Advanced Careers in Biotechnology - Biomedical Engineer, Bioinformatics Specialist & More
Biotechnology is an interdisciplinary field that has been gaining considerable momentum as the scientific community’s understanding of the world deepens, and as scientists experiment with new potential advances at the intersection of biology and technology. Established and emergent career areas in the field include: research and development, policymaking, software engineering, environmental science, sales support for biomedical companies, clinical research, biotechnological manufacturing, quality assurance, business management, project management, and software engineering, among others.
Data skills, advanced scientific techniques, and other technological developments have enabled biotechnology and bioenterprise to advance at breakneck speed, especially in industry hubs such as Boston and San Francisco, which benefit from the proximity of world-class universities.
Because biotechnology has so many applications, professionals are able to work for a variety of organizations, including private companies, government agencies, clinical laboratories, and even regulatory bodies.
Read on to learn about ten interesting careers that biotechnology master’s degree holders can pursue, including information about degree programs, organizations, societies, and associations with which these jobs are affiliated.
Biological technologists operate laboratory equipment, advanced robotic assemblies, highly-specialized software, and a wide variety of 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 the performance of tests per laboratory policy, the observation of 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 that openings in this field will grow 11 percent nationally between 2018 and 2028. Those with MS degrees in biotechnology are in a particularly good position to enter the workforce.
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.
Bioinformatics specialists determine laboratory needs and design software for gathering, storing, and studying information about animal and human genomes, proteins, molecules, and general biochemistry. 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 or law enforcement, both of which utilize cutting-edge technologies to discover solutions to burning research questions. Many bioinformatics specialists have a background in computer science or programming and work in privately-held laboratories or at 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 $123,850 per year.
The International Society for Computational Biology serves as the world’s leading authority in this specialized field. They help professionals network, exchange ideas, and train with cutting-edge curriculum and equipment.
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. Simply Hired reports that the average annual salary in this field is $67,000. The top 10 percent of earners, typically people who hold a master’s degree in biotechnology, command $140,000 a year.
The Biomedical Engineering Society is a trusted and consistent resource for the bioengineering and biomanufacturing fields. They partner with a number of third-parties to offer awards, courses, and recognition to outstanding specialists, technologists, and engineers every year.
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 be found working 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 consultational capacity. They also evaluate the efficiency and safety of biomedical equipment, train staff on how to use this equipment, 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 4 percent between 2018 and 2028, on par with the expected average growth among all fields in the US during that decade (5 percent). Also, these professionals make an annual average salary of $95,090.
The Biomedical Engineering Society is the premiere source of information about all things biomedical, in addition to being a great resource for biomanufacturing specialists.
Business Development Manager
In the world of biotechnology, business development managers offer their expertise by way of analyses and solutions. Using detailed market studies and cutting-edge research, business development managers help biotechnology firms design and implement growth, investment, and expansion strategies. They devise acquisition models and engage in research to collaboratively solve issues or barriers to growth.
Salary.com notes that the average annual salary for a business development manager in biotechnology is $117,347.
Additionally, the National Business Development Association gives excellent insight into the ins and outs of business development for a number of different fields.
Clinical Research Associate
Clinical research associates monitor clinical trial research sites so that protocol is followed with absolute accuracy. They sometimes oversee research teams and check the quality of their data collection and storage. They are experts in database administration and organization, mostly due to their occupation’s reliance on cataloging software.
In the field of biotechnology, research associates can rise to the position of clinical trials research manager with a combination of experience and post-secondary education. They often take part 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 in dispute.
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 the standards of clinical research.
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’s 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.
Forensic DNA Analyst
Forensic DNA analysts take samples of blood, urine, tissue, saliva, feces or other materials for diagnostic use in law enforcement, laboratory science, or medical applications. Using varied scientific techniques to extract DNA from provided samples, analysts compare the results of their assessments to control samples or to DNA profiles from known individuals to inform an investigation. They work in labs almost exclusively, where they follow federal SOPs and regulations governing the storage of sensitive genetic material. They document everything, writing reports and abstracts about their findings, and are frequently called on to testify to these findings in courts of law or before investigative committees.
The top-notch resource, Association of Forensic DNA Analysts and Administrators, provides a lodestone of relevant information and reference materials for prospective forensic DNA analysts.
Genetic counselors work closely with medical lab technologists to order genetic tests and translate those findings to patients. Genetic counseling involves interviewing patients to gain a comprehensive understanding of individual and family medical histories, evaluating patients’ genomes to identify at-risk signifiers for genetic disorders, and discussing a wide breadth of testing options with patients, including potential risks, benefits, and scope of care with families or insurance companies. They also create consultation reports and counsel patients on courses of action and preparation for difficult results, such as whether a child has the genetic signifiers for cystic fibrosis or Down syndrome.
Notably, the Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that genetic counselors make an average of $80,860 per year.
According to the National Society of Genetic Counselors, the majority of genetic counselors use their education to specialize in areas that are now considered standard in the field. These areas are typically subdivided into prenatal, cancer, and pediatric genetic counselors. They are further subdivided into the disciplines of genomic medicine, neurogenetics, genetic psychiatry, and cardiovascular health.
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 stage of assessment. 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 making sure that the process of manufacturing itself 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.
The American Society for Quality offers a number of certifications that are necessary for any quality assurance or verification and validation professional or engineer. In addition, their site boasts a number of study and reference resources for those interested in the finer details of the discipline.