|MadSci Network: Virology|
Congratulations on your success with AP Biology courses. It appears that you are headed for a successful college education.
Your question about becoming a virologist so that you can participate in virological research is one we get fairly frequently since Richard Preston put us on the map with his New Yorker article that became the book, the Hot Zone. These books certainly dramatize some of the excitement that comes with the turf of being a virologist who has interest in hazardous diseases.
Most of those kinds of diseases are also primarily diseases of animals so obtaining a PhD in virology connected to becoming a doctor medicine or veterinary medicine in a university that grants Veterinary and Medical degrees is very valuable, but to find out that you like doing virology research does not require you to make such an advanced commitment.
Many of the Universities and Institutes where important virology research is performed also have "internships" where college students can come and work part time as technicians so they can participate in the research and learn what doing it entails. Then, this information can be useful in advancing to higher levels of education.
The CDC and USAMRIID have such "internship" programs and also offer fellowships for advanced training in virology and immunology.
The virologists I come in contact with from day to day started out as Microbiologists, Veterinarians, Entomologists, Physicians, and a few actually had a PhD in Virology but most often people with unique skills bring those to the field so it benefits the subject of virology. After they complete their research and publish the work...they become known as Virologists. This is the way immunology developed as a discipline although I am aware that there are now many university programs that grant degrees in Virology or Immunology. In any case, the work you will do to get either kind of degree will include scientific knowledge that is commonly held among a wide range of cell and molecular biology degree disciplines. You will become part of what is called the wider "scientific enterprise".
Here are some links that may be useful to you. Good luck in your search.
Try the links in the MadSci Library for more information on Virology.