How to Become a Biotechnologist - Education and Other Requirements (Biotech Career)
What is Biotechnology?
Biotechnology is a scientific discipline that explores molecular biology and living organisms to produce products. While it is popular in the health industry, it also plays a pivotal role in industries such as food production and genomics, among others.
It is part of applied science and is classified into four colors:
Red biotechnology: It involves medicine and human health. Practitioners in this area produce medicine, vaccines, antibodies, and others.
White biotechnology: This is industrial biotechnology; as such, it is applicable in many sectors such as energy and food.
Green biotechnology: As the name suggests, it deals with technology in agriculture and the environment. Biotechnologists will use it to improve crop yield and produce disease-resistant plants.
Blue biotechnology: This type involves the study of marine organisms. Biotechnologists will use the organisms to create medicines or products that can enhance human life.
Other biotechnology colors include Yellow (insects), Brown (soil), and Gold (informatics).
What Does a Biotechnologist Do?
Generally, a biotechnologist studies microorganisms, plants, and animals. Since they are well-versed in biological processes, they use this knowledge to create products crucial for human existence.
Depending on the industry they are in, their day-to-day duties include:
Examining microorganisms and using biotechnology knowledge to produce better products. They can also use microorganisms to improve the production of existing products.
Investigating the chemical composition of cells and identifying their functions in both plants, microorganisms, and humans.
They test physical or chemical agents on animals, plants, or microorganisms in a bid to identify their effects.
Experimenting with how living organisms respond to different environments. For example, they can place an organism in a very cold or hot environment and study its reaction.
Collecting and analyzing data collected from the experiments in a bid to identify patterns in results.
Identifying plants, animals, or microorganisms ideal for the production of specific products such as lipids and proteins.
Explaining their findings in easy-to-understand language to medical practitioners and people in general.
Ensuring laboratories are ideal for carrying out experiments.
Where Does a Biotechnologist Work?
Being a biotechnologist comes with many benefits, among them, working in different industries. Unlike doctors who can only work in hospitals, biotechnologists can work in:
Universities: Here, a biotechnologist carries out experiments, especially those patented by the institution. And with a Masters in Biotechnology, they can become lecturers. With this knowledge they can aid their students in studies and experiments.
Hospitals: Medical biotechnologists will use their knowledge to come up with new drugs for specific diseases. They can also develop medical machinery to aid in faster diagnosis and treatment. In addition, they can also create test kits, which patients can use at home.
Pharmaceutical companies: Like in hospitals, biotechnologists play a major role in discovering new drugs and treatment procedures. Such experts create and approve drugs before distribution to hospitals and chemists.
Government institutions: They help governments create policies to tackle pandemics and outbreaks. For example, during the Covid-19 pandemic, biotechnologists played a crucial role to contain it.
Agricultural companies: Soil and crop biotechnologists develop plants with better yield. They also study the soil to identify mineral deficiencies and propose which supplements need replenishing.
Food companies: Biotechnologists are also common in food and beverage companies. They help such businesses create better tasting and healthier products.
We can therefore see that a biotechnologist is not limited to scientific research labs. Rather, they can work in a wide array of commercial settings.
What Skills Do You Need to Become a Biotechnologist?
Like other fields, a successful career in biotechnology demands more than technical skills. While skills in areas such as tissue culture, Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR), and gel electrophoresis help bolster a resume, soft skills also play a crucial role.
Here are the most preferred:
Management skills: a biotechnologist needs management skills to improve the working process. Such skills are also vital in managing people.
Research skills: This helps a biotechnologist come up with an ideal solution to a problem.
Production skills: These skills help the biotechnologist understand the whole production process, eliminating defects and wastage.
Problem-solving skills: They help solve day-to-day challenges synonymous with any working environment.
Analytical skills: With analytical skills, a biotechnologist can better handle experiment agents and come up with much-needed results.
Other skills include organization, communication, attention to detail, and time management.
How to Become a Biotechnologist
So, how does one become a certified biotechnologist? In this section, we will look at all necessary stages one needs to complete to earn certification.
