Bachelor's degrees, post-baccalaureate certificates and master's degrees are available in biotechnology. These programs are interdisciplinary, with coursework in chemistry, biology, physics and the principles of engineering. In general, these programs consist of lectures, hands-on lab sessions and field experiences. Admission requirements typically include a strong background in math and the sciences; master's programs may also prefer applicants with lab experience. Unlike many bachelor's degree and post-baccalaureate certificate programs, master's programs may allow students to choose specializations, like bioinformatics.
Bachelor's Degree in Biotechnology
A four-year undergraduate degree program in biotechnology gives students the necessary foundation for a career in this broad and frequently changing field. Students will learn how to use technical disciplines such as engineering and information technology to inform biology and chemistry. Graduates will get the hands-on experience they need to become experts in advancing the fields of pharmaceutical development and agriculture.
Prospective students generally will have a strong high school background in science and math. Some programs may also require students to prove their competency in biology during their first two years of college before applying for the biotechnology curriculum.
Students will combine laboratory research and training with classes focusing on the sciences and analytical subjects, such as statistics, mathematics and information systems. Students usually can modify the classes they decide to take based on their interests and career aspirations. Classes may include the following:
- Computer science
- Organic chemistry
- Biochemistry techniques
- Molecular biology
- Microbial genetics
Certificate Program in Biotechnology
While biotechnology certification does not exist, many colleges offer a certificate program in biotechnology. Most of these programs may be taken concurrently with a bachelor's degree or post-graduation. They offer more laboratory experience than students may otherwise get in their undergraduate studies without getting a master's degree. Students will gain applied biotechnology research techniques preparing them to move directly into a career as a researcher.
Certificate programs generally take about two semesters' worth of classes to complete. Additionally, laboratory internships may be available for those who qualify. Usually, some undergraduate work must be completed before beginning a certificate program in biotechnology. Science courses in biology and chemistry specified by the program's department are generally required as well. Most programs offer a required core curriculum, with electives available to help prepare students for a more specific career path. Courses may include the following:
- Molecular techniques and bioinformatics
- Cell culture
- Research design
- Laboratory management
- Chemical analysis
Master's Degree in Biotechnology
A two-year master's degree program may continue the education of those who have a bachelor's in biotechnology or may specialize the education of prospective students who majored in another scientific field. Post-graduate curriculum tends to focus more on research opportunities.
Students will also gain a greater understanding of the legal and regulatory issues that are often involved in the field of biotechnology. Additionally, these programs allow students to select a more specified focus of study in the field they wish to work. For example, concentration may include bioinformatics, using computer software in biology, or biomedical and pharmaceutical technologies.
Applicants should hold a bachelor's degree with at least some scientific study in biology, chemistry or physics. Some programs may require previous laboratory experience as a condition for acceptance into the program. Students generally are expected to take a list of core classes in addition to performing extensive research. Classes may include the following:
- Bioprocess engineering
- Microbial biotechnology
- Cell biology
- Graduate research methods
- Genetic engineering
Biotechnology graduates will have options in many different fields depending on their undergraduate focus of study. Possible careers may include the following:
- Biological technician
- Pharmaceutical salesperson
- Clinical lab technician
- Research and development assistant
Those with a master's degree in biotechnology will be able to attain higher level research and management positions. Some possible career options are as follows:
- Clinical trials research manager
- Quality assurance specialist
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job growth for biological technicians was predicted to grow at a slightly faster than average rate of 7% between the years 2018 and 2028 (www.bls.gov). The BLS also reported that the median annual salary for a biological technician was $44,500 as of May 2018.
Graduates of bachelor's programs may go on to get an MBA or J.D., while focusing their careers in business or law on biotechnology issues, such as energy and the environment. Additionally, some students may pursue a medical degree, with possible applications in regenerative medicine, gene therapy and tissue engineering. Others may choose to enroll in certificate programs, master's programs or doctoral programs, to advance their laboratory skills and research credentials.
Some colleges also offer Ph.D. programs in biotechnology, either as an extension of the master's program or instead of it. These programs help establish expert researchers in this field, while allowing them to teach at the university level.
Biotechnology programs are interdisciplinary and offer both in-class and hands-on training that teaches students about chemistry, biology, physics and the principles of engineering. Students looking for careers as biological technicians may seek a bachelor's or graduate certificate program in the field, or they may wish to specialize by earning a master's degree.