What Can You Do with a Degree in Biotechnology and Bioenterprise?

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Biotechnology is an interdisciplinary and relatively new field of study with a wide range of practical applications. As a field of study examining life processes at cellular and molecular levels, biotechnology merges biology and technology toward the ultimate goal of creating advances to improve the health of our planet and all life on earth.

Modern biotechnology research has resulted in advances in the technology we use to overcome challenges and struggles related to health and healing, how we power our lives, our environmental impact, and the quality and quantity of food available to us.

Biotechnology and bioenterprise programs prepare graduates to participate in these exciting advances in a wide range of roles. Biotech programs offer the fundamentals of biology, chemistry, math, and physics crucial to most professional positions in the biotech arena. In addition to a baseline understanding of the science, bioenterprise programs prepare students with the knowledge required to bring innovative technological breakthroughs successfully to market. Because of biotechnology’s nearly endless practical applications, many biotechnology and bioenterprise programs enable students to pick a specialization to prepare them for specific job roles after graduation.

So what can you do with a biotechnology degree? Keep reading to learn more about a wide range of careers in the biotechnology and bioenterprise industries.

Become a Biological Technician

Mainly working in laboratories, biological technicians assist scientists in conducting various forms of biological research.

The responsibilities of a biological technician vary depending on the kind of research they are supporting, the lead researchers’ needs, and the technician’s unique skill set. Biological technicians may coordinate experiments; set up, maintain, and fix research apparati; gather research samples; conduct supervised experiments; analyze data; monitor experiments; do data entry; and keep research environments clean.

In addition to knowledge in biology, chemistry, math, biological technicians must have good written and verbal communication and comprehension, the capacity for inductive and deductive reasoning, observational skills, critical thinking skills, and technical skills.

Typically, a bachelor’s degree is the minimum needed. However, some biological technicians may find work after completing associate or technical school programs. An example of this type of program is the associate in science biological technician degree program offered by Fullerton College in Fullerton, California. This is a 22-credit program that teaches students laboratory procedures through hands-on experience and didactic courses in molecular and cellular biology. These types of programs help position future biological technicians for work in laboratory settings.

According to PayScale (2021), the average hourly rate for a biological science laboratory technician is $17.52 or $39,976 per year based on 374 self-reported salaries. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that the 87,500 biological technicians working in the United States earn median salaries of $46,340 per year (BLS May 2020). The BLS reports that between 2019 and 2029, biological technician careers are projected to grow at a rate of 5 percent faster than the national average (4 percent), adding 4,300 new positions.

Become a Biomedical Engineer

Biomedical engineers fuse engineering, biological sciences, and medicine to improve the technology used to fuel accurate, effective, and timely healthcare services.

Because of the broad applications of bioengineering, the specific day-to-day responsibilities of a biomedical engineer will vary. Generally, biomedical engineers have responsibilities in design, maintenance, procedural development, and the evaluation of biomedical equipment. Biomedical engineers also engage in research, present research findings, and train personnel to properly use biomedical equipment.

Biomedical engineers must have a high-level understanding of engineering principles in the branch of science most closely related to their research. Because they often work in interdisciplinary teams, biomedical engineers must also have good interpersonal and communication skills, creativity, flexibility, and problem-solving skills.

The minimum education required to become a biomedical engineer is a bachelor’s degree. Some jobs may require a master’s degree or higher. To engage in independent research, a PhD is needed. Although not required for entry-level positions, work in a laboratory setting is useful for biomedical engineering candidates.

According to PayScale (2021), the yearly salary for a biomedical engineer can range between $62,000 and $91,000, with average annual salaries of $67,852 based on 1,061 people reporting. The BLS shows the median annual salary for biomedical engineers is substantially higher at $92,620 with 21,200 currently employed (BLS May 2020). In bioengineering and biomedical engineering, careers are projected to grow 5 percent between 2019 and 2029, creating a demand for 1,000 new positions in the same decade.

