What Can You Do with a Degree in Biotechnology?
Biotechnology is an interdisciplinary and relatively new field of study with many practical applications. As a field of study examining life processes at cellular and molecular levels, biotechnology merges biology and technology to create 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 programs prepare graduates to participate in these exciting advances in various 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, biotechnology enterprise & entrepreneurship 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 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 biotechnology.
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 (2023), the average hourly rate for a biological science laboratory technician is $19.72 or $46,304 per year based on 360 self-reported salaries. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) shows that the 84,300 biological technicians working in the United States earn median salaries of $48,140 annually (BLS May 2022). The BLS reports that between 2021 and 2031, biological technician careers are projected to grow at a rate of 9 percent faster than the national average (5 percent), adding 7,700 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 the design, maintenance, procedural development, and 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 have good interpersonal and communication skills, creativity, flexibility, and problem-solving skills.
A bachelor’s degree is the minimum education required to become a biomedical engineer. 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 (2023), the yearly salary for a biomedical engineer can range between $54,000 and $101,000, with average annual salaries of $72,134 based on 955 people reporting. The BLS shows the median annual salary for biomedical engineers is substantially higher at $97,410, with 17,900 currently employed (BLS May 2022). In bioengineering and biomedical engineering, careers are projected to grow 10 percent between 2021 and 2031, creating a demand for 1,700 new positions in the same decade.
Become a Biological Technologist
Biological technologists operate laboratory equipment, advanced robotic assemblies, highly-specialized software, and various other automated tools to analyze, collect, model, and present data to lead researchers. These data-based models are ordered by physicians or researchers and often involve detailed patient information, depending on the field in which technologists work.
Additional duties of such technologists include performing tests per laboratory policy, observing federal and state regulations, and dealing with potentially hazardous samples of bodily fluids, bacterial cultures, tissues, or other biological material.
Medical laboratory scientists, a related profession, may carry out more complex and detailed tests and often manage or oversee laboratory or clinical technicians. The Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts openings in this field will grow 7 percent nationally between 2021 and 2031. Those with MS degrees in biotechnology are in a particularly advantageous position to earn salaries on the higher end of the spectrum, with the 10th percentile earning $30,280 and the 90th percentile earning $79,340.
Also, the Human Biology Association is a wonderful resource for prospective biological technologists, providing information on a viable career choice for those with a master’s in the field.
Become a Bioinformatics Specialist
Bioinformatics specialists determine laboratory needs and design software for gathering, storing, and studying animal and human genomes, proteins, molecules, and general biochemistry information. They usually work in the fields of genomics, proteomics, and as data miners in massive digital databases on the hunt for connections between data sets. Typically, this data is used to study diseases, genetic conditions, and their associated treatments.
Other interesting areas of employment include anthropology and law enforcement, both of which utilize cutting-edge technologies to discover solutions to burning research questions. Many bioinformatics specialists have a computer science or programming background and work in privately-held laboratories or universities in various research and administrative capacities.
Notably, the Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the average pay of computer and information research scientists—a field allied with bioinformatics—at $155,880 per year.
The International Society for Computational Biology is the world’s leading authority in this specialized field. They help professionals network, exchange ideas, and train with cutting-edge curricula and equipment.
Become a Biomanufacturing Specialist
Biomanufacturing specialists are much like quality assurance specialists. These professionals guarantee products meet purity, safety, quality, and potency standards as laid out by federal, state, and industry authorities.
Biomanufacturing specialists must have a deep working knowledge of the field in which they work, whether in virology, medical supplies, or immunoassay manufacturing. SimplyHired.com reports that the average annual salary in this field is $54,611. The top 10 percent of earners, typically people with a master’s degree in biotechnology, command $113,074 annually.
The Biomedical Engineering Society is a trusted and consistent resource for the bioengineering and biomanufacturing fields. They partner with several third parties to annually offer awards, courses, and recognition to outstanding specialists, technologists, and engineers.
Become a Biomedical Engineer
Biomedical engineers design instruments, devices, and software for use in healthcare. They also create innovative procedures and conduct research to solve pressing clinical problems.
These engineers can often work in or closely with quality assurance and R&D. They install, adjust, maintain, repair, or provide technical support for biomedical equipment, whether directly or in a consultation capacity. They also evaluate the efficiency and safety of biomedical equipment and train staff on how to use it, drawing from a working knowledge of human anatomy and biochemistry.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics projected that the number of biomedical engineers will grow by 10 percent between 2021 and 2031, double the expected average growth among all fields in the US during that decade (5 percent). Also, these professionals make an annual average salary of $108,060 (BLS May 2022).
The Biomedical Engineering Society is the premier source of information about all things biomedical and a great resource for biomanufacturing specialists.
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 biotechnology-related discipline. Most professors must 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 (2023), the average yearly salary for a biological science post-secondary teacher is $52,370, ranging from $36,000 to $73,000 per year based on 33 reported salaries. The BLS reports that the 37,500 employed biochemists or biophysicists, a similar career field, earn $102,270 per year and that 5,700 new positions will be added between 2021 and 2031 (BLS May 2022).
Become a Biotechnology Researcher
Biotechnology researchers are on the cutting edge of understanding how we can best utilize technology to improve health, often at the molecular level, from biometric wearables to cancer-fighting nanobots.
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.
