Working well with others goes a long way toward ensuring success in the field of biotechnology. Patience is also key—you may work for years on a project before achieving measurable results.

Typical Job Functions

Biotechnology (“biotech”) involves manipulating living organisms (or their components) to design or enhance vaccines, medicines, energy efficiency, or food safety. Common applications can be found in drug development, human and animal nutrition, agricultural improvements, and environmental protection.

Biotechnologists study the genetic, chemical, and physical attributes of cells, tissues, and organisms to develop new technologies and products to improve the quality of human life. Success in developing a new biotechnology product requires years of work and interaction among an interdisciplinary team of chemists, biologists, crystallographers, molecular modeling specialists, and other scientists.

Typical on-the-job responsibilities of a biotechnologist include:

  • Creating, conducting, and monitoring experiments using live organisms or biomolecular processes in a laboratory setting
  • Using scientific knowledge to follow different methodologies to achieve results 
  • Performing data analysis on experiments; interpreting findings
  • Recording and disseminating results accurately in reports and via presentations
  • Setting up, maintaining, and operating standard laboratory equipment and computers
  • Working independently and collaboratively with other scientists 
  • Keeping up-to-date with new advances to develop new techniques, products, or practices.

Career Paths

Many major drug companies have biotech divisions. Chemical companies with large agricultural chemical businesses also have substantial biotech labs.

In biotech companies, there is a hierarchy of research assistants, scientists, and senior scientists, with each respectively having a higher academic degree. Having a Ph.D. helps to be assigned to more creative work.

There are various paths someone interested in the field of biotech could pursue, including:

  • Environmental
  • Medical and health
  • Industrial
  • Agricultural biotechnology
  • Biofuels
  • Marine and aquatic biotechnology

At some point in their career, biotechnicians will need to make the decision to remain a research bench scientist, or to pursue a more managerial track.

Getting Started

Because biotechnology requires an understanding of many different scientific disciplines, taking a wide variety of courses in biology, chemistry, molecular biology, and genetics is advisable. Gaining real work experience while in school is also invaluable.

Crucial skills for becoming a successful biotechnician include:

  • Critical thinking
  • Lab skills
  • Teamwork
  • Broad background
  • Written and oral skills

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