What is a Diagnostic Molecular Scientist?

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  • Written By: Carol Francois
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 26 February 2020
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A diagnostic molecular scientist has three areas of responsibility: perform diagnostic testing, design and process DNA and RNA isolation tests, and complete research into infectious diseases. A diagnostic molecular scientist has at least an undergraduate degree in organic or biochemistry from an accredited school. The vast majority of scientists in this field have a master’s degree in molecular chemistry or biology. Diagnostic molecular scientists can find employment opportunities in research or medical laboratories, in both the public and private sectors.

People who enjoy working with technology, are focused on details, and are very precise report the greatest satisfaction as a diagnostic molecular scientist. Scientists working on DNA and RNA are at the forefront of technological and diagnostic development. The role of diagnostic molecular scientist is critical to furthering our understanding of how diseases work and the options available to eradicate them.

The primary role of the diagnostic molecular scientist is to perform diagnostic testing. The scientist uses a combination of manual processes and computerized equipment to analyze substances at the molecular level. The type of equipment required and the complexity of the processes depends on the material being tested and what the scientist is looking for.


Designing and performing DNA isolation tests form a large part of a diagnostic molecular scientist’s daily work. There are two types of testing: identification and isolation. Identification testing focuses on sufficient detail to properly codify and label the molecular structure for comparative purposes.

Isolation testing focuses on separating the strands of DNA and RNA for a more detailed analysis. This type of testing is necessary when working with new pathogens or diseases. It is at this very minute level that scientists can find commonalities between diseases, postulate on related diseases, and identify possible weaknesses at the structural level that can be exploited to reduce the effectiveness of the pathogen.

Research into infectious diseases is an important part of the work completed by diagnostic molecular scientists. They are often responsible for large laboratories, with multiple staff researchers working on different aspects of the same disease. Coordination, information sharing, and prioritizing are all skills that are required in this job. Most research is funded by either private or public agencies, which have strict reporting requirements. It is the scientist’s responsibility to use the research funding wisely and report progress to the community through publication of research results in a respected, recognized academic journal.

A career as a diagnostic molecular scientist requires dedication to continuing education. Career advancement in this field typically requires further education. Most people enter this field with a master’s degree, and quickly discover that they need to complete a doctoral degree. Top scientists are often asked to travel to other countries and participate in joint, international projects.


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