Molecular and Cellular Biologists


Employment Prospects


There are approximately 47,100 biological scientists (all other not specified by the Department of Labor) and 21,700 microbiologists employed in the United States, according to the Department of Labor. Molecular and cellular biologists work for government agencies, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, biotechnology companies, and laboratories. The area in which biologists work is influenced by their specialties. For example, those that specialize in studying marine biology may be employed by the U.S. Department of the Interior (National Park Service, Bureau of Land Management, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service), and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. They may work in nongovernmental agencies, such as the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in California and the Marine Biological Laboratory in Massachusetts. Molecular and cellular biologists may also be employed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Environmental Protection Agency, or the Department of Agriculture, among others. They may work for pharmaceutical, food, agricultural, biotechnology, geological, ecological consulting, environmental, and pollution control companies. 

Starting Out

Molecular and cellular biologists often get started in their careers through internships and research assistantships while in school. Upon graduation they may receive job offers to continue working on research projects. Those with advanced degrees may start as teaching assistants. Ask your school's career services office for help with finding job listings and securing interviews. Other ways to start in this field include applying directly to companies. Search the Web sites of the companies that interest you and find job listings. Professional associations and employment Web sites also list job openings for molecular and cellular biologists.

Many organizations that employ biologists often interview college seniors on campus. Private and public employment offices frequently have listings from these employers. Experienced biologists often change positions as a result of contacts made at professional seminars and national conventions.

Government agencies have special application procedures for job applicants. Civil service applications for federal, state, and municipal positions may be obtained by contacting the agency involved and from high school and college guidance and placement bureaus, public employment agencies, and post offices. You can also learn more about jobs at USAJOBS (, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's Web site.

Advancement Prospects

Advancement for molecular and cellular biologists depends on the individual's level of education. Those with a doctorate may teach in colleges, conduct independent research, and hold top-level administrative and management jobs. Those with a master's degree may work in applied research. Biologists with years of experience in the field may advance to become project chief, directing teams of biologists. They may leave positions in laboratory settings for administrative and management jobs in corporations. Those that develop professional expertise move from technical assignments into roles in which they interpret biological knowledge.

As in other sciences, biologists that become known for their specialized knowledge may take on more complex projects, working with professionals in other major fields to explore problems that require an interdisciplinary approach, such as biochemistry, biophysics, biostatistics (or biometrics). Biochemistry, for example, uses the methods of chemistry to study the composition of biological materials and the molecular mechanisms of biological processes. Biologists also advance by writing articles for academic journals and becoming lecturers and speakers at industry and academic conferences and educational events.

Tips for Entry

Learn more about molecular biology and the latest research news by reading ScienceDaily,

Find information about biotechnology, bioinformatics, and other related topics by visiting Bio-Link's Web site,

Get an internship or part-time job in a laboratory that conducts molecular and cellular biology research. Ask your school's career services office for help with finding internship and employment openings.

Search job listings posted on the following Web sites: