Molecular Genetics PhD Programs

Learn about molecular genetics PhD programs' common course and research requirements. You can also get information on admissions requirements typical of this sort of program.

Molecular Genetics PhD Program Information

This research-focused degree program educates students on the core principles of molecular genetics as well as current and ongoing research on the topic. These programs can take around five or six years to complete, although this time frame can depend on the time needed to complete research projects and defend a dissertation, which is highly variable. Students might be required to present their progress in this research in a public forum or at a conference or retreat, in addition to serving as teaching assistants and completing lab rotations. Students also learn through lectures, seminars, and labs that make up the following courses.

Research Ethics

A course in research ethics is commonly offered in the first or second semester of study and introduces students to the compliance issues associated with conducting lab work and research in molecular biology. This introductory course typically covers academic honesty and scientific ethics. Students might also learn about research basics, such as methods for selecting and proposing a research project or lab. Students might also undergo the training necessary to receive institutional research training grants from the National Institutes of Health.

Cell Biology

Students in this course closely study the various structures and functions of organelles in both plant cells and animal cells. Students generally approach these studies from a molecular genetics standpoint, focusing on the molecular makeup of these cells and how the differences in molecular makeup contribute to cellular differentiation, signal transduction, and other mechanisms at the molecular level. This course may also involve a research component, where students present their own research proposal.


While some courses might focus specifically on plant biochemistry and the processes regulating photosynthesis and respiration, other classes engage in a broader approach to study. These courses focus on the micro-level biochemical processes that dictate and impact actions on the macro level. Students study the structures and chemical processes of amino acids, proteins, nucleic acids, and other macromolecules. Students might also look at how the involved compounds and molecular processes can be synthesized, as well as how they are synthesized biologically within associated natural systems.

Genetics and Genomics

Students in this course take a look at the fundamentals of genetics and genomics, which could include studying current and ongoing research in the field. Students examine eukaryotic cells (of both plants and animals) and their various functions as well as gene expression, quantitative genetics, and the regulation of gene expression through processes of transcription. Special focus might also be given to single-celled organisms, like yeasts, in which these processes can be observed more readily.

Advances/Current Topics in Molecular Genetics

Because this type of course is largely geared toward the latest research, topics discussed are highly variable. Possible topics of study may include cell biology, cell development, genetics, molecular biology, or areas of focus related to these topics. Students might even take on an in-depth examination of molecular signaling networks involved in regulating cell function. Courses like these commonly include a study of current literature and give students time to present their own proposals, ongoing research, or research findings.

Molecular Genetics Ph.D. Program Admission Requirements

Generally speaking, molecular genetics PhD programs typically require applicants to have at least a bachelor's degree and a 3.0 GPA or greater on a 4.0 scale. Prospective students will need to submit undergraduate transcripts from all schools and programs attended. Letters of recommendation from previous educators is another common requirement. For many schools, GRE scores are optional, though some schools might want to see GRE scores if your cumulative undergraduate GPA is lower than the 3.0 threshold. These programs will also be interested in your previous experience in the field and might request a curriculum vitae, resume, or description of your previous research experience. A personal statement is also a common requirement. International students will also need to submit TOEFL scores for consideration.

In summary, PhD programs in molecular genetics can often take more than five years to complete and are comprised of research, labs, and a number of different courses, such as cell biology and current research topics in genetics. Admissions requirements are pretty standard for PhD programs and include a minimum 3.0 GPA, letters of recommendation, and official transcripts.