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  Cellular Biology is the study of cells—their structure, function, how they grow, divide, and die, how they develop into larger clusters, send signals to one another, and how the failure of any of these processes can lead to serious diseases such as cancer. Molecular Biology focuses on the research questions and techniques at the subcellular level, and has become synonymous with a set of techniques to study regulation and coordination of biomolecules such as DNA, RNA, and proteins.

  The degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology from JHU is designed to provide a more rigorous preparation for advanced study in the Biomedical Sciences. The program is tailored not only to students planning to enter Ph.D. programs or obtain employment in the biotechnology industry, but also for premedical students. As a Molecular and Cellular Biology major, you will have the exciting opportunity to tackle questions at the forefront of the field in the areas of membrane trafficking, the cell cycle, nuclear organization, cellular motility and signaling, in systems as diverse as cultured cells, mice, Drosophila and yeast.

  You will also study overlapping fields such as mathematics, chemistry, and specialized coursework in a two semester laboratory research experiences as well as participate in an original research project sponsored and supervised by a faculty member. Because the field of Biomedical Sciences is so vast, as a Molecular and Cellular Biology major, you will generate a broad range of knowledge that will open up a world of opportunity and career paths in this exciting time of research and technology.

Degree Options

  • Undergraduate:
    • BS in Molecular and Cellular Biology
    • BA in Biology
  • Graduate:
    • BA/MS in Molecular and Cellular Biology
    • BS/MS in Molecular and Cellular Biology

  While conducting research is always a primary emphasis, there are many other possible professions and career paths to take as a biologist and researcher in the field of Molecular and Cellular Biology. What you decide to do depends on your interests, values, skills and experiences. Taking the time to explore multiple career fields creates the foundation for an enjoyable career. Modern research in the biological sciences is increasingly multidisciplinary. Your specified area of research could apply to a variety of different fields such as health care, environmental conservation, education, medicine, etc. There are several different career paths to which you can apply your research work and interests as a biologist; however, advanced degrees are imperative for most positions in the Molecular and Cellular Biology field.

Industry Application of Molecular and Cellular Biology Majors

  As one of the most pertinent divisions of the sciences, the demand for the skill set you will gain as a Molecular and Cellular Biology major can apply to a variety of other industries.

  You could find yourself addressing economic impacts of biological issues, science writing, researching for pharmaceutical companies, creating legislation for the legality of science research, using scientific evidence to solve crimes, even illustrating drawings for biological textbooks, articles and newspapers. With this much flexibility, a degree in Cellular and Molecular Biology is a valuable degree in today’s vast and ever-changing job market. Combining your core degree with a specialty research area can improve your marketability and allow you to be even more selective when finding employment. Here are several industries to which your degree in Molecular and Cellular Biology can apply:

  Your specialized area of research as a Molecular and Cellular Biology major may determine your career path; however, it is not the only factor that will contribute to your future career. Internship and research experience, extracurricular activities, and the skills you develop as a result of your academic and out-of-class experiences all influence the career paths of Hopkins students.

Internships and Research Experiences

 To be competitive in today’s job market, it is important you apply the knowledge gained from coursework to the workplace. Employers value the academic preparation Johns Hopkins University provides, but they want to see your ability to employ knowledge outside the classroom. One advantage of the degree program in Molecular and Cellular Biology is the opportunity to participate in research as an undergraduate. More importantly, you will receive the unique hands-on experience of working in laboratories with professionals. These experiences can provide opportunities to showcase your transference of skills from coursework to the workforce.

  Internships in professional work environments can also be an excellent opportunity to demonstrate the knowledge you have obtained in the classroom. To learn more about internships, consult the Career Center.

Extracurricular and Volunteer Activities

  Employers want to see your ability to work on a team and to lead a project. Involvement in extracurricular and volunteer activities is the most effective way to develop and hone these skills. As a Molecular and Cellular Biology major, you can participate in a variety of extracurricular activities such as publishing work, and/or attending/presenting at conferences in your field. Meet with your Career Counselor and/or Academic Advisor for more information on volunteer opportunities and extracurricular activities.

Develop Skills and Abilities Associated with Molecular and Cellular Biology

  As a Molecular and Cellular Biology major, you not only have the unique opportunity to specialize in the skills needed to analyze cells and membranes and all their operating systems, but you will use these skills to reveal groundbreaking discoveries that will change the course of human development and the natural world. You will operate scientific equipment, apply biological theory and scientific concepts to your research, design experiments, and reason logically in order to evaluate the effects of phenomena. Mastering these valuable skills will prepare you for the various challenges the field of molecular and cellular biology faces.