Become a Biotechnology Professor

Through lectures, labs, and mentoring, biotechnology professors prepare the next generation of biotech scholars and scientists for research and work.

Biotechnology professors prepare and implement lectures and laboratory coursework; create course flows and syllabi; evaluate student progress throughout courses; hold office hours; supervise laboratory work; engage in ongoing research; keep abreast of the latest scientific findings in the biotechnology discipline; adhere to departmental standards for content delivery; maintain attendance records; and provide feedback and grades on any assigned coursework.

Because an academic position is inherently interpersonal, biotechnology professors must have impeccable oral and written expression and the capacity for deep listening. Professors in this arena should have mastery of biology, chemistry, math, computers, physics, and specialized knowledge related to their research area or to the courses they teach.

The minimum level of education required to become a biotechnology professor is a master of science degree in a discipline related to biotechnology. Most professors are required to have a PhD to teach at a four-year university or in graduate school courses. While practical experience working in biotechnology is not technically required to become a professor of biotechnology, having practical experience may make a candidate more competitive. Also, professors must have expertise in laboratory-based research.

According to PayScale (2021), the average yearly salary for a biological science post-secondary teacher is $50,250, with a range of $37,000 to $71,000 per year based on 54 reported salaries. The BLS reports that the 34,600 employed biochemists or biophysicists, a similar career field, earn $94,270 per year and that 1,400 new positions will be added between 2019 and 2029 (BLS May 2020).

Become a Biotechnology Researcher

From biometric wearables to cancer-fighting nanobots, biotechnology researchers are on the cutting edge of understanding how we can best utilize technology to improve health, often at the molecular level.

Each biotechnology researcher will have vastly different responsibilities depending on the type of research they implement and their role within the research project. Examples of possible duties include setting up and executing experiments, gathering and analyzing data, utilizing and maintaining laboratory equipment, supervising research teams, and presenting findings through peer-reviewed journal articles, poster projects, meetings, and reports. Also, biotechnology researchers may have the responsibility of securing funding.

Biotechnology researchers must have mastery of the principles in all scientific disciplines related to their research (e.g., math, science, biology, nanotechnology, physics, etc). Biotechnology researchers must also have perseverance, ingenuity, and well-developed interpersonal skills, especially those working in or leading research teams.

The minimum education required to participate in biotechnology research as a research assistant or associate is a bachelor’s degree. Many employers prefer a master’s degree with a specialization related to the study being conducted. To engage in independent research or serve as the lead researcher, a PhD is required.

While no work experience is required for entry-level research positions, higher-level positions require candidates to have several years of experience working in research settings.

According to PayScale (2021), biotechnology researchers can expect to make $70,018 per year on average. The yearly salary range is $48,000 to $108,000 per year based on 3,979 reported salaries. The BLS shows a very different figure with the median annual salary for biological technicians at $46,340 per year for the 87,500 biological technicians employed (BLS May 2020). The BLS shows that this career is projected to grow faster than the national average at a rate of 5 percent which will create 4,300 jobs between 2019 and 2029.

Become an Environmental Science and Protection Technician

Working in the field and in the laboratory, environmental science and protection technicians evaluate the environment for pollutants, contaminants, degradation, or other negative elements that could impact public health.

Environmental technicians collect samples of soil, air, water, and other organic materials; keep samples organized and well-labeled for analysis; inspect the environment around existing human-made structures or sites for future human-made structures; utilize sensors, monitors, microscopes, and other measuring equipment; prepare reports to summarize findings for supervising scientists; and ensure that the environments they’re examining are in legal or regulatory compliance.

Environmental technicians require good attention to detail, the ability to work under a supervisor, well-established interpersonal skills, physical stamina, and the capacity for clear communication. Environmental technicians should have some mastery of environmental science, environmental health, and public health.

Generally, an associate’s degree in the environmental sciences or completion of a technical or vocational school program in a specific technology is sufficient to become an environmental technician. Some environmental science and protection technician jobs only require a high school diploma, while others require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Having laboratory work experience also is helpful for environmental technician candidates.