A bachelor’s degree is the minimum education required to participate in biotechnology research as a research assistant or associate. Many employers prefer a master’s degree with a specialization related to the study being conducted. A PhD is required to engage in independent research or serve as the lead researcher.
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 (2023), on average, biotechnology researchers can expect to make $74,124 annually. The yearly salary range is $51,000 to $116,000 per year based on 4,478 reported salaries. The BLS shows a very different figure, with the median annual salary for biological technicians at $48,140 per year for the 84,300 biological technicians employed (BLS May 2022). The BLS shows that this career is projected to grow faster than the national average at a rate of 9 percent, creating 7,700 jobs between 2021 and 2031.
Become a Clinical Research Associate
Clinical research associates monitor clinical trial research sites to accurately follow protocol. They sometimes oversee research teams and check their data collection and storage quality. They are experts in database administration and organization, mostly due to their occupation’s reliance on cataloging software.
In the biotechnology field, research associates can rise to the position of clinical trials research manager with a combination of experience and post-secondary education. They often participate in the composition of research and white papers for public viewing and are sometimes called upon to attest to a research trial’s methods when their findings may be disputed. According to Payscale (2023), clinical research associates earn average annual salaries of $72,393 based on 1,819 salary profiles.
The Association of Clinical Research Professionals operates as the ACRP in healthcare technology circles, where it spearheads the convening of conferences and the commission of studies to uphold and improve clinical research standards.
Become a Director of Product Strategy or Commercialization
Biotechnology professionals in business-related roles, usually administrative or directive in nature, are generally responsible for the organization, development, and execution of commercialization strategies for emerging biotechnology products. This typically includes driving growth, market development, marketing, sales, logistics, launch, and ongoing profitability. They work closely with quality assurance specialists to maintain a total quality standard from start to finish.
Cornell University offers a certificate in product management that would be particularly useful for biotechnology professionals interested in product strategy or commercialization. Also, the Project Management Institute (PMI) is the gold standard for certification in this field.
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 (2023), the average hourly rate for an environmental science and protection technician is $17.38 per hour. The average yearly salary is $45,652, ranging from $32,000 to $61,000 based on 747 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 2022). An estimated 2,100 new positions are anticipated to be needed in the same decade, adding to the 35,500 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 must have physical stamina and the ability to work in the 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 (2023), hydrogeologists make $63,436 per year on average, with a range of $51,000 to $83,000 based on 242 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 similar occupational growth (BLS May 2022). In May 2022, hydrologists earned median annual salaries of $84,030, while geoscientists reported slightly higher median annual earnings at $83,680.
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 research in the biological sciences.
Those hoping to become laboratory directors should hold a doctorate 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 (2023), laboratory directors make anywhere from $67,000 to $154,000 per year, with an average yearly salary of $102,588 based on 538 salaries. The BLS shows that natural sciences managers earn median annual salaries of $137,900 per year and that 4,600 new positions will be added between 2021 and 2031, adding to the 78,800 currently employed natural sciences managers (BLS May 2022).
Become a Marketing Manager
Marketing managers are responsible for generating interest in new products or services.
When a biotechnological product is ready to market or on the market, marketing managers create 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 promoting 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 and business and understand the psychology of human motivation.
A bachelor’s degree is the minimum education threshold needed to become a marketing manager. 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 entering management.
According to PayScale (2023), the average yearly salary for a marketing manager is $70,998, with a range of $47,000 to $106,000 based on 17,507 individuals reporting. By comparison, the BLS reports a vastly different figure, with the median annual salaries for all 347,000 advertising, promotions, and marketing managers listed at $133,380 (BLS May 2022).
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 education threshold 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 (2023), the average yearly salary for a microbiologist is $46,304, with 360 individuals reporting, and can fall between $34,000 and $65,000. The BLS data is nearly double that figure, listing the median salary for microbiologists at $79,260 (BLS May 2022). In 2023, there were 20,800 microbiologists employed, and 1,900 new positions are expected to be added between 2021 and 2031.
Become a Quality Assurance Specialist
When the Food and Drug Administration approves a new medication or over-the-counter drug to be sold, it means that the medication has met quality standard requirements at each assessment stage. The top-to-bottom approach of quality assurance means that is not only the sale of the medication which has been checked to ensure quality but also the chemical formula for the substance and the procedures that govern its synthesis.
Quality assurance specialists keep tabs on the process of manufacturing biotechnology products by ensuring that the process conforms to legally-predetermined standards. Quality assurance is especially important in the pharmaceutical industry because companies must obey laws and regulations that have been put in place to keep the general public healthy. Payscale (2023) lists the average annual salary for quality assurance specialists at $64,419, based on 4,343 profiles.
The American Society for Quality offers several certifications that are necessary for any quality assurance or verification and validation professional or engineer. In addition, their site boasts some study and reference resources for those interested in the finer details of the discipline.
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 catch materials with flaws, defects, or deviations from manufacturing specifications. When a defective or deficient material is found, quality control technicians recommend 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. 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, an understanding of technical documents, and competence in interpersonal communication. Because many QC jobs happen in 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 the scientific discipline related to the manufactured product.
According to PayScale (2023), the average hourly rate for a quality control technician is $19.40, with 2,403 individuals reporting. The average yearly salary is $50,039, ranging from $39,000 to $68,000. The BLS lists lower data, by comparison, reporting the annual median wage for quality control inspectors at $38,580 (BLS May 2022).