1. Limited time only! Sign up for a free 30min personal tutor trial with Chegg Tutors
    Dismiss Notice
Dismiss Notice
Join Physics Forums Today!
The friendliest, high quality science and math community on the planet! Everyone who loves science is here!

Where can a B.S. in Molecular biology lead?

  1. Sep 5, 2012 #1
    So, I really like my biology classes. It's cool to learn things about biological systems that I can apply towards ideas of medicine. Biology encapsulates so many finds. I really like the courses but I also want a secure income down the road that will lead to an interesting career(Why I passed over the tempting English degree!)

    As a major in molecular biology, which is more specific than biology, but still general should I chose something to specialize in now?

    I see as one of my electives for my degree coming up, I can take Agriculture 4314-- Plant breeding and genetics. Does this mean I can take my degree into an entry-level position at a lab like Monsanto or something? Where do people end up who have my major? Does anyone else have a major like mine, molecular biology or in the biomedical emphasis?

    Thanks so much for your feedback. I feel kind of lost in my path.
  2. jcsd
  3. Sep 8, 2012 #2
    Re: Raise your hand if you have a B.S in Molecular Biology

    Raise your hand if you have a B.S in Molecular Biology.

    What job did you work post-graduation and now?
  4. Sep 8, 2012 #3
    I worked in a lab with molecular biologists so while I don't have first hand experience of the jobs for biologists, I can tell you what they have done. Most of them seem to be working for small biotech companies. Pharmaceutical companies would also be fairly big employers but since 2008 (especially in the UK where I'm based) they have stopped hiring completely so its all down to small companies. Now the good news for biologists is that there has been quite a big emphasis on so-called "biologics" (thing like vaccines and protein based therapeutics) in contrast to small molecule drugs that pharma has previously focused on. In short, the pharma companies had previously invested heavily in their drug pipelines but these didn't materialize so they have been seeking to diversify their research and biologics have seen quite a big focus. This naturally involves quite a lot of molecular biology and is where most of my mol biol friends have ended up. Techniques like protein expression (bacterial and insect) and cell culture are commonly used so make sure you can demonstrate experience of this ie get as much hands on lab experience as possible because experimental skills matter far more than theoretical in the real world.
  5. Sep 8, 2012 #4
    I don't have a BS in Molecular Biology but since I had many classes with the bio people for foundation classes (general physics, general chemistry, organic chemistry) I was good friends with them and studied with them alot.

    It turns out that there were 3 choices:

    1.) they went to medical school.
    2.) they double majored or minored in something else and did that something else for grad school; I know guys who did chemistry, BME and statistics.
    3.) they work jobs that does not use technical knowledge.

    The major employer of life sciences graduates is the pharmaceutical industry. Unfortunately, what colleges do not tell people is that the pharmaceuticals industry is not just about drug discovery, organic synthesis and clinical testing.

    There are far more positions in the pharmaceutical industry in things like delivery, formulations, manufacturing processes, QC testing, environmental compliance, etc. That's mostly chemical engineering and physical chemistry. Even in drug discovery, they're moving towards computational studies and physicists/physical chemists do that.

    Yes, there's mention of biologics, but discovery of biologics is only the first part. Then you have to crystallize, purify, formulate, analyze, mass manufacture... there's that chemistry and chemical engineering again.

    The way molecular biology is taught at the undergrad level is very worrying. They present it as a list of facts to memorize instead of being more quantitative. That's a shame, because in industry, things are getting more, not less, quantitative, and even chemists are too "non quantitative" these days to really compete.
  6. Sep 8, 2012 #5
    Ok, that's a lot to meditate on.

    Here's a list of electives for my major I have to pick from this list(8 credit hours). If you were me, which would you pick?

    Biol -- Immunology 3 crds.
    Biol -- Parasitology 4 crds.
    Biol -- Hematology/virology 3 crds.
    w/ serology Lab 1 crds.

    AGRI -- Plant Breeding and genetics 3 crds.
    AGRI -- Plant Diseases 3 crds.

    Organic Chemistry 4 crds.
    Intermediate Biochemistry 3 crds.
    College Physics I 4 crds.
  7. Sep 8, 2012 #6
    How far are you from graduating? You seem to be starting out. Ask your counselor about a possible major switch or double major with something that shares alot of core classes with biology and is also highly quantitative, or at least a minor in something like statistics or CS.
  8. Sep 8, 2012 #7
    If you're basing this decision purely on you future career options, the way I see it you have 4 options.

    Option 1: Stay in biology in academia, in which case any of these options would be fine - you just pick the one you are most interested in.