There are many other skills you will develop as a Molecular and Cellular Biology major:

  • Communication
    • Teach/train others by providing knowledge, insight and help to understand ideas and/or procedures.
    • Use various forms and styles of written communication
    • Use various media to present ideas imaginatively.
    • An ability to function effectively on teams to accomplish a common goal.
    • An ability to communicate effectively with a range of audiences.
    • An understanding of professional, ethical, legal, security and social issues and responsibilities.
  • Work Independently (Initiative)
    • Maintain deadlines and manage time effectively.
    • Apply curiosity and creativity to projects and small groups/teams
  • Organization and Accuracy
    • Apply information creatively to specific problems or tasks.
    • Identify resource materials useful in the solution of a problem.
    • Organize people and tasks to achieve specific goals
    • Take initiative to be proactive and reach goals with minimum external supervision.
  • Critical Thinking/Analytical Skills
    • Create innovative solutions for complex problems
    • Analyze the interrelationships of events and ideas from several perspectives
    • Create, imagine and develop new concepts; approach existing elements in new ways and merge abstract ideas to form original solutions to problems
    • Identify quickly and accurately the critical issues when making a decision or solving a problem
    • Identify a general principle that explains interrelated experiences or factual data.
    • Assess a course of action in terms of its long-range effects on the general human welfare.
  • Research and Investigation
    • Apply a variety of methods to test the validity of data.
    • Identify information sources appropriate to special needs or problems.
    • Formulate questions relevant to clarifying a particular problem, topic or issue.
    • Navigate various research sites with efficiency and accuracy.

  Additional skills may be applicable depending on what career path you choose. Schedule an appointment with a Career Counselor to discuss the skills necessary for your individual career plan.

  Molecular and Cellular Biology graduates from John Hopkins University go into a variety of fields. Since 2003, the Career Center has surveyed recent graduates about their academic and career plans six months after graduation. Here is a summary of their responses.

Hopkins Alumni with Molecular and Cellular Biology Majors

Sofia Lizarraga- Postdoctoral Scholar, Harvard Medical School, Biology and Molecular & Cellular Biology, 1996, PhD, 2003

  1. How did you get interested in your field? Was it your original goal when you started at Hopkins? - Yes, I always wanted to do research in developmental biology.
  2. What was your career path? How did you get to where you are today? - I did undergraduate research, then took time off to go to the NIH to do research for a year and got into graduate school.
  3. What was your first job after college? Was it in your current field? - I was a research assistant at the NI. It was in immunology, not my current field.
  4. What advice do you have for current students? - To explore as many career options as they can by attending workshops, getting informed and to always believe in themselves.
  5. What is your typical day like? - I am a postdoc right now, so its long days in the lab with a 70% component of bench work and the rest is reading and writing.
  6. What's most rewarding about your industry and/ or job? What's most challenging? - Rewarding: learning new things and being creative with my science. Challenging: getting funding and publishing papers.
  7. What are typical entry-level positions for this field? What tips do you have for students to be successful in these positions? - Entry level positions for people without a PhD are usually research assistant positions. I would advise students to work hard and be enthusiastic.
  8. Where do you see the field going in the next 5-10 years? - I think towards the systems biology and synthetic biology fields and of course neuroscience.
  9. What skills and out-of-class experiences (i.e. internships, co-curricular activities, volunteering, etc.) are ideal for entering your industry / career field? - Take graduate classes in your field of interest and do research in a lab.

Additional Alumni Profiles

    Networking with alumni and other professionals who work in these fields can help you learn very specific information about a career field. Use Johns Hopkins Connect to contact alumni to ask for their advice. You may also find professional contacts through professional associations, faculty, friends and family.

    For more information on what you can do with a Mollecular and Cellular Biology Major go to What can I do with a major in Biology or What can I do with a major in Biological Sciences.

    Want to know more? Read our Hopkins Career Profiles on Medicine, Law & Paralegal, Scientific Research, and Nonprofit. If you would like to talk about how your search is going, we invite you to make an appointment with a Career Counselor by calling 410-516-8056.

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  The Career Center is here to help you navigate the graduate school search process. Click here for guidelines and preparing for Graduate School and Professional School.

  For information on the specific programs, the best people to talk to are the experts in your field you wish to study, faculty members and graduate students in that specific discipline. We strongly encourage you to talk with your advisor and other faculty members with whom you have a good working relationship. This will also help when you request letters of recommendation. The Career Center has a handout to guide you in asking for letters of recommendation.

  For information on the advanced degree programs in Cellular and Molecular Biology and other related fields at JHU, please visit the department’s website here