Virology Graduate Programs

Emerging viruses such as Ebola have brought attention to harmful viruses and how easily they may be transmitted. The study of viruses and viral agents is known as virology. Virologists investigate the origin of viruses, their effects on susceptible organisms, and how to eradicate viruses.

If you have an undergraduate degree in biology and want to pursue a career as a virologist, your next step is to earn a PhD in Virology. When you are searching for a virology graduate program, keep in mind that most programs are interdisciplinary. At some institutions, programs may be housed within the medical school. In some cases, the degree you earn may be in molecular biology, microbiology, immunology or a related area with a concentration in virology.

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Virology Graduate Program Courses

The titles of virology courses may vary depending on the institution where they are taken, but the following are examples of core courses and content that you can expect in a virology graduate program:


Generally, a virology course teaches how viruses replicate, the innate responses of viruses and the ways that viruses may be inhibited. Students participate in lectures, literature reviews, and experiments. Advanced virology courses focus on specific viruses such as Herpes, HIV, and Epstein-Barr.

Molecular Biology

Molecular biology covers DNA and RNA structure and function. Proteins and nucleic acids and their physical properties are discussed. Students also learn how DNA is recovered, regulated, and repaired.

Cell Biology

Cell biology research is the foundation of this study. Among the topics covered in this course are chromosome biology, cellular dynamics, and epigenetics. Additional areas of focus include cell-cell interactions and cell cycle regulation.

Molecular and Cellular Immunology

In this course, students study the immune system and it's relationship to disease. How the immune system develops and how it functions are two of the areas covered in the course. The course includes information on various immune system disorders.

Lab Rotation

Students enrolled in PhD in Virology programs are expected to participate in lab rotations which provide research experience in preparation for the dissertation. Lab rotations provide opportunities for students to work closely with faculty advisors. Students also complete lab rotation reports on experiments and projects.

Students in virology programs may be provided opportunities to gain experience by working with the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). PhD candidates must complete a dissertation after completion of classroom courses and other requirements.

Admission Requirements for Virology Graduate Programs

General requirements for PhD in Virology programs include a bachelor's degree with strong preparation in science courses, a completed application, statement of purpose, Curriculum Vitae, official transcripts, letters of recommendation, GRE scores (may be optional) and the Test of English as Foreign Language (TOEFL) where appropriate. Some programs may have additional requirements.

Virology Graduate Program Length

Typically, you can complete a PhD in Virology within 4-6 years of full-time study. However, opportunities for post-doctoral training such as fellowships and research may be available to graduates interested in specific areas of virology. According to the American Society for Virology, graduates sometimes engage in post-doctoral research for 3-5 years.

A virology graduate program may be the perfect fit for anyone with a strong undergraduate background in science. Pursuing a PhD in with an emphasis in virology provides opportunities to study the impacts of viruses on living organisms and to conduct research that benefits all of society.

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