Biotech careers might sound like something that requires years of study, but you can actually get started in this field with a two-year associate degree. Once you have your degree, can begin working in a number of specializations or continue your studies for a more advanced position.
And if you're wondering what do biotechnologists do, here's a look at some typical responsibilities:
- Setting up laboratory and testing equipment such as microscopes, scales and test tubes.
- Gathering biological samples such as blood, food and bacteria for analysis.
- Conducting biological experiments.
- Analyzing experiment results and documenting data.
- Writing reports to summarize findings.
What are biotechnology specializations?
Biotechnology schools may offer programs that can help you prepare to work in a specialized field. The following are some examples of specialist jobs that could appeal to those interested in a biotechnology career.
- Biological technicians are sometimes called laboratory assistants. They work alongside biologists or medical scientists to gather biological material and analyze it in a laboratory setting.
- Agricultural and food science technicians specialize in areas such as animal health, fertilizers and agricultural chemicals. Their jobs often involve looking for ways to improve the productivity of animals and crops.
- Environmental science and protection technicians are concerned with keeping natural areas and communities free of pollution and contamination.
- Medical and clinical laboratory technologists and technicians might collect samples and perform tests on body fluids, tissues and other substances.
How to Become a Biotechnologist
In general, biotechnologists need to undertake the following steps to be successful in a biotechnology career:
- Earn a high school diploma or equivalent. Do what you can to take a variety of classes in the sciences.
- Earn at least an associate degree in biotechnology, which is typically the minimum program standard to work in the field.
- Check with your state to verify if you need licensing to work as a biotechnologist.
The curriculum for biotechnology programs depends on the school, but you'll need to have knowledge of the following subjects for many biotech careers:
Biotech degree programs
When it comes to the education needed to become a biotechnologist, most workers in the field have one of two degrees:
- Associate Degree: A biotechnology associate degree is the standard education for many specializations. These two-year programs provide core knowledge for jobs such as that of clinical laboratory technicians and agricultural technicians. Students may earn their degree in biology, animal science, clinical laboratory science or a similar field.
- Bachelor's Degree: While a four-year degree isn't required, earning one could lead to the highest paying jobs in biotechnology. Biological technicians and microbiologists are two of the biotech careers that are generally pursued by those with a bachelor's degree.
Biotechnology schools include community colleges, public universities and private institutions. There are even online biotechnology schools. Since a biotechnology career requires hands-on work, online programs are typically reserved for those who have prior experience in the field. Students may choose to earn a biotechnology associate degree, get a technician job and then study online while working to earn a bachelor's degree.
Licensure and certification for biotechnologists
With the exception of medical and clinical laboratory technicians in some states, most biotech professionals aren't required to become licensed or certified in order to work. However, check with your state's licensing board to verify whether they have any specific requirements you must meet when it comes to becoming a biotechnologist in your area.
Biotech career advancement
People can further a biotechnology career either through experience or additional education. Some technicians are promoted once they have demonstrated their abilities on the job. However, you might need a four-year degree for some positions in the field. In that case, online biotechnology programs can be a convenient way to advance a career while still working.
Skills and Qualities for Biotechnologists
Understanding the education needed to become a biotechnologist is only part of getting ready for biotech careers. You also want to be sure you have the following skills and abilities needed to be successful in the field.
- Complex problem solving: Biological technicians can be responsible for multi-step experiments and need to be able to identify problems that may occur in the process and take appropriate action to address them.
- Operations monitoring: Technicians use a variety of equipment for testing, and they must understand how to properly monitor all devices to ensure they work properly.
- Inductive reasoning: As biological technicians gather information, they need to be able to see the relationship between various pieces of data and put it all together for their findings.
- Near vision: Many jobs require technicians to look through microscopes, use computer software or examine small samples. All these tasks require good near vision.
- Written expression: In order to share their findings with others, technicians must be able to write clearly and concisely.
Career Outlook and Salary Information for Biotechnologists
If you're looking for the highest paying jobs in biotechnology, we've got a list of the wages you'll find nationwide for various specialties. While this information can be a good benchmark, don't forget that a person's income can depend on their location, experience and education.
Biotech careers can be found in a number of industries and that has helped create positive job growth for many occupations. Here's a look at the government's estimates for career outlook in the field.
|Career||Total Employment||Annual Mean Wage||Projected Job Growth Rate|
|Biological Scientists, All Other||42,640||$83,600||7.9%|
Professional Resources for Biotechnologists
Biotechnology schools may be able to connect you to local resources for biotech students. However, here are some national organizations you should know:
- Biotechnology Innovation Organization - As the world's largest trade organization for biotechnology companies, BIO members work in diverse fields such as healthcare, agriculture and industry.
- American Institute for Biological Sciences - This non-profit organization works to promote biological research and education.
- Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology - Founded in 1949, SIMB is dedicated to advancing work in the field of microbiological sciences.
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, Accessed November 2018, https://www.bls.gov/ooh
- Biotechnology Bachelor's Degree, University of Maryland University College, Accessed November 2018, https://www.umuc.edu/academic-programs/bachelors-degrees/biotechnology-major.cfm
- Biological Technicians, O*Net Online, Accessed November 2018, https://www.onetonline.org/link/summary/19-4021.00