Biotechnology vs. Health Sciences: A Side-by-Side Comparison

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Antibiotics have been instrumental to saving lives since they were discovered nearly a century ago. However, many bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics due to overuse. Thanks to years of extensive research, biotechnology scientists have recently developed new antibiotics to treat resistant strains of bacteria. Incredibly, the new treatment does not appear to trigger antibiotic resistance, even when used in large doses. This advancement was discovered by isolating a toxin in a form of staph bacteria. Now, a patent has been issued for this antibiotic.

Health science professionals, researchers, and medical entrepreneurs are instrumental as new drugs move through clinical trials and into the market. In other words, biotechnology and health sciences work hand in hand to help people live longer and healthier lives.

Biotechnology is the study of biology specifically to create new products. Research on cells and organisms have brought about innovative products that improve everyday life, such as new vaccines, disease resistant crops, and efficient biofuels.Health sciences, by contrast, is the study of science as it relates to the human and animal health—both the research and the application of scientific findings to improve health.

While these fields overlap, there are significant differences. Health sciences limits its scope to well-being. Clinical and non-clinical roles address all aspects of medicine to improve the healthcare industry and deliver quality care to patients.

However, health is only one aspect of biotechnology. Globally, there is an impending resource crisis and biotechnology is addressing it at every level including medical improvements, fuel advancements, and crop developments.

Below you will find a side-by-side comparison of the study of biotechnology and health sciences, including how research findings are applied, what the subfields are, and the respective career outlooks.

Biotechnology Health Sciences

Definition

Biotechnology is the study of biology specifically to make or develop new products. Careful application of research on cells, organisms, and biological processes net groundbreaking results that advance health and technological development. Scientists have improved crops, developed vaccines, and created new fuels all through the study of biotechnology.While it has been studied for over 6,000 years in a variety of applications, it has only emerged as a distinct scientific field in the 1970s.

Much of the research stems from the study of naturally-evolved lifeforms and deriving new applications from the studies. Other research focuses on modification of existing life forms to create new technologies. There is significant overlap between biotechnology, biology, biochemistry, and molecular genetics.

Health sciences is the study of science as it relates to human and animal health. It is a broad field that encompasses basic sciences, clinical research, math, and sometimes even sports studies.

The field is generally divided into two areas. First is the study and research of health sciences. Second is the application of the research to cure diseases, increase overall health, and better understand how animals and humans function.

Applications

With an ever-changing world, new applications for biotechnology are constantly emerging. Many of the advancements are targeted to mitigate the resource challenges in the 21st century.

The Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) has identified three ways that biotechnology can be a benefit. First, it can heal our world through the reduction of infectious disease, allowing for treatments tailored to individuals and combating illnesses in the developing world. New vaccines, antibiotics, and research techniques can save the lives of millions of children in poverty-stricken nations.

Biotechnology also can fuel our world through the study and development of new and more efficient fuels. It can help us reduce the use of fuel through groundbreaking research into improving and streamlining manufacturing processes. The use of biofuels can cut greenhouse emissions significantly.

Lastly, BIO states that biotechnology can feed the world through innovations in farming. With the help of scientists, farmers can increase crop yields, use fewer pesticides, and grow more resilient crops. Scientists are also able to produce foods without certain allergens and increase the nutritional profile to combat vitamin and nutritional deficiencies.

Health science is a wide field of study and the applications are equally extensive. Overall, the goal is to improve healthcare through research and the application of the conclusions of the research.

Scientists in the health sciences study diseases, mental health, nutrition, and many other fields. Research methodologies are carefully followed to control for placebo effects and other influencing factors. The Mayo Clinic comprises over 90 doctoral and 400 clinical staff dedicated to improving patient health through medical research. Their current areas of focus include cancer, gastrointestinal diseases, neurology, musculoskeletal disorders, and others. The staff at the clinic also conduct leading-edge methodology research.

Once the research has been published, professionals working in the clinical side of health sciences apply the conclusions to patient care to treat diseases and improve outcomes. Everyday best practices used by doctors, nurses, clinical assistants, veterinarians, and paramedics are all based on research produced in this field. Professionals applying treatments have often obtained a health sciences degree prior to certification or pursuing an advanced degree.

Public health services, healthcare management, and healthcare information technology are non-clinical applications of health sciences careers. These roles support and complement clinical and research positions to improve patient outcomes.

Subfields

Graduates of a biotechnology program will find a wide array of fields in biological sciences available to them:

  • Biological engineering techniques are applied to animals in the animal biotechnology field. These animals are used for pharmaceutical, agricultural, and industrial purposes. They can be designed to be resistant to certain diseases or even synthesize targeted proteins.
  • In environmental biotechnology researchers address environmental problems. The removal of pollutants and creation of renewable energy are two of the myriad of applications.
  • Using biotechnology to create biologic therapeutics is part of the field of applied immunology. Researchers have developed new vaccines, antibiotics, and diagnostics.
  • The objective of food chemistry is to enhance and safely use existing and new materials in food production. Many of those materials are biologic such as biopolymers, lipids, and biofilms.
  • Biopolymer scientists look at naturally occurring polymers, such as starch in corn, and find new applications for them. Plant-based plastic has been an everyday application of this field.
  • Bioinformatics is the combination of computers and biotechnology. Software is utilized to understand, evaluate, and study complex biologic data.
Within health sciences there are numerous subfields all focused on the study of animal and human health:

  • The study and treatment of mental and emotional disorders happens in the field of mental health.
  • Medicine encompasses all of the branches diagnosing, treating, and preventing diseases. This subfield includes a wide variety of health care practices and practitioners of all levels of education.
  • Creating healthy communities through research and treatment is the science and art of public health.
  • Health administration programs aim to create organizations that effectively manage healthcare systems.
  • Veterinary sciences is the study, treatment, diagnosis, and prevention of diseases in all types of animals, from farm livestock to zoo animals and pets.

Educational Preparation and Career Outlook

Numerous degrees in biotechnology are available all across the country and they vary in specific requirements and specializations. Often, courses in regulation and business are required to supplement the science courses.

Concentrations in this field include microbial biotechnology, forestry sciences, and animal biotechnology. Most courses include extensive lab time in addition to lectures.

Careers in the field of biotechnology are as varied as the applications. Graduates with a biotechnology degree can pursue roles as microbiologists, agricultural engineers, food scientists, epidemiologists, lab technicians, or biochemists. Jobs in biotechnology can be found on Indeed, LinkedIn, Science Careers, and BioSpace.

While health science degrees vary from institution to institution, students who pursue degrees in health sciences will generally be required to take foundational courses in mathematics, sociology, and writing. Students will also take extensive courses in biology and chemistry. Electives can include specialized studies in ethics, business, law, and anatomy and physiology.

Concentrations are as varied as the field itself. There are clinical concentrations such as anesthesia technology, radiation therapy, substance abuse, and aging health. Non-clinical concentrations include healthcare management, health information technology, and public health.

Employment growth in careers in the health sciences has had steady increase for more than a decade. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, over 1.9 million jobs are expected to be created between 2018 and 2028 at a faster pace than any other industry.

With a bachelor’s degree, job opportunities include medical or health services manager, claims reviewer, medical sales representative, medical laboratory technician, and community health specialist. Many people who earn degrees in health sciences do so in preparation for graduate studies to pursue careers such as an occupational therapist, pharmacist, dentist, doctor, or audiologist. Jobs in health sciences can be found on Indeed, LinkedIn, Heath eCareers, and Glassdoor.

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