Molecular Biologist Career Facts

Molecular biologists are the primary agents of scientific work in this field of biology, which is a major area of commercial, academic and pure research. Their work includes many of the most important technological breakthroughs and discoveries in modern science.

The Work Environment

Molecular biologists work in advanced laboratory environments, often using new technology and methods for their research. In some cases the work and scientific concepts are so new even the tests have to be invented. Molecular biology directly interfaces with several branches of biology, and also other sciences.

At the basic biological level, molecular biology involves study of organic processes, materials and chemicals at the atomic level. The nature of this work has evolved from pre-atomic and pre-computer technology era of biological science and biochemistry, which was based largely on purely chemical and optical studies. Molecular biology gave scientists the ability to explore the organic sciences in completely new different paradigms of research.

The work of a molecular biologist is pure study testing and analysis in a clinical research context. Molecular biology is strongly related to a very wide range of applications, including both biological studies and studies of biological processes and materials in a secondary, industrial/commercial frame of reference.

Biological testing is based on biological subjects and products. The studies may include microbiological subjects, botanical or animal subjects, and related chemistry and materials analysis. The second tier of study is that of subjects derived from biological materials. These may include microbial enzymes, growing chemical products in tissue cultures or plants, etc. This is the industrial commercial level, in which the biological elements of new discoveries and products are examined.

Molecular biology is the main field of research in genetics, a major area of study in both biology and medicine. Genetic studies involve DNA and RNA molecules and their constituent elements, which must be analyzed at molecular level because of the nature of the subjects, requiring in some cases years of experimentation and analysis.

Fields of molecular biology research include:

  • Pharmaceuticals
  • Food technology
  • Industrial chemicals
  • Agricultural products, including plant species based on genetic modification
  • Medical products, notably stem cells, even non-transplant based replacement of human tissues and structures.
  • Cloning
  • Preservation of endangered plant species through use of genetic techniques
  • Pathology services and research
  • Epidemiological research
  • Marine biology
  • Virology
  • Mycology
  • Zoology

Wages: Depend on qualifications, nature of work, and specific areas of research. Median rate is $75,000-$100,000. 

Hours: Usually laboratory hours, may vary on nature of studies, contracts, consultancy requirements.

The Career Environment

Molecular biology is at the forefront of research. The sheer volume and value of the research in the first decade of the 21st century alone is unparalleled in the history of science.  They have contributed so much to biology as a science that it's difficult to do justice to the importance of their work. Molecular biologists have effectively created their career environment.

As a career, molecular biologists are in a class of their own. They have very high levels of career and job mobility. At entry level they are able to work across the whole spectrum of their discipline. Specializations like genetics or microbiology refine the career tracks, but unlike other forms of scientific specialization aren't limiting elements in career terms.