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Careers in Human Molecular Biology: Job Options and Requirements

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

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Have you ever wanted to examine the different molecules within human biology? Or perhaps you want to teach others the wonders of the human body, or create medicine that affects and helps it. All three of these careers require study of human molecular biology.

Essential Information

Careers in human molecular biology include educator; professors advance the field through teaching and independent research. Other career options include applied research, as performed by pharmaceutical drug manufacturers, and disease research performed by clinical technologists. Wages, educational requirements and type of person most suited to the career vary widely across these professions.

Career title Professor Pharmaceutical Manufacturer Clinical Laboratory Technologist
Education Requirements Master's degree; doctoral degree for some positions Typically a doctorate degree, sometimes master's or bachelor's degree Bachelor's degree and licensure
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 16% for biological science postsecondary teachers* 8% for all biochemists and biophysicists* 16% (for medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians)*
Median Salary (2015) $75,320 for biological science postsecondary teachers* $82,150 for all biochemists and biophysicists* $60,520 (for medical and clinical laboratory technologists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Professor

Molecular biologists interested in advancing knowledge in the field may work as professors at post-secondary educational institutions. The job typically entails both research and teaching, the ratio of which depends on the institution and the specific circumstances of the position offered. Four-year institutions tend to allow professors more independence regarding research projects, which are usually funded by federal and state governments or private industry and foundations. Professorships vary from part-time and temporary jobs to fully tenured positions, and professors may work at colleges, universities, alternative schools or even online. Staying up to date regarding news and developments in biological research, as well as technological and theoretical advances in educational methods, is important.

Requirements

In order to become a tenured professor with generous time allotted for independent research, a doctoral degree (Ph.D.) in molecular biology will likely be required. For part-time and temporary work, a master's degree may be all that's needed. Prospective professors will want to have good communication skills, enjoy inspiring people from all backgrounds and be self-motivated. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2015, the middle half of biological science post-secondary teachers of earned $54,950-$106,700 annually. The BLS expected employment for biological science post-secondary teachers to grow at 16%, faster than the average for all professions, from 2014-2024.

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Pharmaceutical Manufacturer

Individuals educated in molecular biology may work as biologists, biochemists, physiologists, toxicologists or pathologists for pharmaceutical companies, where they're involved in researching and testing drugs. Depending on the particular job, a scientist in the area of pharmaceutical manufacturing may study the effects of new drugs on a cellular level, how drugs react together, what causes specific ailments or how the drugs affect different body processes. Specific tasks could include managing laboratory teams, presenting scientific findings, preparing reports and conducting tests.

Requirements

The requirement for working as a scientific researcher for a private company is typically a Ph.D., although in some cases a master's or even bachelor's degree may be sufficient. Because the biological sciences are so interconnected, being educated across their various sub-fields is often unavoidable, and human molecular biology is integral to working in pharmaceutical manufacturing. The BLS notes that biochemists and biophysicists working in pharmaceutical manufacturing earned a mean salary of $87,370 in May 2015. In addition, employment of biochemists and biophysicists in general is expected to increase 8% from 2014-2024, which is about average.

Clinical Laboratory Technologist

Clinical laboratory technologists generally hold research positions devoted to the diagnosis and treatment of disease. They analyze the cells, bodily fluids and other specimens of patients through laboratory tests. Researchers have increasingly come to rely upon new technologies and analytical capabilities rather than physical practice and examination. Molecular biology technologists are tasked with doing protein and nucleic acid tests on human cells. Technologists operate above technicians and thus may be required to supervise them, likely in a hospital setting, where the majority of clinical technologist jobs are located.

Requirements

Many clinical technologist jobs require a bachelor's degree for entry-level work, either in a life science such as molecular biology or in medical technology. Licensing is typically required, though this requirement varies by state, and a bachelor's degree and passing exam score may be needed. Several organizations offer relevant professional certification.

According to the BLS, the middle half of medical and clinical laboratory technologists earned wages from $51,080-$72,780 in May 2015. The BLS also stated that the employment outlook was much better than average from 2014-2024, with an expected rate of 16%.

After studying human molecular biology, graduates can go on to become pharmaceutical manufacturers, laboratory technologists, or, with a doctoral degree, professors. Due to much faster than average job growth, laboratory technologists and professors may have better job opportunities than pharmaceutical manufacturers.

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