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Molecular Cell Biology Jobs: Career Facts

Molecular cell biologists often study the causes behind diseases and strive to find cures. Learn more about specialization areas within molecular cell biology, degree programs, potential jobs, and salary information.

What Does a Molecular Cell Biologist Do?

Molecular cell biologists research the structure and components of microscopic organisms to learn more about these creatures. They might use this knowledge for a variety of scholarly pursuits or focus on these organisms' industrial, medical, or agricultural applications. Those who land jobs in academia might also be responsible for teaching the concepts associated with this field to their classes in easy to understand ways, assessing learning through exams and class activities.

Molecular biologists starting out as research assistants work under the supervision of these professionals, running certain experiments and reporting findings to the scientists in charge. Check out the table below for important information in becoming a molecular biologists.

Degree Required Ph.D. most common
Education Field of Study Molecular cell biology
Key Duties Study molecular reaction and interaction to outside influences
Job Growth (2018-2028) 5% growth* (for all microbiologists)
Median Salary (2019) $60,054** (for molecular biologists)

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **PayScale.com

What Is a Molecular Cell Biologist?

Scientists specializing in molecular cell biology often take an interdisciplinary approach to finding causes and solutions to human health issues. As a biologist in this field, you might concentrate on researching cures for life-threatening diseases, such as cancer or heart disease. Other avenues you could choose might include developmental or stem cell research, genetics, human immunity, or neuroscience. Depending on the selected career path and your academic background, you might spend considerable time conducting laboratory research, teaching, or interacting with trial patients.

What Education Do I Need?

Though you can qualify for some entry-level jobs with a bachelor's degree, to conduct independent research as a molecular cell biologist, you'll need to earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in the field. At the bachelor's level, you'll take general courses in cell biology, genetics, biochemistry, and physics. Your elective topics might include plant or animal physiology, embryology, or virology that prepare you for graduate research in your field of interest.

After you earn a bachelor's degree, you could enroll in a doctoral program in molecular cell biology. Some universities allow you to select coursework based on your field of research, and others require specific core studies before starting your dissertation. You'll usually participate in many laboratory rotations, provide peer-review and evaluations of scientific publications, and attend some professional seminars. You can usually earn your Ph.D. in 5-6 years.

What Are My Employment Prospects?

Earning a bachelor's degree in molecular cell biology qualifies you for the research assistant or technician jobs, conducting experiments and authoring findings under the direction of a biologist. With a Ph.D., you could apply for post-doctoral fellowships at academic, medical or governmental labs. You could apply for a teaching position at a university or community college. Other industries that employ scientists in this field include pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and private diagnostic laboratories.

What Salary Can a Molecular Cell Biologist Expect to Earn?

Your chosen profession determines your career and salary options. If you have a bachelor's degree and start with a job as a research assistant, you could earn between $37,000 and $72,000 per year, according to 2019 salaries reported to PayScale.com. The site also listed median salaries for jobs that require a Ph.D., such as $83,447 for a biotechnology research scientist or $60,054 for a molecular biologist. If you're interested in entering academia, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported the 2018 median income for postsecondary biological science professors was $82,550 (www.bls.gov).

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Biochemist is a popular related career. Professionals in this career typically synthesize molecules like lipids, carbohydrates, and proteins to use in experimentation and production, such as in the creation of pharmaceuticals. The entry-level education for this field is a bachelor's degree, though many positions require a doctorate. Another career alternative is a job as a medical scientist. Medical scientists are doctoral degree holders who research different health concepts, medications, and procedures with the intention of improving public health with their findings. Also, natural science managers supervise scientists, including molecular biologists, in their work to ensure they meet set goals and coordinate with others as needed. They must hold bachelor's degrees to get a job in the field.