According to PayScale (2021), the average hourly rate for an environmental science and protection technician is $15.35 per hour. The average yearly salary is $43,420, with a range of $31,000 to $61,000 based on 1,010 reported salaries. The BLS shows the median annual salary for environmental science and protection technicians is $46,850 and that this occupation is projected to grow 8 percent between 2019 and 2029 (BLS May 2020). An estimated 2,900 new positions are anticipated to be needed in the same decade, adding to the 34,700 current positions in the workforce.

Become a Hydrogeologist

A job that often requires working outdoors and in a lab, hydrogeologists seek to understand groundwater movement through the earth to solve problems regarding the quality and availability of water.

Hydrogeologists measure bodies of water, collect environmental samples, analyze data, use computer modeling to forecast a range of water-related issues (e.g., supply, pollution, flooding, drought, etc.), conduct feasibility studies for projects requiring water management systems, research ways to mitigate negative impacts of water on the environment (e.g., erosion, sedimentation, etc.), and present their research findings and/or recommendations to employers, policymakers, or colleagues.

Hydrogeologists require a high-level knowledge of engineering, technology, math, physics, chemistry, geography, computers, and design. They also require analytical skills, critical thinking skills, written and oral comprehension and expression, and effective interpersonal skills. Because much of their work is done in the field, hydrogeologists need to have physical stamina and the ability to work in dirt, dust, and all types of weather.

While some hydrogeology positions only require a bachelor’s, research positions in hydrogeology often require a master’s degree or higher. Although not required, it is useful for hydrogeologist candidates to have laboratory experience and experience in economics, environmental law, or government policy.

According to PayScale (2021), hydrogeologists make $60,883 per year on average, with a range of $48,000 to $86,000 based on 252 reported salaries. The BLS does not list occupational statistics for hydrogeologists, but it does show that hydrologists and geoscientists require bachelor’s degrees, earn similar annual incomes, and are experiencing the same occupational growth rate at 5 percent (BLS May 2020). In May 2020, hydrologists earned median annual salaries of $84,040, while geoscientists reported slightly higher median annual earnings at $93,580.

Become a Laboratory Director

Laboratory directors make laboratory research possible through personnel management, budget oversight, and regulatory compliance.

Laboratory directors are responsible for ensuring the infrastructure needed to conduct research is firmly in place. To this end, lab directors seek and secure funding and other forms of operational assistance; engage in recruiting, hiring, and performance reviews; balance budgets; manage other forms of capital (e.g., space, equipment, etc.); and ensure operations are happening within regulatory, grant-based, and legal constraints.

Lab directors should have impeccable interpersonal skills, meticulous attention to detail, organizational skills, finance skills, and a holistic understanding of the research in the biological sciences.

Those hoping to become laboratory directors should hold a doctorate-level degree in the biological sciences. Laboratory directors also need years of experience working in labs, including several years in leadership positions. Earning certification as a laboratory director is generally applicable as well.

According to PayScale (2021), laboratory directors make anywhere from $62,000 to $149,000 per year, with an average yearly salary of $95,039 based on 494 salaries. The BLS shows that natural sciences managers earn median annual salaries of $137,940 per year and that 3,400 new positions will be added between 2019 and 2029, adding to the 71,400 currently employed natural sciences managers (BLS May 2020).

Become a Marketing Manager

Marketing managers are responsible for generating interest in new products or services.

When a biotechnological product is ready to come to market or is on the market, marketing managers create the campaigns that ensure the product sells. Marketing managers lead marketing teams, plan campaigns, develop strategies, evaluate the efficacy of procedures, meet with potential and current clients, engage in market research, manage and negotiate marketing budgets, develop pricing strategies, and hire personnel involved in the promotion of the product.

