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What is Molecular Biology?
Molecular biology is the area of employment and study that focuses on the functions of a living organism by understanding its operation at the molecular and cellular level. Individuals in this field typically utilize the information gleaned as a foundation for further education in related fields, though researchers will work to better understand how such systems operate and form within a living organism.
Degrees in Molecular Biology
Students interested in pursing a degree in molecular biology should spend time understanding the degree options below. The summary of degree programs will help drive decisions about your future with greater efficiency and ease. Before collecting information from schools on this page by degree level, simply read our book on the college admissions process today. Establish your priority list after reading the book and jump into your college research below.
Bachelor’s Degree in Molecular Biology
A bachelor degree in molecular biology is a 4-year program for full-time students and longer for part-time students. Bachelor degrees can be conferred as a Bachelor of Science (BS) at most accredited colleges and universities. The BS degree program blends liberal arts education such as history, math, sociology, communications, and psychology with core curriculum. While each school will have variations of curriculum in molecular biology, most students will have very similar classes. Examples of courses in the bachelor’s degree include: chemistry, biology, calculus, statistics, physics, genetics, cell biology, physical chemistry, molecular biology, biochemistry, microbial chemistry, yeast molecular genetics, environmental phage biology, environmental toxicology, and microbiology.
Master’s Degree in Molecular Biology
Master degrees in molecular biology is another popular degree option accounting for approximately 30% of professionals in the field. A master’s degree can be conferred as a Master of Science (MS) or Master of Applied Science (MAS). Graduate programs can last 2-3 years dependent upon course offerings and student qualifications. Pathways can take students to the MS thesis, MS non-thesis, or dual degree such as Molecular Biology and Chemistry or Molecular Biology and Biochemistry. The combination of lectures, labs, thesis projects, and hands-on learning will prepare students for further education in the field or employment in a variety of science-rich organizations.
Doctorate Degree in Molecular Biology
The doctorate degree in molecular biology is conferred as a PhD at most schools. PhD degrees are known as terminal degrees as there are no additional degrees conferred beyond the doctorate level. The program can last 3-5 years depending on course load, pace, and time taken to complete the dissertation program. Courses in the PhD program can vary from school to school as courses may be self-designed. For students that prefer to remain in a defined track, many schools offer a number of options to choose from in the molecular biology field of study. Tracks can include: molecular biology, developmental biology, cellular biology, pathogenesis, microbial biology, biochemistry, chemical biology, biophysics, bioinformatics, and biomedical engineering. Graduates from the PhD program will be equipped to continue with research projects in public or private companies, teach at the collegiate level, or pursue a career in industry.
Education and Schools
Individuals seeking an education in molecular biology will generally pursue a bachelor’s degree. The education provided utilizes various sciences while providing a strong background in the understanding of the human body as well as other living organisms. The education will provide a foundation in research methodologies, technologies, and techniques to be able to visualize and understand the cell structures and molecular interactions.
A curriculum may include:
- Cell Physiology
- Molecular Research
Molecular biology is considered a good undergraduate degree for individuals wishing to pursue an education in biochemistry, genetics and medicine. The foundation it provides is strong, ensuring the development of basic and complex skills early in one’s education. Students wishing to study this field should find a school that has a strong program and maintains facilities conducive to research and growth.
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Individuals who pursue a career in this field will seek employment at laboratories either for the purposes of research or analyses. Most analyses will be done at the medical level, with individuals looking for anomalies, ailments or other pathogens that may affect a person at the molecular level. Others may work in areas such as cancer, viral, or bacterial research which can lead to effective treatments or cures in the long run. As noted above, higher levels of education in other fields can lead to careers in medicine, research for the purposes of advancement and healthcare.
For additional information on a career path in biology, visit our Definitive Career Guide in Biology on our blog.