    Option 2: Leave biology and do a grad course in something else (eg medicine) in which case you should pick the course that would help you with that (eg organic chemistry or biochem would be quite helpful for that)

    Option 3: Leave science altogether or work on something non-technical in which case it makes no difference what you pick

    Option 4: Try to get a biology related job in industry in which case you have to pick something that there is actually an industry in. Immunolgy and plant breeding may be options here, or sticking with biochem would also be a solid option.

    I'd caution against picking something solely on potential future job opportunities since we have no idea what the world will be like when you graduate. Whatever you pick, make sure that you will actually be interested in studying it.
  9. Sep 8, 2012 #8

    'bout 6 more years. I'm on the snail-mail plan :)
  10. Sep 8, 2012 #9
    If you want to do biological research, keep in mind that lots of biological research is done in the chemistry, chemical engineering and even physics/math departments.

    Since you have 6 years to go, think carefully about what I said.

    That's because biology is getting more quantitative, and except for cloning studies, traditional biology is not preparing students for this sort of work.

    Physical and chemical methods such as NMR, laser spectroscopy, fluorescence microscopy, chromatography and electrophoresis, X-ray crystallography and scanning probe microscopes have revolutionized biochemistry in the last 2 decades. You will almost certainly not be getting enough training in these techniques as a traditional biologist.

    Likewise, computational methods have been important in the past 10 years for their role in solving problems from the molecular level with protein structure prediction, to the global level with ecology and global change.

    In addition, interdisciplinary topics in biology such as transport processes, biophotonics, biosensors, biomechanics, systems biology, quantitative evolutionary theory, astrobiology and abiogenesis have been gaining attention. These are topics related to biology, but in which traditional biologists have little training in.

    To do work in biology these days, just knowing biology might not be enough.
  11. Oct 24, 2012 #10
    I totally agree with Chill factor. If you want to do something with a strong research or application focus you will need to increase a lot of your quantitative and computation skills as well as getting a good ground in physical science. Combine your biology studies with a lot of quantitative sciences like math and physics
  12. Oct 24, 2012 #11
    My wife has a a Bachelors in Cellular and Molecular Biology. In order to increase her competitiveness for a job in the US, she needed to get her Masters degree in Biology. What we found is a BS in Molecular Biology or something similar is seen as a technician's qualification. You know enough lab technique and science to do bench work. For these positions, usually you need to have experience with the specific test, technique, or machine involved.

    There seem to be a lot of these positions around, but there is also lots of competition for them. My wife ended up in the sterilization of medical devices. This dovetails pretty naturally with the kinds of things you learn in Molecular Biology.
  13. Mar 16, 2013 #12
    This matches up with the degree program I'm looking at with the university of Missouri -- Kansas city. They require two course of calculus or BioMath I + II, plus a full year of college physics.

    Everything I've read says that the sciences are leaning towards computers to solve problems. So the more I know about programming, probably the more of a standout I'll be

    Thanks for advice, all.
  14. Mar 16, 2013 #13


    User Avatar
    Homework Helper
    Gold Member

    I can't make this out, I don't know your system, but you have listed the last 3 subjects that sound as if they are part of essential scientific education and 5 specialist subjects. So if it is a choice, in theory you ought to choose one of the last three. But then it is not necessarily a bad idea to run before you can walk, so just apply the criterion of what intrigues or attracts you most. You can surely among the specialist options decide whether AGRI or the biol (which are all with largely medical applications) attract you more. If you need to ask then I guess you are not absolutely crazy about parasitology or plant diseases so choose from the others which are all of fairly wide application.
    I am not you but for a future especially that incorporates molecular biology and is the most general I would choose for myself plant biology and genetics; also for the small part outside the lab I would rather see greenhouses and fields than patients with horrible diseases, blood and killing rats! :biggrin:
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2013
  15. Mar 16, 2013 #14
    Switch to biomedical engineering
  16. Mar 16, 2013 #15
    (Note: The question in regards to electives is a degree from a different University)

    You raise a good question. What do I want to specialize in?

    I definitely don't want to pursue medical school. I'd like to stay within the realm of academia, aside from the obvious pursuing my education to the PhD level, should I also try to be a co-author on a published study or be published before I enter graduate school. I'm really keen on doing original research in biology or even being apart of a study, especially understanding how Turritopsis dohrnii is able to revert it's life cycle to the earlier stage of a polyp. I'm not interested in finding the fountain of youth or anything, mainly interested in pure research for the sake of wisdom. I worry if it will be the kind of stuff that would find be eligible for funding.
Share this great discussion with others via Reddit, Google+, Twitter, or Facebook