How to Become a Cell Biologist


The earlier you can start preparing to become a cell biologist, the better. Planning out your career path while you are still in high school is a great idea if you can pull it off, but if you can’t it’s not a big deal, as there are many things you can do as a university or college student to get a head start.



Making Career Preparations in High School

Taking courses in math, biology, physics and chemistry will help you build a solid academic foundation for this career. These courses will give you a solid understanding of the scientific principles applicable to cell biology.


Learn what cell biologists do: Speaking with cell biologists and related scientists can give you a great idea of what it’s like to work in a cell biology career. You can also speak with professionals in related occupations, such as doctors, dentists, pharmacists and veterinarians in order to gain an idea of what other careers in science are like.


Choose a university or college to attend: Deciding where to go to college and what to study is a daunting and thorough task. Make it a little easier on yourself by talking to your school’s guidance counselor. They will be able to help you find schools that suit your professional ambitions and interests, as well as provide you with tips on which programs will be of interest to you.


Tip for Success: Speaking with your school’s guidance counselor will also provide with confidence in knowing you have support!


Get a summer job: Getting a summer job, internship or volunteer experience in a laboratory, medical office, veterinarian’s office or in a similar setting as a high school student can be great exposure to what scientific professionals do.


Tip for success: Getting a summer job related to your field of interest is a great way to develop contacts!



Education Needed to Become a Cell Biologist

You will need to begin by earning a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology or a closely related field such as Botany or Biochemistry. Completing coursework in biology, chemistry, mathematics, physics, as well as extensive courses about cells, is a great way to build an educational foundation for your prospective career as a cell biologist. Depending on where your career ambitions and interests lie, you will likely need a graduate degree in cell biology.


Depending on the requirements of the employer, a master’s degree in cell biology is typically sufficient for many applied research positions. To become a cell biologist who works in research and university teaching positions a Ph.D. in cell biology is needed. Cell biologists must also complete continuing education throughout their careers in order to keep their skills current stay up to date with advancements in the field.


Tip for Success: Most colleges and universities in Canada and the United States offer a biology program, and many of them allow you to customize your course load to some extent, based on your career goals and interests.





Gaining Relevant Career Experience 

Gaining career experience via part-time jobs and internships while you’re a student is a great way to not only strengthen your skills, knowledge and competencies in cell biology, but also your resume and your network. 


Ask your professors and other biology department faculty about part time jobs. Biology faculty and likely even your professors often hire student assistants to help with library, field, and laboratory research. A part time job in research has many benefits, including:


• Earn money to pay for school

• Work with someone who can write a letter of recommendation

• Get career advice

• Gain experience in research and related tasks

• Strengthen your resume


Summer internships are also a great way to learn about a career in cell biology. Some internship positions may even allow you to conduct original research, which as you could imagine would be an incredible opportunity for many reasons. Speak with the career services office, your professors and other biology department faculty and staff about any available internship opportunities they are aware of. Chances are that they can at least point you in the right direction as to which organizations and companies hire biology interns. 



How to Get a Job as a Cell Biologist

Now that you have a degree, a career focus, skills in biology and research experience, you're ready to become a cell biologist! The last thing you have to do is nail the interview...once you earn one.


Your last step to becoming a cell biologist is to make a list of possible employers and suitable positions, and start handing out resumes. Do your research and figure out which companies are hiring botanists and related positions; these employers will be in a variety of sectors.


Tip for Success: Jobs in research are typically very competitive, so ensure you have a lot of research experience on your resume!



Who Employs Cell Biologists?

There are employers representing different sectors of industry that are interested in the specific skill set and knowledge base of cell biologists. Such Empployers include:


• Chemical, pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies

• Companies in the agriculture, food, natural resource and utility industries

• Environmental and engineering consulting firms

• Federal, provincial/state and local government departments and agencies.

• Healthcare and education institutions, such as hospitals and universities

• Medical and veterinary research organizations



Working Conditions Typical to This Profession

Cell biologists are typically required to work indoors in a laboratory setting. They are often required to use specialized equipment, hazardous chemicals and work with biological samples. These two factors may pose safety concerns, and as a result cell biologists must remain alert while at the work place


Note: Working conditions for cell biologists can vary greatly depending on who the employer is and which job duties are required of the cell biologist.



