How To Become A Molecular Biologist (With Duties And Skills)

Indeed Editorial Team

Updated 26 January 2023

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A molecular biologist is a scientist who designs and conducts experiments and research on biological samples at the molecular and cellular level. The research of molecular biologists can aid scientists in a variety of fields in gaining a better understanding of cell behaviours and structures, which can lead to advancements in drug development and agriculture. Learning about the steps to achieving this career can give you the knowledge you may need to make a career plan. In this article, we discuss how to become a molecular biologist, learn about their responsibilities and explore the skills required to become one.

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How to become a molecular biologist

Review these steps to learn how to become a molecular biologist:

1. Gain a degree

A bachelor's degree in science (BSc) with a major in microbiology, botany, zoology or genetics can help you get a good start for the field. You may then pursue a master's degree in molecular biology. The eligibility for this is passing a BSc degree from a reputed university. Most colleges have an entry requirement of a minimum aggregate of 50% marks and above criteria. You may also work towards getting a PhD after completing your master's degree.

Related: How To Become A Scientist In 4 Steps

2. Publish your research

As part of your studies, you may require carrying out research on various subjects. You could publish your research papers and articles in scientific journals. A peer-reviewed journal is a publication in which experts write articles and other experts in the field review those articles to ensure its accuracy. You can publish articles as a lead author or co-author to help you gain recognition in the molecular biology field.

3. Gain experience

You can gain some work experience while pursuing your master's degree and grow your knowledge and skills in molecular biology by doing internships. You may also look for entry-level jobs in research positions with companies or organisations working on molecular biology projects. Work experience you gain here may help you with your PhD. A great way to gain experience is to become a teaching assistant. Here are some ways to apply for internships or jobs in molecular biology:

  • Universities: Molecular biology teaching and research positions are available at both private and public universities.

  • Governments: Some government agencies also employ molecular biologists to conduct research.

  • Bioscience companies: Molecular biologists can use their knowledge of biological data to help biotech companies develop drugs.

  • Agricultural companies: Agricultural companies may hire molecular biologists to conduct plant genetics research and use genetic modification to improve crops.

  • Pharmaceutical companies: With your knowledge in molecular biology and research skills, you can apply to pharmaceutical companies to assist with drug development.

4. Build your resume

You can create a resume that emphasises your research skills and accomplishments in the field. Here are some resume building tips for molecular biologists:

  • List published articles. You can dedicate a section of your resume to citing articles you have published in a peer-reviewed journal to show employers the results of your research.

  • Describe results of your work experience:.Rather than simply listing job responsibilities on your resume, you can use it to describe the outcomes of your research to demonstrate your scientific abilities to potential employers.

  • Quantify your accomplishments. Employers can better understand the impact of your work if you use numbers in your resume. Use real numbers wherever applicable to demonstrate the efficiency of your work.

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What does a molecular biologist do?

A molecular biologist has various duties depending on the field in which they work. The academic component involves teaching, conducting workshops or practical demonstrations at universities, at conferences and in governmental agencies. A molecular biologist explains the molecular concepts of biology in an easy-to-understand manner for people who may need such knowledge in their field of study and work. A molecular biologist also trains doctors, environmental experts, biologists and bio-engineers. Molecular biologists may also plan and elaborate specific strategies or protocols in governmental agencies using their ability to understand biological processes at the molecular level.

Some prevalent duties of a molecular biologist are:

  • conducting research on the cell's structure, function and organisation

  • studying the mechanisms of gene expression, cellular bioinformatics, cell signalling or cell differentiation

  • conducting molecular or cellular laboratory experiments, overseeing their execution and interpreting the results

  • maintaining accurate laboratory records and data to perform laboratory procedures for sequencing, cloning and extraction of DNA and RNA

  • preparing reports, manuscripts and presentations

  • publishing research papers on the results of experiments

  • conducting molecular or cellular research with scientists specialising in other fields

  • monitoring or operating specialised equipment such as gas chromatograph and high-pressure liquid chromatograph, electrophoresis units, thermocyclers, fluorescence-activated cell sorters and phosphor-imagers

  • helping in developing assays to monitor cell characteristics and evaluating new technologies to enhance or complement current research

  • developing guidelines or procedures for management of viruses

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Where does a molecular biologist work?

A molecular biologist is a scientist who conducts research and academic activities. The research component involves the study of biological structures in well-equipped laboratories with advanced technology to help them explore complex molecular structures and their particular functions. The equipment may include microscopes, lab centrifuges, computers with specific software that allows them to analyse obtained data and many more.

A qualified molecular biologist may have opportunities in private and public sectors such as molecular diagnostic labs, molecular and structural biology units, pharma companies, medical labs and other research institutes. You may also choose to work in one of the several roles listed below:

  • scientific manager

  • pathologist

  • lab operation head

  • research associate

  • technical specialist

  • regulatory affairs executive

  • technical application scientist

Other than these roles, depending on your educational background, you may choose to pursue a career in teaching molecular biology at universities.

Skills for a molecular biologist

Below are some skill you can use as a molecular biologist:

Critical-thinking skills

Molecular biologists can use critical thinking skills to draw conclusions from their research. Critical thinking skills help draw an unbiased evaluation of the conclusions. The required skills to improve your critical thinking skills are:

  • Open-mindedness: Keeping an open mind towards what the conclusion can be after you complete an experiment is important because a predetermined conclusion might not be the most optimal solution. In that case, being open to taking different approaches can be helpful.

  • Self-regulation: Self-regulation involves monitoring yourself and changing the way you think so that you can gather multiple perspectives by yourself.

Related: Critical Thinking Skills: Definitions And Examples

Analytical skills

Analytical skills can help scientists design experiments and efficiently evaluate data at work. Analytical skills may help divide a bigger problem into multiple smaller problems. There are three important parts that you can focus on:

  • Interpretation: There are multiple ways in which you can understand a problem. The more perspectives there are at the problem the easier it may be to reach an optimal solution.

  • Inferences: These are conclusions you can reach from each of the interpretations that you had drawn.

  • Evaluation: This includes comparing the inferences with numeric results.

Related: Analytical Skills: Definition, Tips And Examples

Communication skills

A molecular biologist can use verbal communication skills to communicate with other scientists in a lab and written communication skills to write reports on their research. Writing reports and collaborating with other scientists can be important aspects of your job as a molecular biologist. The ability to communicate your ideas and experiments through reports and scientific papers may be critical.

Related: Communication Skills: Definitions And Examples

Problem-solving skills

Molecular biologists can use problem-solving skills to address issues that arise during experiments. Many deviations from the theoretical steps can occur during the experiment. In these situations, it is critical to move the experiment forward by quickly deriving a solution to the problem at hand.

Related: Problem-Solving Skills: Definitions And Examples

Deductive-reasoning skills

Scientists use deductive reasoning to apply the steps of the scientific method to their research. You can use logical reasoning to deduce more conclusions by looking at the previous conclusions. You can draw different indirect conclusions from the same experiment using deductive reasoning. Syllogisms are well-known forms of deductive reasoning that you can practise to improve your deductive reasoning abilities.

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