How To Become A Virologist
Virology is the study of viruses and how those viruses impact humans and our world. Virologists spend much of their time doing research and experiments, learning more about viruses. As a virologist, you will help use your scientific knowledge to keep people healthy. You will learn more about viruses and help develop vaccinations to combat infectious diseases.
Why Become A Virologist
Although they are tiny, viruses affect our lives in many ways. Viruses cause many diseases, including the common cold, influenza, diarrhea, polio, smallpox, HIV, and more. Virologists study viruses and the ways that they impact human lives. Most of a virologist’s career is spent doing research. In this capacity, they perform experiments and attempt to create vaccinations for some of the most common viruses.
A virologist conducts research projects using specialized equipment. The virologist usually has a specific area of research they are interested in, which they perform in their own laboratory. They work alongside other scientists, discussing the project. They collect data and analyze results. Experiments may include isolating viruses in various conditions to see how the viruses react.
Virologists use computers, software and scientific instruments to conduct their experiments. They publish papers in scientific journals, in which they discuss their findings. They may also present their findings at conferences with colleagues. They are responsible for applying for grants in order to conduct their research.
Virologists should possess the following qualities and skills:
- Research Skills
- Detail oriented
- Enjoys medical field
- Problem Solver
Virologist Work Environment
Virologists work inside of a laboratory setting. This may be inside of a research facility, a government building, a university, or any other institution. In this environment, virologists perform experiments and analyze results.
Because virologists work with infectious diseases, there is a small risk involved with this job, but virologists take preventative measures to make sure they do not get harmed. This job involves being knowledgeable with different kinds of equipment.
It involves working alongside many of team members. Virologists may work in the field, conducting research and gathering data. They may travel to conferences and present information to colleagues about their findings. They may write grant proposals in order to fund their research.
The median annual salary for virologists was $66,850 in 2016, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As with many occupations, salary varies considerably depending on which industry a person is employed in. People who choose to work as professors or teachers may earn less money than others with virology degrees. Virology professors earned a median salary of $48,000 in 2016.
On the other hand, people who choose a career in the federal government earned a median salary of $101,000 in 2016. Education and experience play an important role in how much a person will earn in their position.
Virologist Career Outlook
Employment for virologists is expected to grow by 4 percent, which is a slower rate of growth compared to other occupations in the United States.
Many science positions involve research that is funded by the federal government. Virologists often apply for grants in order to perform their research. Due to budgetary restrictions, the government may freeze the hiring of science positions, including virologists.
There may be competition for limited grant monies in order to perform research in the field. Despite this, virology remains a necessary field, as virologists seek to research and develop new medicines and treatments.
If you would like to become a virologist, read more about this career below:
Step 1: Undergraduate education. A bachelor’s degree is required to become a virologist. Choose a program that interests you, such as biology, biochemistry, microbiology, or a closely related field. During your program, you will take classes in natural science. You will be able to do research and learn if this is the right career field for you. It takes four years to receive your bachelor’s degree.
Step 2: Graduate education. You will need a PhD in your field in order to do research. A program in virology, microbiology, or another related field will be perfect for this career. Do research to see which universities are best known for their virology programs. Apply to programs and enroll. During this time you will be able to do more advanced coursework, carry out specific laboratory research, and complete a dissertation.
You can choose a particular area to focus in, such as pediatric infections, environmental virology, HIV vaccinations, and more. It takes about six years to complete a doctorate program in virology.
Step 3: Fellowship. Virologists are required to do a postdoctoral research fellowship after they have completed their doctorate program. During this time, they work alongside experienced virologists, working on a specific virology research project. This is a great way to get more exposure into the field of virology and learn what it feels like to have this career. Virologists must complete a three year fellowship.