General Job Description

Cell biologists are responsible for studying the cells of living organisms and analyzing their physiological properties, structure, life cycle, as well as their interaction with the environment. Some of the main reasons cell biologists conduct research are to uncover characteristics which lead to human, plant and animal diseases and other ailments in order to discover potential treatments and cures, and for the purpose of improving our natural resources and quality of our food supply.



Typical Job Duties

• Organize and direct lab activities

• Oversee data experiments Improve scientific research methods

• Interpret results of experiments with scientists from various other disciplines

• Conduct research to understand how organisms develop and function

• May analyze crop quality and recycled waste water samples

• Theorize potential medical solutions to problems presented during research and analysis

• Prepare or publish detailed reports on findings



Cell Biologist Salary

It's difficult to determine how much cell biologists make, as it is very difficult to acquire accurate information regarding the salary levels of these specialized biologists. The U.S Labor and Statistics reports that the median salary for Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists, who typically perform duties very similar to those of cell biologists, is $63,420 USD per year.


These salary figures for Canadian cell biologists are equally difficult to come by. According to the 2018 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, those working the in Biologists occupational group in Alberta earn an average salary of $84,998 CAD per year. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories at the time of writing (June 30, 2019).


Note: Salary levels can vary greatly for cell biologists, depending on the level of education, who the employer is, and the amount of experience of the biologist.



Crucial Personal Traits to Have

Even with the right education and skill set, becoming a successful cell biologist is not guaranteed. If you’re reading the list of personality and intellectual traits listed below, and you recognize many of the traits in yourself, you may be well suited for this profession:


• An interest, curiosity and appreciation for different forms of life

• An interest in mathematics, statistics and science

• Excellent oral and written communication skills

• Able to use logic and reasoning to solve problems

• Enjoy conducting research and synthesizing information

• Must enjoy working with specialized equipment and instruments

• Attention to detail and excellent observation skills

• Strong organizational skills and ability to keep detailed records

• Ability to excel in a team environment and effectively deal with difference in opinion



Current Cell Biologist Job Postings

Our job board below has current postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.




Similar Occupational Profiles in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to this one, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities:




DNA Analyst

Marine Biologist

Molecular Biologist

Plant Geneticist



Professional Associations

Professional cell biology associations are collections of practitioners, organizations and agencies committed to the support, development and enhancement of professions associated with cell biology. The field of cell biology has a number of professional associations that support ethics in related professions, report current research findings within the field, and foster partnerships among its members.


Below are some of the numerous benefits to becoming a member of a professional cell biology association.


• Demonstrate professional commitments in careers related to cell biology

• Maintain current awareness of industry developments and trends

• May be able to take professional biology courses

• May be able to participate in industry research projects and/or policy decisions

• Networking opportunities: Meet potential employers, partners and mentors

• Learn about employment and professional experience opportunities

• May be entitled to discounts from sponsors

• Nominate yourself or others for industry awards

• Set yourself apart from other qualified applicants


Students interested in becoming a cell biologist should visit these websites for more information:




Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences

The Canadian Society of Microbiologists

The Canadian Society of Plant Physiologists


United States


American Institute of Biological Sciences

American Society for Microbiology

American Society of Cell Biology

American Society of Plant Physiologists

The Association of Professional Biology




Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a cell biologist.


Occupations in Alberta:Biologist.” (March 22, 2018). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 2, 2019.

Life, Physical, and Social Science:Microbiologists.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 2, 2019.

Summary Report:Molecular and Cellular Biologists.” (October 15, 2019). O*NET OnLine website. Retrieved November 2, 2019.

Learning:Careers & Courses.” (n.d.). British Society for Cell Biology website. Retrieved November 2, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Cell Biologist

Scholarships listed for majors that are relevant to becoming a cell biologist can be found on the following pages:


Biology Scholarships

Biochemistry Scholarships

Botany Scholarships


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant University Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for this profession. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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