Molecular Biology

Molecular biology is the study of biology at the molecular level. It focuses on the structure and function of the molecules that form the basis of life. Molecular biologists explore cells, their characteristics and parts, chemical processes, and how molecules control cellular activity and growth. They frequently focus on certain types of molecules or work to define the biological processes that cause genetic defects.


Majoring in this field prepares students for a wide range of careers in scientific research, medicine, bioengineering, and biotechnology. It is important to note that there will be a high demand for science and engineering jobs in the future. Government agencies such as the EPA, the NIH, and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, hire graduates to work in research, analyze samples of food, air, water, and drugs, and head programs that review the safety of new medical devices, foods, and drugs. In the field of biotechnology, molecular biologists work to improve therapies, vaccines, drugs, and medical diagnostic testing. They assist in the design of environmental biotechnological products, which are used to clean up hazardous waste. They also work in quality control, manufacturing, production, and information systems.


Jobs are also available in education. Chemistry and biology teachers are currently in demand at both the junior high and high school levels. With a doctoral degree, students can become university professors. Professors perform research in laboratories and write up the results of their research findings. They also spend time writing grant proposals to support their research and teaching efforts. In the field of agriculture, molecular biology graduates work to create more disease resistant genetically-engineered crops. In the pharmaceutical industry, jobs are available in the design and manufacturing of drugs and vaccines. Other employment options include writing and reporting on scientific policy, biological and medical illustration, and forensic science.


While specific coursework varies among colleges, students planning on majoring in molecular biology can expect to take classes in chemistry, biochemistry, genetics, molecular biology, cell biology, biostatistics, physics, and mathematics. It is important to note that some college programs focus on preparing students for medical school while others prepare students for careers in the biotechnology industry. Decide which path you prefer and pick a college that is consistent with your career plans. Students should be ready to record and analyze data using computers, perform research and laboratory work, attend lectures, and work cooperatively with other students. To enhance job prospects, it is recommended that students spend an additional year at a college that offers training programs for specialized lab techniques, such as cell culture and DNA sequencing and synthesis. This is often known as a “certificate program”, and can give students the added research experience that is crucial to finding jobs in their field.


For more information, go to www.asbmb.org, the website of the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology. This organization publishes scientific journals and supports research funding and education. To see job listings and read about current events, another helpful website is www.cellbio.com, the Cell, and Molecular Biology Online informational resource.


Career Paths for Molecular Biology Majors

  • Molecular Biologist
  • Microbiologist
  • Geneticist
  • Environmental Technician/Consultant
  • Biomedical Researcher
  • Research Scientist
  • Professor/Teacher
  • Toxicologist
  • Pharmaceutical Sales Representative
  • Scientific Editor
  • Technical Writer
  • Laboratory Technician
  • Product Safety Manager
  • Patent Lawyer
  • Bioinformatics Technician
  • Nutrition Educator
  • Clinical Diagnostics Specialist
  • Crop Improvement Consultant
  • Business Manager
  • Scientific Supply Representative
  • Veterinarian