Background Required for a Career in Biotechnology
One does not necessarily need to study subjects related to biotechnology to begin a career in this field. However, since the work is mostly related to scientific research, an academic background in science always helps. A four-year degree in biological sciences would be ideal for beginning a career in biotechnology. Technology-related master’s and doctoral degrees will add perspective in the sense that you will learn modern tools of the trade. A doctoral degree is a basic requirement by many companies for a scientific research career.
The biotechnology program of any school of science prepares graduates with the skills required by the industry. Biotechnology laboratory specialist programs also prepare students for work in laboratories, educational institutions, public health facilities, and private corporations.
Employment for Biotechnologists
One can define three broad areas within biotechnology:
- Medical research and development
- Agricultural research and development
Biotechnology is an integral part of many industries. It is not a specific industry or occupation, so the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) has not given any separate employment projections. The BLS’s projections for some industries involved with biotechnology — including agricultural services, drug manufacturing, and health services — indicate faster than average growth throughout the 2000-2010 decade.
Careers in Biotechnology for Nonscientists
There are also nontechnical jobs within the biotechnology industry which do not require any science background. Only with a basic understanding of science can one have a great career in this industry. Any established biotechnology company will have different divisions to carry out different activities, such as the following:
- Sales and Marketing: These professionals are needed in any biotechnology company to sell highly technical products. Biotechnology sales and marketing professionals need to have a basic understanding of science and technology and the ability to communicate with scientists or medical professionals.
- Quality Control: Production divisions will always require professionals with knowledge of industrial-manufacturing technologies and who are able to monitor product quality. With stringent guidelines set by the FDA, this becomes an important division in most pharmaceutical companies.
- Legal Openings: Patents are an important area in any biotechnology company, and in this area, the role of legal professionals is crucial. Legal professionals are needed to prepare patent applications and to deal with other related legal issues.
- Managers: Supervisors and managers are crucial for the success of any project. Often scientists work their way up to the manager levels, but many times, these scientists don’t want to get into managerial activities, and hence they remain in charge of their research divisions. Business-trained managers are hired to carry out managerial activities. It is also important to have trained managers because there is urgent need to convert research into revenue, which can be more easily done by commercial-oriented professionals rather than research-oriented scientists.
- PR and Communications: PR and communications professionals are needed by any company. For a biotechnology company, they convey technical information in a way that a nonscientist can understand.
- Technical Writers: Technical writers with an understanding of scientific terms and document standards are always needed to write scientific reports.
- Training and HR Professionals: These individuals are extremely important to any biotechnology industry, as quality and teamwork are vital to the success of this industry. Also, there is a challenge of changing the science-oriented mindset to commercial. Since biotechnology is an innovative, technology-oriented industry, the need to keep the staff updated is crucial. Therefore, many industries hire full-time professionals who can identify the training requirements and organize training sessions.
- Counselors: Genetic counselors provide psychological therapy to persons who are adversely affected by genetic disorders and to family members who may be at risk for inheriting a genetic disease.
- Support Functions: Support functions are always needed in an industry. Computer technicians, secretaries, accountants, etc., can all pursue careers in the biotechnology industry.
The career outlook in the field of biotechnology is very promising. The proliferation of new technologies is expanding employment opportunities in research, production, development, and manufacturing.