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Molecular Genetics

Degree: BS

Campus: Columbus

College: Arts and Sciences

The molecular genetics major is concerned with current knowledge of the molecular nature of genes, their roles in controlling the function and development of organisms, their inheritance, and their evolution. The research and teaching interests of the faculty range over all areas of modern genetics as well as molecular, cellular and developmental biology. 

The common focus of the department faculty is on the role of genes and the use of molecular and genetic techniques to answer questions in modern biology. The goal of molecular geneticists is to get a better understanding of basic biology and to apply that knowledge to practical problems in medicine, plant and animal breeding, and conservation. The Department of Molecular Genetics emphasizes studies on eukaryotes (animals, plants, fungi and protists), although most of the basic principles apply to prokaryotes (bacteria) as well.

Upon admission to the university, students can declare a major in molecular genetics within the College of Arts and Sciences. Interested students should contact the undergraduate advisor for molecular genetics.

Not included in the molecular genetics major, but required by it, are background courses that yield a basic understanding of the sciences upon which molecular genetics is built. All molecular genetics majors take math through calculus, one year each of general chemistry, organic chemistry, organic chemistry laboratory, introductory physics and general biology. These basic math and science requirements of the molecular genetics major are nearly identical with the requirements of pre-medicine, pre-optometry, pre-dentistry and pre-veterinary medicine.

The molecular genetics major consists of the following:

  • six required core courses: Introductory Biochemistry, Molecular Genetics, Cell Biology, Genes and Development, Quantitative Population, Evolutionary Genetics
  • the student’s choice of two intensive laboratory courses focusing on eukaryotic model systems. 

Additional credit hours of courses in molecular genetics, or selected from a list of approved courses offered by other departments, are required to complete the 30-credit-hour major.

These additional courses are chosen in consultation with the advisor to meet the individual needs and interests of the student. The option to select specific elective courses in other departments gives students the flexibility to take courses required for admission to professional schools. Students with strong interests in plant biology may choose to complete the specialization in plant cellular and molecular biology within the molecular genetics major.

Molecular genetics majors at Ohio State are strongly encouraged to do a research project with a faculty member. Ohio State offers well-equipped laboratories containing sophisticated instrumentation for research. Find information about choosing an undergraduate research laboratory at

The Molecular Genetics Club and the College of Biological Sciences honorary student organization enhance learning opportunities and the quality of the undergraduate experience for students in molecular genetics. Students in these clubs interact with faculty, discuss careers and research areas with scientists from the Ohio State campus and beyond, and participate in service and outreach activities. 

Molecular geneticists with a BS degree often work as laboratory technicians. They are in demand to work on research projects in universities. Federal and state government agencies such as the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Energy, the Department of Agriculture and the Environmental Protection Agency hire molecular geneticists to work on a variety of applied research problems. In the private sector, agricultural and pharmaceutical companies are increasingly hiring molecular geneticists to apply their skills to genetic engineering as well as classical breeding programs. The new and growing biotechnology industry is largely based on the expertise of molecular geneticists.

Many molecular genetics majors go to medical or other professional schools. The major program is rigorous, and molecular genetics is an important area in modern medicine. Also, well-qualified majors are encouraged to participate in the faculty’s research programs. As a result, molecular genetics majors have been successful in gaining entrance to professional schools.

Many molecular genetics graduates go on to graduate school. A few of these get an MS degree, which qualifies them for higher-paying laboratory technician jobs. Most go directly to the PhD program. Molecular geneticists with a PhD are widely employed by government and industry to design and supervise research and development projects. Nearly all colleges and universities have molecular geneticists on their faculties, teaching and doing research. Molecular geneticists with a PhD plus postdoctoral research training are eligible for faculty positions at research-oriented universities like Ohio State.

An undergraduate major in molecular genetics does not limit one’s options to careers in medicine or biological research. Because this major provides the academic preparation and strong science background appropriate for students who plan careers in marketing, business or management in high technology industries, some molecular genetics students choose to use their science background to pursue a professional degree in business or law. A few students choose to put their molecular genetics training to use by obtaining a master’s degree in education and becoming science teachers. 

Salaries are commensurate with level of education and prior job experiences. Students who complete graduate and professional degrees can expect to earn substantially more than students with a bachelor’s degree. Salaries in general are dependent upon a variety of economic factors and change with market trends.