The Education Path for a Biotech Career
Preparation for a career in biotechnology can begin at an early age. You should definitely begin laying the groundwork by high school, however. Many universities recommend that college-bound students take four years of English, three years of science, and four years of mathematics in high school. Students interested in biotechnology should take four years of science if possible, including biology, chemistry, and physics. Mathematics classes should include algebra, geometry, trigonometry, and introductory calculus. Small high schools may not offer classes such as calculus or physics. Students may be able to take these courses at a local community college instead.
Four years of English are important because people in biotechnology spend a lot of time communicating ideas and results to others. The success of an idea or proposal depends on your ability to express it clearly, accurately, and articulately. Writing for the school newspaper, yearbook, or literary magazine can help improve writing skills. Scientists frequently make presentations and write journal articles based on their research studies. Students can prepare for this kind of professional activity by taking courses in public speaking or participating on a debate team. This will make them more comfortable in front of an audience and help them write clearly and persuasively.
As college admissions become more and more competitive, good grades are ever more important. So is the level of difficulty of the coursework. Students should take honors, advanced placement, or international baccalaureate courses if offered by their school. This is often true even if a student is likely to get a B in an advanced course instead of an A in a regular-level class.
Some schools offer classes in biotechnology as part of the regular curriculum. Others have biotechnology clubs or after-school workshops. These classes and other programs often provide hands-on lab experience. This can be very useful in helping to figuring out if research and development is the right career path for you.
Another way to learn more about biotechnology is through a local university. Many universities have outreach programs for middle and high school students. These may include tours, classroom lab activities, workshops on the college campus, or summer classes. Universities also hold lectures that are open to the public. In these lectures, researchers often talk about the work taking place in their laboratories.
Students should also read articles and watch documentaries and news reports about biotechnology. Scientists report new discoveries every day. The media also provides information about companies, new products, and controversies. Books almost always offer the most in-depth and comprehensive information available. But because of the length of the publishing process, they do not always contain the most current information, even when they are brand new. In a cutting-edge field such as biotechnology, a lot can change in the six months to a year that it takes for a manuscript to be edited, printed, and published. So reading newspaper, magazine, and journal articles is essential for keeping current.
To hone their research, creative, problem-solving, and engineering skills, students may also want to get involved in science fairs and other academic competitions. These often require students to carry out a research project, and then present findings or a finished product. This is excellent practice for the actual research and development you may someday be conducting in a biotechnology job.
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