Careers for a PhD in Cellular & Molecular Biology

by Laura La Bella
Genetics, the environment and our health all benefit from cellular and molecular research.

Genetics, the environment and our health all benefit from cellular and molecular research.

Cellular and molecular biology is the study of the cellular, genetic and biochemical mechanisms that control the growth, development and response of cells and organisms to their environment. It focuses on identifying and understanding the changes that occur in cell signaling and gene expression that contribute to normal cellular function, abnormal cellular function and disease. Doctorate programs in cellular and molecular biology include course work in areas such as cell and systems biology, cell physiology, biochemistry, genetics/gene regulation, genomics/proteomics, computational biology, microbial pathogenesis, immunology, the development and process of aging, molecular mechanisms of disease and cancer biology. A wide range of careers are available for those with a doctorate degree in cellular and molecular biology.


Biotechnology utilizes cellular and bio-molecular processes to create technologies and products that help improve both patients’ lives and our environment. Biotechnologists have reduced the rates of infectious disease, created more precise tools for disease detection and developed biofuels to cut greenhouse gas emissions and reduce our dependence on natural resources. They have helped to create higher crop yields, enhanced the nutritional value of foods and have improved crop resistance. Biotechnologists can work in a wide range of areas, from health care, food and agriculture and the environment to public policy and intellectual property.


A geneticist is a scientist that studies genes, heredity and variations in genetics. Geneticists work in the fields of medicine, agriculture and crime. In the medical field, geneticists work in laboratories to identify origins of disease, gene mutation and birth defects. They use their research findings to help develop ways to treat or prevent medical conditions. In agricultural field, geneticists conduct research and experiments on crops to learn how to enhance a crop’s ability to grow in atypical conditions, or to grow larger or more resistant to insects and pests. DNA sampling has become a cornerstone of criminal forensic work, and geneticists work to help determine how physical evidence from a crime scene is biologically connected to a suspect.


Microbiologists study the growth and development of microscopic organisms such as bacteria, algae, yeast and fungi. They plan complex research projects to develop new drugs to treat diseases and monitor the effects of microorganisms on plants and animals. Their research has helped to develop genetically engineered crops and biofuels, and they have developed new ways to help protect the environment.


Many people with doctorates in cellular and molecular biology pursue research careers at academic institutions, in the biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries and in other biomedical-related fields. Research positions range in work. Some researchers conduct experiments to prove or disprove a theory. Others apply research findings to real world situations in order to improve or enhance an outcome. Some use research to develop products for immediate use. Research areas can range greatly and include environmental studies, drug and pharmaceutical development, medical device development and manufacturing, biotechnology and public health.

About the Author

Laura La Bella has worked as a marketing communications writer and editor in the fields of advertising, development and higher education for more than 15 years. She has authored more than two dozen nonfiction books for young adults, covering biographies of socially relevant people, timely social issues and career paths.

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