Q: What subjects should I choose for my undergrad if I want to pursue virology as a career in the future? And what are the prospects?

A: Our understanding of viruses is driven by virology – the study of viruses. Everything from common infections such as the cold to chicken pox to yes, Covid-19. These viruses are researched and examined closely by virologists – medical professionals whose job it is to oversee the diagnosis, management and prevention of infection. Virologists straddle both the world of research and practice – they may be both a scientist and a physician.

The breadth of responsibilities and roles serologists take up is vast – they are responsible for diagnosing viral infections and also investigating the pharmacological response of viruses to antiviral drugs, and the subsequent evolution of drug resistance. They give expert advice to colleagues on hospital wards and to veterinarians, as well as to the government and organisations such as the WHO and UN. They also advise GPs on how antiviral drugs should be prescribed and used appropriately. They’re often involved in directly managing patient care, especially of people with persistent infections, including HIV and persistent viral hepatitis.

Virologists also work in public health and health protection medicine and may be required to give advice on immunisation and vaccine use. When there is a viral outbreak in a ward, virologists work together with the hospital’s infection control team, and advising staff in the ward on the extent of transmission and how to limit further infection.

If you’re interested in pursuing a career in virology, your studies will need to be related to health sciences, usually included in programs like biomedical sciences, microbiology or biology. A specialisation is usually done at the master’s level, since most bachelor’s level programs will not go in-depth enough to provide you with the skills and tools to become a virologist.

Europe is an excellent destination to pursue study of virology as it is home to accredited research-oriented universities and a well-funded public health infrastructure that will provide various post-education training and employment opportunities. These universities offer bachelor programs (in English) in biology and related subjects, as well as further studies at the master’s level in virology. The tuition fees at European universities is extremely competitive and much lower than their US counterparts. The continent offers ample job opportunities after completion of your program, 
and the critical nature of the degree ensures that visa issues will not be a problem either.

After your bachelor’s, you can get employment in hospitals, laboratories or research institutions, which will enable you to then pursue a master’s degree or even a doctorate, solidifying your credentials for a long and stable career in virology across the world.

Sanjeev Verma is the managing director of Intelligent Partners, a leading education consultancy based in Dubai (sanjeev@intelligentpartners.com, www.intelligentpartners.com). Got a problem? Our fantastic panel of renowned experts is available to answer all your questions related to fashion, well-being, nutrition, finance and hypnotherapy. Email your queries to friday@gulfnews.com. 

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