Programs specializing in the field of biotechnical engineering at the undergraduate level are rare, but do exist in the form of a Bachelor of Science in Biotechnical Engineering program. Degree programs in the field of biotechnology engineering are more common at the master's and doctoral levels. In addition to core coursework in genetic engineering, molecular biology and engineering mathematics, such programs might feature laboratory components and dissertation requirements. Specific career outcomes include but are not limited to food scientists, biomedical engineers and geneticists.
Bachelor of Science in Biotechnical Engineering
Many bachelor's degree programs in biotechnical engineering are offered as a concentration or specialization option within a 4-year degree program in biological systems engineering or a related field. They are designed for students who are interested in exploring the principles and processes of biotechnology as they apply to plants, animals, plant materials and food products. Applicants must have a high school diploma and high standardized test scores.
Students complete foundational courses in engineering, genetics, microbiology, biochemistry and molecular biology. They also learn how to work in state-of-the-art laboratories and stay on top of developments in the field. Many degree programs in the field teach students how to apply the principles of biotechnical engineering towards specific uses, such as modifying food products, developing biochemical pesticides or genetically altering breeds of plants.
In addition to completing core courses in engineering and chemistry, as well as developing laboratory skills, students must complete upper-level classes in genetics and biotechnical processes. Classes may include:
- Gene expression and plant modification
- Biochemistry and function of biomolecules
- Biotechnical systems engineering
- Food engineering
- Engineering laboratory and analysis
Master of Science in Biotechnology Engineering
Graduate programs in biotechnology engineering allow students to further their studies in the areas of science and engineering. A bachelor's degree in engineering or a related field and completion of undergraduate courses in molecular biology and calculus is required. Students learn how to combine biology and technology to create bioproducts not just in the agricultural field, but in the medical and pharmaceutical fields as well. They spend significant time in both the classroom and the laboratory, working to further their knowledge of biochemistry, molecular biology, engineering, bioinformatics, computational biology and biomedical technologies.
Most graduate programs in biotechnology engineering contain core courses, as well as electives that pertain to a particular branch of the field. Examples of core courses followed by some electives can be found in the following list:
- Molecular biology
- Genetic engineering and systems
- Developmental biology
- Principles of engineering mathematics
Doctor of Philosophy in Biotechnology Engineering
Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) programs in biotechnology engineering can take up to seven years to complete and include the production of a publishable dissertation. A bachelor's or master's degree in engineering or science and completion of college-level courses in calculus, experimental design, statistics and biomedical science is required. Doctoral degree students are expected to learn to develop and test scientific hypotheses related to their research. Additionally, they learn to function as independent researchers, understand current biomedical issues and ethical dilemmas, develop grant proposals for research funding and more. Students often choose to study a particular discipline within the field, such as tissue engineering, experimental neuroscience or cell engineering.
The core courses included within a Ph.D. program provide a common foundation for students who come from different academic backgrounds. Specialization courses may vary. Examples of each type of course can be found below:
- Bioprocessing and biomechanics
- Biomedical information systems
- Applied microbiology
- Dissertation seminar
Popular Career Options
Individuals who hold a bachelor's degree in biotechnical engineering have the education and training necessary to work in the fields of agriculture and food science. They may take jobs as:
- Agricultural scientists
- Food scientists
- Food technologists
- Plant scientists
- Crop scientists
A master's degree program in biotechnology engineering can prepare individuals for further study at the doctoral level or careers in the fields of biology, medicine and food science. Specific roles might include:
- Clinical research coordinators
- Plant breeders
- Biological scientists
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
A Ph.D. program in biotechnology engineering can prepare graduates for work as biotechnical scientists. Biotechnical scientists primarily perform research and help to develop new processes or products. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (www.bls.gov), the related field of biochemistry and biophysics was expected to grow 8% from 2014-2024. These professionals made a median annual salary of about $82,150 in May 2015.
Biomedical engineering positions (another related field to biotechnical engineering) were predicted to grow 23% from 2014-2024, which was much faster than average. Biomedical engineers earned a median yearly salary of $86,220 in May 2015, reported the BLS.
Most food and agricultural scientists only need a bachelor's degree to achieve a post in the field. However, individuals who are interested in teaching biotechnology may enroll in a master's or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) program in that field. Many schools offer graduate programs in bioengineering that expand upon the educational foundation found within the bachelor's degree program.
Biotechnology engineering programs prepare students for work in biology, medicine and food science careers. Coursework typically includes biology, chemistry and engineering.