Careers in Molecular & Cell Biology: Job Options and Requirements

Learn about the education and preparation needed to have a career in molecular and cell biology. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about training, job duties and certifications to find out if this is the career for you.

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When looking for a career in molecular and cell biology, there are quite a few different options to choose from, all starting with a bachelor's degree. Studies in this field can lead to careers in a lab, a school setting, in research, or a combination of all of these for those who become biologists.

Essential Information

Education in molecular and cell biology can lead to a multitude of careers in botany, genetics, medicine and biotechnology. While entry-level positions can be achieved with a bachelor's degree, greater levels of education afford more opportunities - specifically with regards to research and teaching opportunities. Read on to learn more about career options and required education.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in biology for entry-level positions
Other Requirements Master's and doctoral degree for education and research positions
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) 5% for biological technicians*
Average Salary (2015) $45,230 for biological technicians*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Molecular and Cell Biology Job Options

Laboratory Technician

Performing entry-level work in cellular biology, laboratory technicians assist scientists with their studies and job duties. For instance, a technician might perform tests on cell samples to see how the cells react to acid or how protein synthesizes within the cells. Although job applicants may gain this position with a 2-year degree, potential employers may prefer those who hold a bachelor's degree in the field.

Biology Teacher

Graduates of advanced degree programs in molecular and cellular biology may choose to become instructors. While a bachelor's degree may suffice to teach at the secondary school level, graduate degrees are needed to teach at a college or university. All teachers and professors instruct students in areas such as the earth sciences, research methods and technological advances within the discipline.

Research Specialist

While the ability to conduct and report research is integral to any careers within scientific fields, researching at the highest level requires graduate-level training. Researchers can focus on clinical or non-clinical areas of interest and work in a lab or out in the field. Specialization typically occurs at the doctoral degree level.

Molecular Biologist

Molecular biologists study molecules or processes that affect them. These scientists can focus on types and classifications of molecules within a specific genre. Alternatively, molecular biologists might attempt to define the biological processes that cause genes to become defective. They combine gene manipulation and biochemistry in the spectrum of their work.

Cellular Biologist

Cellular biologists examine how a cell develops, what its use or function is and how these living cells interact with one another. The molecular genetics of cells play a role in their study; hence, the disciplines of molecular and cell biology are often taught together in degree programs. The work of these scientists can cover an array of areas, from humans to insects to plants.

Molecular and Cell Biology Education Options

Bachelor of Science in Biology

These 4-year degree programs provide general education as well as biology training with core courses in molecular and cell biology. Common topics include developmental biology and microbiology.

Master of Science in Molecular Biology

These 2-year degree programs are often used as a gateway for those who wish to become teachers or researchers in the subject. Many continue on with their education upon graduation. Classes address chromosomes, genetic analysis and cell mechanisms.

Doctor of Philosophy in Cellular Biology

Obtaining a doctoral degree can take several years, as these degree programs are loosely structured to accommodate working professionals. They largely revolve around conducting research and writing publishable articles to report their theories and findings, including a dissertation. Common courses include:

  • Stem-cell structures
  • Cellular and molecular neurosciences
  • Computational cell biology

Molecular and Cell Biology Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics provides information for careers associated with molecular and cell biology. For example, in May 2015, biological laboratory technicians earned an average salary of $45,230, with most working in academic research and scientific research and development. Postsecondary biological science teachers, including those teaching molecular and cell biology, made an average of $86,830 during the same year.

Molecular biologists and cell biologists are included in the BLS occupation of biochemist/biophysicist. In May 2015, this group of professionals worked mostly as scientific researchers earning an average of $97,530 per year, or as pharmaceutical researchers, who made an average of $87,370.

There are many different careers that begin with studies in molecular and cell biology, which are available at the bachelor's, master's and PhD levels. Molecular and cellular biologists and researchers work on researching for a specific subject of interest or for a specific project. Biology teachers can teach at the postsecondary level, and lab technicians assist scientists in performing tests and recording observations.

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