Online programs in cell and molecular biology are designed for students who wish to pursue careers within cellular research, genetics, or academia. They include classes over cell growth and development, disease, and gene therapy. Students will build upon the foundation they gained during undergraduate science course work and conduct research into the different areas of health, developmental biology, and immunology. Students will gain a thorough comprehension of cellular processes and will also draw upon other sciences to gain a holistic understanding of cell and molecular biology.
Students who are enrolled in cell and molecular graduate programs will complete laboratory and research requirements as part of their degree programs. They will gain hands-on experience with laboratory equipment and will study cellular processes through both textbook and microscope. Faculty members will guide Ph.D. students by helping them develop the research skills necessary for learning about proteins, DNA, immune response, and other cellular and molecular processes and interactions.
About Online PhD Programs in Cell and Molecular Biology
Once enrolled in online PhD programs for cell and molecular biology, students will take classes in prokaryotic and eukaryotic genomes, gene expression, the replication of DNA, and data analysis. They will learn about how mRNA translates and the biochemical processes that affect cell maintenance. The best online graduate programs in cell and molecular biology will also teach students about grant writing and conducting research. Finally, most online programs in cell and molecular biology include classes that promote field and internship experience as well. Some specific classes that cell and molecular biology students may take include those listed below, which come from Colorado State University‘s Cell and Molecular Biology program.
- Advanced Cell Biology. This course explores modern cell biology by examining biochemistry and genetics. It includes instruction over cell function, growth, and development.
- Science and Ethics. By learning about ethics, students will learn how to make critical scientific decisions without sacrificing responsible conduct.
- Radiation Cytogenetics This class explores the use of radiation on cell growth and function.
- Mammalian Cell Culture Techniques. This class explores the basic methods and techniques for culturing cells to promote diagnostic and treatment studies.
- Immunochemical Techniques. By exploring immunochemistry, this class determines the best methods for conducting laboratory analysis.
- Independent Study. This course gives students the opportunity to pursue research in an area of cell and molecular biology of their choosing.
Students typically need to complete a dissertation before graduating from a Ph.D. program in cell and molecular biology. A dissertation is a thorough research project over a topic within the field. Examples of potential areas of research include the effect of radiation on cell division, stem cell research, and biological factors that affect mRNA replication. Students will take classes to help them through the dissertation process, after which they will present their research to faculty members. Once they have defended their dissertations, they will have earned their doctoral degrees.
Value and Criticisms of a PhD in Cell and Molecular Biology
Online Ph.D. programs are designed for students who want careers within cellular research or academia. Those who are interested in conducting biological studies and writing reports could benefit from cellular and molecular biology graduate degrees. However, students who are more interested in biochemistry or other fields of biology may want to consider a Ph.D. in a different concentration. In addition, students who wish to pursue science careers, but who do not enjoy research may want to consider only pursuing a non-thesis bachelor's or master's degree program, rather than a doctorate.
Online cell and molecular biology programs are not for everyone. They require students to be self-motivated and organized. Students must also feel confident about completing assignments on time despite not having the structure of weekly classes. Students who struggle with motivation or who have a hard time with open-ended classes may want to consider traditional or hybrid degrees in lieu of online degrees.
Application & Admission Requirements
Students must have at least a bachelor's degree in a science field prior to applying to a cell and molecular biology graduate program. Students who have a bachelor's degree in a different field may need to take undergraduate prerequisite courses before they can be considered a doctoral candidate. In addition to submitting transcripts, students will also need to send in resumes, personal statements, and proof of research experience. Many programs also require candidates to take the Graduate Record Exam. Finally, some programs may request students to participate in interviews before admission in the program.
Career Options & Job Market
Students who graduate from doctoral degree programs in cell and molecular biology typically go on to become research scientists or college instructors. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that biochemists and related scientists earned an average of $79,390 annually. The field is also projected to grow by 31% by 2020. Meanwhile, post secondary instructors earn around $62,050 annually, the BLS reports, although the field is only growing as fast as the average. Keep in mind, however, that salaries will vary based on experience, location, and the employer.
Where to Find Information
- American Society for Cell Biology This is a professional association dedicated to cell biology research and outreach.
- American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology This professional association holds meetings, publishes journals, and promotes biochemistry research and development.
- Society for Molecular Biology & EvolutionThis professional association is dedicated to studying the evolutionary side of cell and molecular biology.
How to Get Funding
Professional associations dedicated to cell and molecular biology often provide grant and research opportunities to graduate students. Many private companies provide scholarships opportunities as well. There are often local and state organizations that provide aid programs for doctoral students, too. In addition, many government loan programs, like those listed below, exist to help students with the burden of tuition and education costs.
- Federal Direct Stafford Loan. This is a federal loan that gives graduate students up to $20,500 annually toward education. The interest rate is a low, fixed 6.8%.
- Federal Perkins Loan. This is another federal loan that provides an average of $3,500 annually. The interest rate is fixed at 5%, and the award is based on financial need.
- Campus-Based Aid. Many universities also offer campus-based aid programs, in addition to participating in federal aid programs. Students are encouraged to talk to their university's financial aid office to learn more.
- Take science and mathematics classes while you are still an undergraduate student. These will prepare you for doctoral-level cell and molecular biology programs, and may prevent you from having to take prerequisite classes prior to applying to a doctoral program.
- If possible, try to find an internship or work in a science research laboratory. This will look excellent on your resume and will also help get you admitted into a cell and molecular biology Ph.D. program.
- Even if you don't think you'll receive tuition assistance, you should still apply for financial aid. There's a good chance that you will receive some kind of award — and every little bit helps.
- If you are having trouble picking a program, talk to professors within the field. This will give you insight into their research interests and may help you decide which program will work for you.