Is a Career in Biotech Right for You?
If you're thinking about breaking into the biotechnology industry, you might be feeling overwhelmed by all the jobs that are encompassed within that sector. Where do you start your job search? How do you know if you'll be qualified for the biotech position you want? Luckily, we have done the research for you and put together a guide to help you decide where to go within the biotech field.
We will cover the wide range of jobs you could have while working in the biotech industry. We'll also discuss what type of background is best for switching to the industry and what level of education you should complete before applying to most positions.
Keep in mind that there are always exceptions – you might be surprised by the ways that skills from other careers might transfer over and still be useful within the biotechnology industry.
What Are Biotechnology Jobs?
Biotechnology is a branch of biology that involves utilizing natural, biological processes for the purpose of benefiting mankind. In other words, it's the use of various techniques, like genetic manipulation and DNA sequencing, to understand more about biology and create a product that can be used to help others.
There are many different types of jobs that fall under the biotech umbrella. Biotechnology, as a practice, works its way into many fields of science as it relates to animals, humans, food safety and more. Biotechnology understanding can be applied to health and medical sciences, biomedical engineering, agriculture, immunology, virology and more.
Most biotechnology positions involve working in research or product development labs. Depending on your area of expertise, you could research living organisms and use technology to chart and expand upon your findings. In general, that research is used to create products that can help others within the field, whether it's discovering new medicine, creating standards for chemistry, understanding water quality goals, advancing biology understandings or contributing to ongoing research.
Aside from research, there are also several technician roles and technical support positions available within multiple fields that utilize biotechnology understanding. If you're unsure about where to begin in your biotech job search, it's best to search using an industry-specific job board.
Some examples of job areas in biotech include:
- Environmental monitoring
- Drug discovery
- Agricultural technician
- Food science technician
- Water quality technician
- Conservation biology
Though you can secure these jobs with a biotechnology degree from an accredited university, that is not the only path you can take. You can just as easily transfer to the biotechnology field from different careers. With education, understanding and practice, you can work in practically any field you want, regardless of your background.
What Qualifications Do I Need To Work In Biotechnology?
As stated above, most biotechnology jobs rely heavily on research and analysis. No matter what your background is, you'll need to have demonstrable research and analysis skills that you can lean on for a job in biotech.
With research skills also comes an understanding of the industry and an understanding of the topics being researched. Critical thinking, observation and technical skills are also very important for anyone working in biotech. Also, experience working in a laboratory in any capacity will hold some weight when applying for biotech positions since you'd likely be working in a lab in that career.
On top of those skills, many biotech recruiters expect their applicants to have a Bachelor's degree in biotechnology or a related field, like biology, chemistry or natural sciences. Some positions, like those in the agricultural and food science fields, may accept an Associate's Degree instead. Some will also consider applicants who have certificates in biotechnology.
Professionals who work in advanced scientist positions will often have a Master's or Ph.D in the topic of the field they are covering. People who have worked in the field at length will commonly move to a manager or postsecondary teaching position later in their career.
Which Industries Are Best For A Career Change To Biotechnology?
Changing careers from a different field to biotechnology may seem daunting, but it is definitely possible.
The best careers to work in before switching to biotechnology are any that are already within a scientific field. Being able to prove and show examples of your understanding of working within a scientific lab or research facility will make you a more marketable candidate for biotechnology positions.
Careers with a heavy technology background, like computer system analysts, programmers and developers, might also have a good chance of switching to biotech because they have already mastered an understanding of data collection and analysis.
Working in healthcare in any capacity requires an understanding of biology and the way it relates to our everyday lives. This type of understanding will look good to biotech recruiters because biology is at the heart of all biotech positions. Similarly, careers in math or physics transfer well to biotech positions.
Professionals working in communication roles may also have a potential job within the biotech industry because there is always a need for written reports of study findings and explanations of that analysis. With the way biotech is expanding, communicating findings to the general public is more important than ever, especially considering that all parts of biotechnology have the goal of enhancing a community's lives in one way or another.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics published data that shows biotechnology is a growing field with some of the most competitive wages and compensation in the country. Our society is becoming more and more reliant on biological advancements and there will always be a need in the field for more researchers and experts.
Switching from your career path to something entirely different like biotechnology may seem impossible, but it's not. Individuals with the right set of skills and a relatable background will be able to find a position in the biotech field if they are consistent in searching for it.
No matter what your background is or how old you are, you can learn new skills and take individual classes to learn more about research, analysis and how biotechnology relates to your life or the subject you hope to study. There are countless jobs, many of which people don't know about, within biotechnology that are open or will be open in the near future as the field continues to expand.