Molecular biologists study topics such as cells, viruses, bacteria, or cell function. Their work might also involve studying genetics and the mechanism of diseases. Typically, individuals who want to become molecular biologists tend to eventually seek the Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) degree because having a doctoral degree makes it more likely that they will be considered for a long-term or permanent job in a laboratory, university, pharmaceutical company, cosmetics company, food company, biotechnology company, or government agency. Of course, getting a molecular biology PhD requires years of academic work.
Doing an undergraduate major in biology can be helpful if you hope to eventually attain a molecular biology PhD. If you do not major in biology, then majoring in chemistry or some other science-related area can be very helpful. Also, if you hope to eventually get a molecular biology PhD, getting good grades can be an asset because a high grade point average (GPA) will impress prospective graduate programs and will make it more likely you will be accepted to a program which leads to the molecular biology PhD.
Application to a molecular biology PhD program will usually occur either during the final year of the undergraduate degree or after two years of employment. If you choose to apply to a doctoral program during your final year of college, you will need to carefully select professors who can write letters of recommendation and you will need to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Also, you will need to fill out applications and write application essays for each graduate program you apply to. You might also have to go through interviews, if the programs you apply to require that.
Once selected for a doctoral program, you will have to successfully complete the required coursework while maintaining whatever grade point average (GPA) the program has set as a requirement for doctoral students to remain in good academic standing. The doctoral coursework typically takes at least four years and will include courses such as biochemistry, genetic analysis, prokaryotic molecular research, and eukaryotic molecular research. In addition, you will be required to complete pre-dissertation research projects where you will do supervised molecular biology research work.
Also, you will have to complete a dissertation which showcases your research skills. The dissertation process will involve your reading a lot of literature, identifying a dissertation topic, doing original research, presenting your research in writing, and verbally defending your research per the requirements of your dissertation committee. Then, upon completion of the dissertation, you will attain the PhD in molecular biology.