Molecular Biology

Molecular Biology Bachelor of Science (B.S.) Degree On-campus

About Molecular Biology

Focus on research as you prepare for a dynamic career in science.

Molecular biology is a key part of leading-edge fields such as biotechnology, pharmaceutical development, and medical and clinical diagnostics. With a molecular biology degree from PennWest California, you’ll be prepared for a research career in these exciting fields, or ready to enter graduate-level programs in medicine, dentistry, pharmacy or the life sciences.

Molecular biologists explore the structure and function of  biological molecules – how molecules such as DNA and proteins work. These experts employ techniques for isolating, studying and manipulating biological molecules, and apply those skills to research in areas such as vaccine development, DNA editing and creation of genetically modified organisms.

As a molecular biology major at PennWest California, you’ll gain the knowledge and technical skills to embark on a career that probes the building blocks of life.

Molecular biology majors build confidence with hands-on lab experience. 

PennWest California’s research-focused program emphasizes hands-on experience in the laboratory. Molecular biology majors in this on-campus program study all aspects of the field, including cell imaging and cell culture, DNA analysis and sequencing, protein analysis, and enzyme assays. Most courses include a laboratory component where students learn firsthand how to:

  • Identify, isolate and analyze biological molecules.
  • Culture cells and tissues.
  • Study the physiological processes of tissues and cells.

Small class sizes enable molecular biology majors to receive individual attention from faculty as they learn to use scientific instruments and practice new skills, including advanced techniques in cell culture, genetic engineering and DNA analysis.

Program Highlights: Molecular Biology

PERSONALIZED PROGRAM: Advanced courses in the B.S. in Molecular Biology program help you to gain confidence in your ability to perform laboratory procedures, while a variety of related electives let you specialize in an area of interest. With guidance from a faculty mentor, you’ll also complete an independent research project or internship that demonstrates your knowledge, tests your skills and allows you to investigate a selected topic in depth. 

FACULTY EXPERTISE: Faculty in PennWest California’s molecular biology program have expertise in a wide array of specialties, enabling students to conduct research in areas such as cancer biology, stem cells, DNA analysis, molecular ecology, immunology, microbiology, molecular genetics and plant molecular biology.

HIGH-DEMAND FIELD: Molecular biology skills are widely sought by employers in Pennsylvania and throughout the United States. Employment growth for biological technicians is expected to increase 10% by 2026, faster than the average growth for all occupations. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment growth for medical, health and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians is expected to grow even faster, at 13%.

Average salary for occupations related to molecular biology, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Percentage of job listings for academic, industry and clinical research positions in the Pittsburgh region that require or give preference to candidates with experience in molecular biology techniques.
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Degree Benefits


Molecular biology majors may take advantage of PennWest California’s robust undergraduate research program, which offers opportunities for independent research, faculty-student research collaboration or group research projects. Students may be invited to present their findings at regional and national conferences, such as the National Conference on Undergraduate Research, the National Collegiate Honors Council National Conference, or the Biological Honor Society National Conference.

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Graduate Outcomes


Students who complete the bachelor’s program in molecular biology are prepared for research careers in the biomedical, biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries, and for positions in clinical, academic and government research laboratories. Program graduates also are well prepared for graduate and professional programs in the life sciences, including pharmacy, dentistry and medicine.



PennWest California student sits abroad on top of a mountain.

Study Abroad

PennWest California’s Department of Biological and Environmental Sciences offers faculty-led study abroad programs, in Madagascar and Costa Rica, that allow students to practice field research techniques and experience new environments and cultures. Students in the molecular biology undergraduate program are invited to take part in these ongoing research programs.

PennWest California Students sit on a hill.

Find Your Community

Six student organizations – the Biology Club, the Medical Interest Club, the Fisheries Society, the Sustainability Club, the Journal Club and PennWest California’s student chapter of The Wildlife Society – let you share your passion for science with other students. Many clubs host workshops and speakers, offer volunteer and professional development opportunities, and provide information on internships and graduate-level study. Students also may be eligible for membership in Beta Beta Beta, a national biological honor society that requires members to participate in a research experience.

A student in a molecular biology lab.

Career Options

What can you do with a molecular biology degree? The study of molecular biology prepares you for careers in a variety of industries, including biotechnology, pharmaceutical research, and medical and clinical diagnostics. Courses such as ‘Methods in DNA Analysis’ and ‘Stem Cells and Tissue Engineering’ build the skills you need for positions such as:

  • Research assistant or research technician.
  • Medical laboratory technologist/technician.
  • Health technologist/technician.
  • Clinical laboratory technologist/technician.
A PennWest California student performs biology research.

Student Research

PennWest California students conduct meaningful research in a wide variety of topics. Recent projects include a study of ovarian cancer cell resistance to specific chemotherapy drugs; an examination of the fungal ecology of restored wetlands; an investigation into the effect of temperature stress on fish; and a study of ticks and dogs to determine the incidence of the bacteria causing Lyme disease in southwestern Pennsylvania.


B.S., Molecular Biology Courses

Students in the molecular biology program complete 42 credits of general education courses, plus 60 credits of courses required for the major, including 11-12 credits of major electives; free electives (18 credits) complete the 120-credit program.

Course Credits
General Education Courses 42
Building a Sense of Community
UNI 100 First-Year Seminar
ENG 101  English Composition I
Public Speaking
Any Oral Communication Course
Mathematics and Quantitative Literacy
MAT 273  Applied Calculus  OR  MAT 281  Calculus I
Health and Wellness
Any Health and Wellness Course
Technological Literacy
Any Technological Literacy Course
Any Humanities Course
Fine Arts
Any Fine Arts Course
Natural Sciences
PHY 121  General Physics I 
Social Sciences
Any Social Science Course
General Education Options
  • Any Ethics and Multicultural Awareness Emphasis Course
  • ENG 102  Composition II
  • MAT 215  Statistics
  • CHE 101  General Chemistry I
Required Major Courses 50 or 51
BIO 120  General Zoology 4
BIO 125  General Botany 4
BIO 215  Cellular and Molecular Biology 4
BIO 218  Genetics 4
BIO 266  Cell Culture 3
BIO 320  Molecular Biology 4
BIO 326  General Microbiology 4
BIO 480  Cell Biology 4
CHE 102  General Chemistry II 4
CHE 331  Organic Chemistry I 4
Select three from the following:
  • BIO 322  Methods in DNA Analysis (4 credits)
  • BIO 426  Clinical Microbiology (4 credits)
  • BIO 427  Cell. Microbial Physiology (4 credits)
  • BIO 455  Biology of Cancer (3 credits)
11 or 12
Related Electives 9 or 10
Any 300- or 400-level BIO or ENS course with approval of adviser 9 or 10
Free Electives 18
Total 120

Additional requirements, not counted toward the General Education requirements, include:

  • Special Experience Course (1 course required): Any Special Experience Course (BIO 418 Independent Research/BIO 492 Internship recommended)
  • Writing-Intensive Component Courses (2 courses required): Any two BIO or ENS Upper-Division Writing Component Courses
  • Laboratory Course (1 course required): BIO 215 Cellular and Molecular Biology

Program Note: Chemistry minor recommended.


Related Programs: Molecular Biology (B.S.)