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Molecular Genetics

Degree: BS

Campus: Columbus

College: Arts and Sciences

Molecular genetics is the study of genes and the ways in which their RNA and protein products work together to make cells and organisms. By understanding genetic function at a molecular level, you will learn how normal organisms develop and function, and how genetic changes lead to disease. Studies in molecular genetics provided the foundation for new developments like gene therapy, RNA-based vaccines and personalized medicine. Through a major in molecular genetics, you will investigate and synthesize diverse fields including genetics, biochemistry, evolution, chemistry, genomics and others.

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.

Molecular genetics majors build a strong scientific foundation that supports advanced course work in molecular biology and genetics.

Prerequisite courses in math and science provide a critical foundation for future learning both in the program and in graduate study. These courses include:

  • general biology
  • calculus
  • general chemistry
  • organic chemistry
  • general physics

The molecular genetics major requires successful completion of 30 credit hours. Five core courses provide training in genetics, biochemistry, cell biology, developmental genetics, and population and evolutionary genetics. Students are also expected to develop research experience, either by taking a molecular genetics lab course or by completing mentored independent research in a faculty laboratory.

Beyond these core courses, students will also complete upper level course work offered by the Department of Molecular Genetics or approved courses offered by other life sciences departments; students work with their advisors to select courses that fit their individual interests. Of note, students with strong interests in plant biology may choose to complete the specialization in plant cellular and molecular biology within the major.

The department offers a summer study abroad program in Norway in which students complete course work at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology focused on practical training in analytical techniques and instrumentation relevant to medical laboratory technology. Participants in this study abroad program also examine the practical and ethical challenges associated with the use of whole genome sequencing in a clinical setting through a partnership with St. Olav’s University Hospital, which has pioneered the use of this technology in clinical diagnosis.

Molecular genetics students may be interested in the Biological Sciences Scholars Program, which emphasizes research and offers individualized advising and significant lab and field experience, or the Health Sciences Scholars Program, which focuses on preparing students for careers in health sciences and health care.

Students are strongly encouraged to pursue mentored research in a faculty lab for academic credit. First- and second-year students should consider registering for MOLGEN 2220H (Introduction to Molecular Life Sciences: Research Opportunities and Career Options), a course which can connect students with departmental faculty who supervise undergraduate research projects. 

The Molecular Genetics Club and the Genetic Counseling Club offer students opportunities to interact with faculty, participate in service activities, and discuss careers and research areas with scientists from Ohio State and beyond. Students may also be interested in the Helix Tri Beta Biological Honor Society.

The rigorous scientific course work of the molecular genetics program prepares graduates a wide variety of career fields and graduate and professional programs.

Many graduates pursue advanced professional degrees in fields such as medicine, dentistry, pharmacy or veterinary medicine, with over 20% enrolled in a professional degree program within two years of graduation. Many graduates (20%) seek MS degrees, most commonly in genetic counseling, and an additional 20% enroll in PhD granting programs.. Graduates who earn advanced degrees often find work in pharmaceutical or biotechnology industries or pursue careers in academia as professors.

Other graduates find employment directly after graduation in biomedical research, pharmaceutical or scientific sales, teaching, marketing, or technical writing.

The average starting salary for those with a bachelor's in biology was $46,679 in 2017-18. The median salary for all biological scientists in 2017 was $103,410.

Many molecular genetics graduates go on to earn a PhD or professional degree in medicine, genetic counseling, or pharmacy. Average salaries in these areas:

  • Physicians and surgeons: $ 165,150
  • Genetic counselors: $ 74,820
  • College professors in biological sciences: $96,440
  • Pharmacists: $117,680