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Molecular Biology Degree and Certificate Programs

Molecular biology certificate and degree programs include courses focused on the cellular processes of humans and animals. Learn what types of programs are available and what to expect of the courses, including online degree options.

What Kinds of Molecular Biology Programs Can I Find?

You can earn a certificate, Bachelor of Science (B.S.), Master of Science (M.S.) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Molecular Biology. Often, your program will also explore other related life science subjects, such as cell biology, biochemistry, microbiology or bioinformatics.

Most molecular biology certificate programs are intended for those who have already earned a bachelor's degree in a non-science subject but wish to enter the biological sciences field. If you're interested in a graduate program, you usually must hold a bachelor's degree in a biological or physical science. You also might need to take prerequisite classes in biology, organic chemistry, physics and calculus.

Program TypesCertificate, bachelor's, master's and doctoral level programs exist
Undergraduate Course StructureCore sciences, general education, and specific molecular biology topics
Graduate Course StructureResearch-based, with didactic and hands-on learning in specific, advanced areas
Online OptionsRare. Some master's and certificate programs exist, as do some opportunities for hybrid learning
Median Salary (2018)* $93,280 (for biochemists and biophysicists)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 11% (for biochemists and biophysicists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Learn in a Certificate or Bachelor's Program?

A molecular biology certificate program will usually dive immediately into molecular biology, cellular biology and genetics topics. On the other hand, a bachelor's program will typically begin with an overview of core science subjects, along with general education courses. Certificate programs can take as long as three years to complete, while B.S. programs typically last four years. Common topics that you'll study during a certificate or bachelor's program include:

  • General biology, chemistry, and physics
  • Physiology
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology
  • Biochemistry

What Will I Learn in a Graduate Program?

Master's and doctoral programs in molecular biology include more hands-on laboratory work. You'll likely learn about proper laboratory safety techniques and advanced research methods. During a Ph.D. program, you'll usually participate in lab rotations during the first two years to give you the experience you need to choose a faculty adviser and dissertation topic. M.S. programs usually end with a thesis project, while Ph.D. programs typically culminate in the successful defense of a dissertation. During a graduate degree program in molecular biology, you might learn about:

  • Genetics and gene expression
  • Cancer biology
  • Cell biology
  • Biostatistical methods
  • Reproductive biology
  • Clinical lab research techniques

Can I Earn a Degree Online?

Online master's degree programs in molecular biology are available, but they are quite uncommon. You also might choose to pursue an online biology master's degree with a specialization in molecular biology. These programs are often aimed at working individuals who require a flexible course schedule. You'll usually be able to communicate with teachers and classmates via Web conferences, as well as through discussion boards and e-mail.

Although you can complete classes online, you might need to have your exams proctored at a nearby library or community college. You also might be required to conduct a final research project under the guidance of a faculty adviser, which could require occasional in-person meetings. Online programs typically require you to have a high-speed Internet connection, sound cards, a printer and a specific type of Web browser.