What is a Molecular Biologist?

A Molecular Biologist is a scientist that conducts research and experiments on the molecular and cellular level to better understand cell function.

What Does a Molecular Biologist Do?

Molecular Biologists design and perform experiments on molecules and cells to gain insight into how these components operate, organization, and communicate. They may then report their findings to colleagues in the form of reports or academic publications. Many Molecular Biologists also instruct students at institutions of higher education. Molecular Biologists often perform experiments related to DNA sequencing, cloning, RNA functioning, and other cellular behavior.

Where Does a Molecular Biologist Work?

Molecular Biologists mostly work in both laboratories and office environments. In the laboratories they can examine samples and conduct experiments. In the office, they can work with various data analysis programs to inspect their findings. Some Molecular Biologists may work around dangerous samples and toxic chemicals, so strict safety procedures may need to be followed. Molecular Biologists work full-time on a regular schedule, though some positions may require more than the typical 8-hour workday.

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What Is the Average Molecular Biologist Salary?

Molecular Biologists earned a median salary of $84,400 as of May 2020. The lowest 10% made about $45,690, while the highest 10% earned around $156,360.* Most Molecular Biologists work for research development centers, while another significant portion worked for universities or pharmaceutical companies.

Molecular Biology Jobs

Molecular biology jobs are concerned primarily with a branch of biology that analyzes and manipulates the structure and function of the macromolecules like proteins and nucleic acids that are essential to life. While jobs do vary, molecular biologists should be familiar with performing the following tasks as part of their professional role:

  • Use standard cloning techniques
  • Use other standard molecular biological techniques including ligation, primer design, PCR, gel electrophoresis and DNA sequence analysis
  • Manufacture research grade materials
  • Design and analysis of DNA constructs
  • Use software tools for molecular modelling and construct design
  • Presentation of data at internal scientific meetings and for external stakeholders
  • Review current scientific literature and journal articles to keep up with scientific advancements
  • Ensure quality control of lab procedures and analyses
  • Maintain a lab environment and safety equipment as per industry standards
  • Perform analyses of biological specimens for discovery and quality control purposes
  • Prepare stains, culture media, solutions, and reagents
  • Use samples using aseptic techniques
  • Analyze test results and prepare reports for a variety of stakeholders
  • Consult with government agencies and health industry stakeholders as required

Senior molecular biologist often have a broader scope of duties that include management of lab and personnel. Such responsibilities often include:

  • Fostering a positive and safe lab environment
  • Creating and managing schedules and budgetary timelines alongside project protocols
  • Navigating ethical protocols, regulations, and best practices
  • Overseeing equipment and instruments
  • Consulting with policy-makers and other stakeholders regarding the use and interpretation of molecular biology information
  • Advising and judiciously sharing information with outside agencies and researchers
  • Writing scientific reports and articles for internal or external partners
  • Designing and developing data collection and analysis techniques
  • Providing input for software programs to support predictive modeling of gene expressions
  • Planning, organizing, and participating in community outreach programs for people who have been impacted by genetic risk and mutation
  • Ensuring that systems and methods of design, planning, data analysis, modeling and projections, associated documentation and development meet the goals of the workgroup and stakeholders
  • Creating funding applications and reporting to senior administrators
  • Overseeing team budgets, milestones, and systems
  • Assisting and mentoring team members
  • Establishing valid and efficient workgroup protocols
  • Ensuring standards of confidentiality are met in the healthcare setting

What Is the Job Demand for Molecular Biologists?

The job demand for Molecular Biologists is expected to grow 5% between 2020 and 2030.* The increase in human lifespan and aging of the baby boomer generation will increase demand for medicines and other studies targeting chronic disease.

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What Are the Education Requirements to Become a Molecular Biologist?

Molecular Biologists require a Ph.D. in biochemistry, biology, physics, or other related field to work in research and development. Though those holding a Bachelor's or Master's can obtain an entry-level position, it is virtually impossible to advance without further education.

Many Ph.D. holders begin their careers in postdoctoral research positions, which eventually blossom into full-fledged jobs. Academic positions are also a possibility if your work is continually featured in industry-specific publications.

Degrees Related to Molecular Biology

What Kind of Societies and Professional Organizations Do Molecular Biologists Have?

Molecular Biologists can browse through these organizations and websites for valuable resources:

  • American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology (ASBMB) is a non-profit organization created specially for Biochemists and Molecular Biologists. It is intended to be an advocate for issues relevant to the industry, as well as a vehicle for communicating biomedical news and information. They publish multiple educational journals, provide various educational outlets, and also hold special meetings for Molecular Biologists in various locations.
  • National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) is a database of various biomedical and genomic information that can be helpful to many different scientific professionals, including Molecular Biologists. NCBI carries out research in the biomedical fields and publishes these findings, along with the discoveries of other major scientific ventures in the country to create an essential reference point for those in the industry.
  • National Academies of Science (NAS) is a collection of four private academies sponsoring different kinds of sciences, including the relevant Institute of Medicine. Not only do they report on continual challenges facing scientists today, but they also provide you with the latest information on public policies, opinions, and advancements that are relevant to the biomedical field.

*2020 US Bureau of Labor Statistics salary figures and job growth projections for microbiologist reflect national data not school-specific information. Conditions in your area may vary. Data accessed September 2021.