Virology

Virology is the exploration of the nature of viruses and involves research into the prevention and elimination of these diseases. Learn about career options, salary info, educational requirements and degree coursework for this field.

Is Virology for Me?

Career Summary

Virology is a subspecialty in the biological science field. It's multidisciplinary and encompasses physiology, cellular biology, pathology, pharmacology, molecular microbiology, immunology and medical genetics. The emphasis is on understanding viruses and how they replicate in the human body in an effort to develop new ways to prevent and combat deadly infectious diseases, such as AIDS and tuberculosis.

Specializations

With a bachelor's degree in one of the natural sciences, you'd be qualified to be a medical lab technician. Depending on your concentration, you might also become a food microbiologist or public health biologist. These biology jobs may all involve working in virology. Moreover, you may decide to pursue a career that requires a more advanced degree, such as microbiologist, professor or research scientist. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), some microbiologists are employed by the government at the federal, state and local levels (www.bls.gov). Others worked teaching or engaging in scientific research for educational institutions or the pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing industry.

Salary and Employment Outlook

The BLS reported that as of May 2012, microbiologists, including virologists, earned a median annual wage of $66,260. Employment of microbiologists was predicted to grow 7% in the 2012-2022 decade, which is slower than the average for all occupations. Medical and clinical laboratory technicians earned a median annual wage of $37,240, with excellent job growth of 22% predicted.

How Can I Work in Virology?

Undergraduate Education

With a Bachelor of Science in Biology and an emphasis in microbiology, you'll be qualified to work in some positions that deal with virology issues without the lengthy commitment required to earn a more advanced degree. To earn an undergraduate degree, you may expect to take classes in biology, organic chemistry, physics, advanced mathematics and biometry. More specific coursework could include virology, hematology and parasitology.

Graduate Programs

Most virology research scientist positions require a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree. Virology programs might be coupled with studies in molecular therapy or microbiology. You might also approach virology studies through a public health degree program. To earn your Ph.D. in Virology, you can expect a rigorous program studying the major types of viruses and learning about the cellular events culpable for virus replication. Additionally, you'll examine the development of new antiviral drugs and gain an understanding of the body's immune responses to viral infections.

Topics of Study

Expect to take courses in mathematics, immunology, molecular biology, biochemistry, pharmacology, enzymology, epidemiology, pathogenesis and vaccine development. You can explore specialty areas like viral oncology, viral genetics and respiratory viruses. You'll also be taught grant writing and budgeting for obtaining research grants and conducting independent research. To earn a Ph.D., you'll be required to write and defend a dissertation based on your own research. You can attain additional training in virology through a postdoctoral research position.

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