Get a Bachelor’s Degree
This is the first step toward becoming a biotechnologist. However, there are prerequisites one needs to pass. A prospective biotechnologist needs to have studied Biology, Chemistry, Physics, and Math, earning a GPA of 3.00 or above.
This however varies depending on the institution. It takes 3-4 years to complete the course depending on the mode of learning. On average, a student will pay $34,470 for private universities and $7,412 for public universities.
While private colleges may offer a better learning environment, most students will opt for public universities thanks to their affordability.
Gain Hands-on Experience through Internship
Most entry-level jobs in biotech require hands-on experience. And one of the ways to get experience is to intern for biotech businesses. Some of the methods we believe can lead to internship opportunities include:
Enrolling in a university or college that offers internship opportunities to their students.
Talking to the faculty for internship opportunities. They may know businesses or companies that need interns.
Consulting publications that periodically list internship opportunities.
Attending biotechnology seminars and conferences.
Most companies do not charge for an internship, rather, they offer paid internships. For example, most companies will pay at least $13 per hour.
On average, we found that most internships run for 12 weeks. Some companies will require transcripts, letters of recommendation, and others.
Get a Master’s Degree
While a degree in biotechnology is the most preferred qualification, students with a bachelor’s degree in Chemistry or Biology can also apply for an MS in biotechnology. Upon completion, most universities and colleges will require a student to prepare and submit a thesis paper.
An MS in biotechnology is offered in regular, part-time, and online learning modes. On average, it takes two years to complete it with an annual cost of $25,000.
Pursue a Doctorate (Optional)
A doctorate in biotechnology enables the student to specialize in specific areas. For example, industrial, soil, or marine biotechnology. The course takes around four to five years, with an annual fee of between $24,000 and $56,000.
Some of the best universities to study Ph.D. in biotechnology include Harvard, Stanford, Johns Hopkins, and the University of California.
Join Professional Societies
Biotechnology professional society allows seamless professional development, making a better biotechnologist. They also present networking opportunities, exclusive resources, and industry conferences.
Some of the societies one can join include the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering (AIMBE), the American Society of Microbiology, and others.
Employment as a Biotechnologist and Salary
Well, a career in biotechnology is not only lucrative but also stable. According to research, employment in Biotechnology will grow by 5% between 2019 and 2029. In 2020, the industry had a revenue of $108.2 billion.
The need for biotechnologists is high in industries such as healthcare, pharmaceutics, and fossil fuel. In fact, the fossil fuel industry will need more biotechnologists as the world looks for green sources of energy.
The average salary of a biotechnologist as of July 2022 is $63,909 per year. This equates to $31 per hour. A biotechnology software engineer leads the list with an annual salary of $114,840. A biotech project manager earns $97,471, which is among the list in the industry.
Most In-demand Jobs
So, which biotechnology careers are in-demand? Let’s find out.
Forensic Science Technician
A forensic technician obtains evidence from a crime scene and uses lab equipment to analyze it. The government is their main employer, either in the local or state investigation bureaus. They earn an average salary of $50,322 per year.
As the need for better products increases, so is the need for lab technicians. They carry out experiments and analyze them to come up with conclusive results. They can work in different industries such as food and pharmaceuticals. The average annual salary is $51,530.
They teach biotechnology topics in universities and colleges. Some might focus on biology while others on biochemistry. They also provide career guidance, help with projects, and write books. On average, a biotechnology professor earns $53,706 per year.
Biomedical Equipment Technician
These technicians build, maintain, and repair biotechnology equipment. Like lab technicians, they can work in different industries. They can also start their own manufacturing companies or join independent firms. The average annual salary is $55,201.
As we can see, a career in biotechnology is lucrative and stable. While it takes many years to be a certified biotechnologist, the input a biotechnologist has on society is immense.
The best part? A biotechnologist is not tied to one industry. They can work in the food, fuel, and other industries to their liking. BioPhase connects job seekers to the right job opportunities. Contact us today to see how we can help you find the biotech job you are looking for!