completion of a doctoral degree program to carry out the highest order of cell research. Researchers differ from cell biologists based on their complete devotion to research in their work.

The field of biochemists and biophysicists, including cellular researchers, is projected by the BLS to grow by 8% from 2014 to 2024. In May 2015, the BLS reported that biochemists and biophysicists had a median annual salary of $82,150.

Education Requirements

A bachelor of science in biology is a 4-year program that provides students a base of knowledge in biology. Several concentrations are available including microbiology, cell and molecular biology, botany and ecology. In addition to coursework, students conduct research and fieldwork and are introduced to laboratory instrumentation such as microscopes, spectrometers and proteomic analysis instrumentation. Biology degree programs with a specialization in cellular biology include coursework such as:

  • Cellular biology
  • Cells and tissue development
  • Molecular genetics
  • Microbiology

A master of science in cell biology is a 2-year degree program that is heavily based in conducting research and includes internship opportunities. Completing a master's degree program is necessary for students who wish to continue their education all the way through a doctoral degree program. Common courses include:

  • Genetics
  • Cellular neurobiology
  • Advanced genetics and development
  • Biochemistry

A doctor of philosophy in molecular and cell biology takes several years to complete due to their flexibility in accommodating working professionals. These programs are designed for individuals who seek careers in teaching or research. Students work primarily on research-based projects and complete laboratory rotations. The completion of a scholarly dissertation is also expected. Common courses include:

  • Molecular medicine
  • Genome analysis
  • Stem cell structures
  • Stem cell research

Careers in cell research include cellular scientists, lab technicians and cellular researchers, and the education required ranges from a bachelor's degree to a doctorate degree.

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