In order to become a virologist, many skills and at least a decade of education is required. Most virologists have not only a bachelor’s degree, but a doctorate as well. Students who wish to become virologists should also plan to complete postdoctoral research training as well as become licensed medical doctors to work in this field.
High school students who want to become virologists should know that they have a long road of virologist training ahead of them, so they should adequately prepare with sufficient math and science courses. Biology, chemistry, and other advance science classes are good preparation for this career. Computer science courses are also important in a virologist education. Students should strive to maintain an exemplary grade point average, participate in a reasonable number of after-school activities and score highly on the Scholastic Aptitude Test or the American College Testing exam in order to get into a good university. A college preparatory course of study is ideal when available.
A bachelor’s degree is another necessary step toward this career. Most schools do not have virology programs available, so comparable majors must be declared in order to attend further higher education. Science majors, such as organic chemistry or biochemistry, are good paths to take. Students may also major in English, communications or mathematics if they desire. Solid laboratory coursework should be included within these 4 years of study. Classes like advanced math and science, interpersonal communications and computer science are all helpful in this career. Students should expect to spend at least $7,000 per year on this education when attending a local state university.
Students are expected to take the Medical College Admission Test in order to attend medical school. Some future virologists must also complete the Graduate Record Examination. Once admitted into medical school, students can expect to spend 4 to 6 years completing their program of study. Appropriate majors for a virologist in medical school include immunology, virology and similar studies. Research, lab work and many science courses are in store for those who choose this career path. Anatomy, immunology, pharmacology and many other related courses can be expected. The comprehensive cost of medical school averages $50,000 per year when attending a local state program.
Once virology students complete their doctorate degree, they must complete a fellowship consisting of an additional period of postdoctoral research. This period lasts from 3 to 5 years and includes analyzing a subject of interest in addition to completing various other requirements, such as medical seminars and research groups with fellow graduates. In addition to various state requirements, graduates must also take and pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination in order to practice in a clinical setting. Those without medical doctor degrees do not have to take this exam.
Becoming a professional in this field takes a great deal of hard work, but those who succeed can lead lucrative, important careers. Continuing education is necessary for virologists because research in the field is ongoing and leading to new developments.