We’ve all become intimately familiar with how much a virus can disrupt our lives, and the recent pandemic has gotten some people interested in studying virology as a potential career path. But what sorts of jobs are available in the field, and what sort of training do they require? Below I’ll cover three options with a range of required education for you. They do all require at least some schooling, and it can be tough to make ends meet while you are a full time student. To help out, don’t forget to apply discount codes to your order when you are shopping online.
It’s important to engage in continuing education in any medical profession, but especially when you work in virology. The nature of viruses is to mutate and evolve, so information becomes outdated more quickly than in other fields. So while I cover the education you’ll need to get started in virology below, you’ll also need to be a lifelong learner.
This is perhaps the most ‘hands-on’ job in the field of virology, as you will be working directly with patients. As a medical virologist you will diagnose and treat patients, most likely in a hospital, clinical laboratory, or possibly a research institute. Medical virologists are physicians who have specialized in diagnosing and treating viruses so you will need to go through the training to become a medical doctor. It’s a lengthy process that involves getting a bachelor’s degree, medical degree, completing a residency, and pursuing a fellowship in virology. You aren’t required to get certified, but it’s definitely recommended to get certified by the American Board of Medical Microbiology (ABMM) in medical virology.
Virology Laboratory Technician
If becoming a doctor is more intensive than what you had in mind, seeking work as a virology laboratory technician might be more up your alley. Virology lab techs assist in conducting experiments and spend most of their time processing and analyzing samples. If you had to do a swab test to see if you had COVID-19 or not, your sample was most likely handled by a virology laboratory technician. The training to become a lab tech is much shorter, aside from a high school diploma you’ll need an associates degree which will take one to two years and will likely be offered at a local community college. Look for a program that includes clinical training as part of your schooling, as this will get you valuable hands-on experience in a laboratory setting. After finishing your schooling you can seek certification as a Medical Laboratory Technician through the American Society for Clinical Pathology (ASCP). Beyond that you can attend workshops, seminars, and conferences for continuing education.
These are researchers that study the patterns, causes, and effects of diseases in populations, and often work closely with virologists to track and develop strategies during viral outbreaks. Epidemiologists were instrumental during the COVID-19 pandemic, without their valuable input things could have gotten even worse. While you can be an MD who is also an epidemiologist, most of the time a masters degree is sufficient to find work. You’ll want to find internships or relevant field placements while you are in school to get real-world experience in the field before you seek a position. As with the jobs above, certification is optional but certainly helpful. The Certification Board of Infection Control and Epidemiology (CBIC) offers the Certified in Infection Control (CIC) credential.
The above is by no means an exhaustive list, you could also work in the virology field as a vaccine scientist, virology consultant, or bioinformatics specialist, just to name a few. It’s a big field that is very important, and there are lots of opportunities to be involved.