How to Become a Molecular Biologist

How to Become a Molecular Biologist: Career Path Guide

If you want to become a molecular biologist, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. Are you interested in how biological aspects of life forms get passed from generation to generation?


Does the idea of performing research that can lead to advancements in medical treatments and other useful products appeal to you? If so, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a molecular biologist!


Below we've outlined what you'll need to succeed in a career as a molecular biologist. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Molecular Biologist

To become a molecular biologist, you need to begin by earning a Bachelor of Science degree in molecular biology or a closely related field such as biology or biochemistry.


Depending on the requirements of the employer, a Master’s degree in molecular biology is typically sufficient for many applied research positions. To become a molecular biologist who works in research and university teaching positions a PhD in molecular biology is needed.


Molecular 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.





Molecular Biologist Job Description

Molecular biologists examine the source of a person or animal’s genetics, variation in genes and genetic expressions. They must determine how biological traits are carried from one generation to another. Molecular biologists also analyze viruses and bacteria. They use this information to assist with the diagnosis and treatment of infections found in humans, plants and animals.



Molecular Biologist Job Duties

• Use specialized equipment such as thermocyclers and chromatograms

• Meticulously follow laboratory health and safety procedure to avoid having health adversely affected by chemicals and harmful biological substances

• Prepare and submit research grants to government agencies, private sponsors and other funding sources

• Prepare detailed reports of research findings

• Communicate findings with other professionals, as they are crucial for doctors and scientists to have an accurate source of information



Who Hires Molecular Biologists?

Careers for molecular biologists can take many different forms, as there are many employers, representing many different sectors of industry that are interested in utilizing their skills and knowledge. Below is a list of the types of employers that hire molecular biologists.


• Agricultural research agencies/firms

• Biological supply companies

• Biotechnology firms

• Colleges and universities

• Ecological consulting companies

• Environmental and biotechnical regulatory agencies

• Environmental impact research and assessment organizations

• Food regulation department of government

• Governmental agencies

• Marine/freshwater biological organizations

• Pharmaceutical firms

• Science journals





Getting Molecular Biology Work Experience as a Student

As many jobs in molecular biology are highly competitive, it is extremely important to acquire practical experience during your undergraduate and graduate years.


Most university departments offer a number of summer job opportunities for research assistants. There may also be similar openings for summer students in government agencies and private industry. Be sure to ask your school’s career resources counselor to give you information about any such opportunities.


These opportunities not only provide you with valuable work experience, they allow you to network and get your foot in the door with an organization in your field. This will be extremely useful when you apply for graduate school or a permanent job.



Molecular Biologist Salary

The salary level of molecular biologists can vary depending on where they work, their level of education, their level of experience and many other factors.


Molecular Biologist Salary Alberta: According to the 2011 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Biologists and Related Scientists occupational group earned on average from $26.73 to $62.00 an hour.


Molecular Biologist Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, the average salary level for workers in the Biologists and Related Scientists occupational group is $56,406 per year.


Molecular Biologist Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary for Microbiologists (who perform duties similar to Molecular Biologists) is $65,920 per year.



Work Environment for Molecular Biologists

The work settings, conditions and duties of molecular biologists can vary greatly from one job or employer to the next. Below are examples of the primary types of settings for molecular biologist careers:


Office: Molecular biologists working in an office setting provide advice and counsel to businesses, environmental groups or government agencies. These biologists typically work during normal weekday hours.


Classroom: These molecular biologists typically conduct lectures, grade papers and advise students. They have working hours that can fluctuate from very few hours a week to a very heavy workload. They may work normal weekday working hours with extra hours put in for preparing lesson plans, grading papers and performing other duties during evenings and weekends. Some molecular biologists teaching in universities and colleges may teach classes exclusively, or they may be involved in research as well.


Laboratory: Molecular biologists that work in labs spend the majority of their time conducting, documenting and analyzing research. Working in a laboratory typically involves working with hazardous organic materials and inorganic chemicals. These biologists typically work during normal weekday hours.


Fieldwork: Molecular biologists that work in a field are involved in the identification and documentation of species, ecosystems and habitats, as well as the collection of biological samples. These biologists are subject to a variety of weather conditions and work hazards. Their work may also involve traveling for long periods of time on research ships, or it may involve them traversing remote and rugged terrain for various lengths of time.



Careers Similar to Molecular Biologist

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


Cell Biologist



Molecular Biophysicist





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



Occupations in Alberta:Microbiologist.” (March 31, 2019). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 4, 2020.

Life, Physical, and Social Science: Microbiologists.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved January 4, 2020.

Genetics & Genetic Engineering:Molecular Biologist.” Denise Prendergast (December 17, 2019). website. Retrieved January 4, 2020.



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Scholarships for Becoming a Molecular Biologist

Scholarships in Canada and the United States listed for majors that apply to becoming a Molecular Biologist can be found on our Biology Scholarships page.


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!



Becoming a Molecular Biologist: Applicable Majors

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


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