Marketing managers must be incredibly organized, think on micro and macro levels, have impeccable interpersonal skills, and possess the ability to communicate clearly in writing, orally, and across other creative mediums. Also, marketing managers must understand the language of biotechnology, business and understand the psychology of human motivation.

The minimum threshold of education needed to become a marketing manager is a bachelor’s degree. However, many marketing directors have an MBA, master’s in journalism, or master’s in marketing. Marketing managers typically have several years of experience in sales, buying, public relations, or advertising before coming into the management role.

According to PayScale (2021), the average yearly salary for a marketing manager is $66,173, with a range of $44,000 to $100,000 based on 17,131 individuals reporting. By comparison, the BLS reports a vastly different figure, with the median annual salaries for all 314,900 advertising, promotions, and marketing managers listed at $141,490 (BLS May 2020).

Become a Microbiologist

Generally working in research and development, microbiologists study microorganisms (e.g., algae, bacteria, fungi, parasites, viruses, etc.) Specialized examples of microbiologists include bacteriologists, clinical microbiologists, environmental microbiologists, mycologists, parasitologists, and virologists.

Microbiologists prepare and conduct experiments; identify and classify microorganisms; identify, collect, and maintain cultures for experimentation; keep up-to-date on scientific literature regarding microorganisms; supervise laboratory technicians; prepare academic literature (e.g., peer-reviewed journal articles, poster projects, etc.) to illustrate their findings and recommendations; and examine the interactions between microorganisms and their environments.

In addition to knowledge of laboratory procedures at a micro level, microbiologists must have communication, attention to detail, time-management, and problem-solving skills. In addition, microbiologists must be self-starters with the ability to persevere.

The minimum threshold of education to become a microbiologist is a bachelor’s degree. Those hoping to conduct independent research generally need a PhD. Competitive candidates for microbiologist positions have at least one year’s experience working in a laboratory or research setting.

According to PayScale (2021), the average yearly salary for a microbiologist is $39,976 with 374 individuals reporting and can fall between $31,000 and $59,000. The BLS data is more than double that figure, listing the median salary for microbiologists at $84,400 (BLS May 2020). In 2020, there were 20,200 microbiologists employed, and 600 new positions are expected to be added between 2019 and 2029.

Become a Quality Control Technician

Quality control (QC) technicians verify that materials used at all stages within the manufacturing process adhere to specifications.

Quality control technicians are responsible for catching materials with flaws, defects, or deviations from manufacturing specifications. When a defective or deficient material is found, quality control technicians make recommendations to the party managing that stage of production to halt or adjust operations, or they reject finished items when the defect was not caught earlier on. To this end, quality control technicians often work with highly calibrated tools, computers, and interdisciplinary teams.

QC technicians require sharp attention to detail, computer savvy, understanding technical documents, and competence in interpersonal communication. Because many QC jobs happen on the manufacturing stage, physical stamina and strength may also be required. QC technicians working in biotechnology may need specialized knowledge in the biological sciences, including math, biology, and chemistry.

Because QC jobs require a range of skills, there are positions available for those who have completed high school, technical or vocational school, an associate’s program, or bachelor’s programs. No experience is technically required, but most employers prefer some experience in QC, manufacturing, or in the scientific discipline related to the product being manufactured.

According to PayScale (2021), the average hourly rate for a quality control technician is $17.85 with 2,772 individuals reporting. The average yearly salary is $46,131 with a range of $35,000 to $64,000. The BLS lists similar data, by comparison, reporting the annual median wage for quality control inspectors at $40,460 (BLS May 2020).

Becca Brewer
Becca Brewer
Writer

Becca Brewer is building a better future on a thriving earth by fostering healing, human wholeness, and next-world building through storytelling help, one-on-one self-awareness workshops, and customized team-alignment sessions. She offers these services at a rate of $0.00 to anyone interested (contact her at rkbrewer@gmail.com for more information). Previously to her journey as an adventurer for a just, meaningful, and regenerative world, Becca was a formally trained sexuality educator with a master of education.