Evidence of biotechnology is everywhere. You can find it in the vitamins you take each morning, the flu and COVID-19 vaccines you get each year (wishful thinking), and in the production of most foods you can find in the grocery store. Because biotechnology is used in many fields and because the job market for it is projected to grow, it is a strong subject to major in.
Biotechnology combines molecular life sciences and engineering to develop products in a variety of fields, including agriculture, health care, and the environment. Because biotechnology is rooted in technological development, major programs often require both lecture and lab courses.
Students majoring in biotechnology will gain experience using several kinds of technology. Some examples are genetic engineering (the modification of genes in an organism to produce more desirable traits), bioprocessing (the use of living cells to create a product), and biocatalysis (the use of enzymes to speed up chemical reactions in organic material).
Typical courses in this major include general biology, cell biology, organic chemistry, biochemistry, bioinformatics, tissue culture methods, virology, and immunology. Because biotechnology is used in a wide variety of biology focuses, students will get to specialize in aspects of biology that interest them. Concentrations offered may be in bioinformatics, genomics, pharmacogenomics, computational chemistry, and molecular modelling. In addition, some programs require research projects, either individual or with a professor.
Students gain many skills as a biotechnology major. In addition to a nuanced understanding of biological sciences, students become adept with technological processes, develop strong critical thinking capabilities, gain skills in quantitative analysis, and learn how to apply theory to practical lab work. These abilities prepare students for a variety of jobs in different fields.
Biotechnology majors can work for many different organizations because biotechnology is applicable to the agriculture industry, the health care industry, and also to environmental industries. Biotechnology in agriculture is used to develop methods to improve food growth or durability (genetic modification, plant growth hormones, and food additives). In the health care industry, biotechnology is used to create and improve vaccines, develop medicines, and produce vitamins. Students can also improve the environment by creating methods to detoxify chemicals.
Biochemical development engineers can work in any of these fields. Students who enjoy using their knowledge to create and produce new products might enjoy this profession.
Students may also work for the government as an environmental health and safety specialist. These specialists test to ensure that corporations meet environmental and safety regulations. This job can sometimes be dangerous; it often requires good communication skills, attention to detail, and physical stamina. If majors enjoy overseeing regulations but are uncomfortable with the danger aspect of an environmental health and safety specialist’s work, they may enjoy work as a quality control analyst. Quality control analysts test a company’s materials and finished products to make sure they are made to standard.
Students who enjoy solving mysteries may be interested in becoming a forensic scientist. Forensic scientists collect and analyze chemical and biological evidence from crime scenes.
Career Paths for Biotechnology Majors
- Animal Technician
- Associate Scientist
- Bioinformatics Specialist
- Biotechnology Technician
- Calibration Technician
- Engineering Technician
- Forensic Examiner
- Greenhouse Technician
- Health and Safety Specialist
- Lab Technician
- Medical Technologist
- Quality Assurance Technician
- Quality Control Technician
- Research Associate
- Seed Production Technician
- Technical Sales Representative
- Veterinary Assistant