Biotechnology students become thoroughly educated in areas such as molecular biology, biochemistry, genetics, ethics and laboratory protocols. At the bachelor's degree level, biotechnology students can learn about laboratory procedures and documentation methods, as well as the detailed structure and function of proteins, chromosomes, DNA and genes. In an M.S. in Biotechnology program, students often refine their interests through a specialty within biotechnology. Lab work and research are common at all degree levels, but more extensive research and a dissertation project are the focal points of doctoral programs.
Bachelor of Science in Biotechnology
Applicants to an undergraduate program need a high school diploma, preferably with a background in biology and must submit the results of their standardized test scores. Students enrolled in a bachelor's program might learn to manipulate organisms' biological matter in order to produce beneficial outcomes for a variety of human issues. They generally are trained to apply biotechnology techniques to advance industries such as agriculture, pharmaceuticals, breeding and chemical production. Students learn to work with a team of researchers, laboratory technicians and engineers to design and create new products and treatments.
General education classes, including history, statistics and foreign language, are required in most bachelor's degree programs in biotechnology, but biology and chemistry courses comprise the greater part of the curriculum. Advanced course topics may include:
- Organic chemistry
- Genetic engineering
- Plant biotechnology
- Intellectual property
Master of Science in Biotechnology
Students interested in a graduate program in biotechnology must have a bachelor's degree in engineering or a related field, completed coursework in biology, physics, chemistry and math, and have ample laboratory experience. A Master of Science (M.S.) in Biotechnology program can provide students with a broad education that covers debated issues, such as laboratory research limits, legalities and ethics.
Students in a master's program can practice executing sophisticated procedures like biosynthesis, recombinant DNA technology and protein isolation. Research participation that employs acquired technical skills and developed knowledge can be an important component of the program. A student must typically complete original research projects and write and defend a thesis, which can act as preparation for academic journal writing. An internship is also a customary component of such a program.
These programs typically take 1-2 years to complete, and students can enroll in courses that focus on advanced matters within biotechnology. Laboratories and research are often critical to biotechnology training because students need to practice the complex procedures involved in experiments and applications of knowledge. Advanced subjects of study may include:
- Pathobiology, virology and immunology
- Forensic and computational biotechnology
- Tissue engineering
- Cellular pharmacology
- Biostatistics and structure-function relationships
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Ph.D. in Biotechnology
Doctoral candidates in biotechnology typically complete advanced coursework, take written and oral examinations, write a dissertation and defend that dissertation before faculty members. Programs can take up to five years to complete, and biotechnology students can focus their studies in a variety of areas, including medicine, industry, environmental safety and health.
Students at the Ph.D. level may spend much of their time learning research methods and conducting original research for their dissertations. Advanced coursework in such a program could cover subjects like:
- Molecular biology
- Cellular biology
- Chemical engineering
- Systems engineering
Graduates with a bachelor's degree in biotechnology can be candidates for a variety of careers. They may apply their research and engineering skills to address various scientific questions and research projects in medicine, agriculture or production, among other industries. Topics that are commonly studied by graduates with a B.S. in Biotechnology are:
- Human disease treatment
- Plant disease resistance
- Pest resistance
- Environmental cleanup
Employment Outlook and Salary Information
Graduates of M.S. in Biotechnology programs can work in diverse industries and concentrate on specialty areas like Alzheimer's disease treatment or drought-resistant crops. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of biochemists and biophysicists, which includes those who study biotechnology, was predicted to increase 8% between 2014 and 2024. As of May 2015, biochemists and biophysicists earned a median annual salary of $82,150, as reported by the BLS.
Graduates might choose to continue their education at the master's level in biotechnology or a related biology degree program. They also might apply to professional degree programs, such as law or business, and specialize in biotechnology.
Degree programs in biotechnology are available at both the undergraduate and graduate levels and designed for those seeking employment in the field of genetic engineering. Research depth and the amount of coursework varies by program level but programs generally equip students with the necessary technical knowledge and laboratory skills.