2 minute read

The Education Path for a Biotech Career

Undergraduate Degrees

Many community, technical, and junior colleges offer two-year associate's degrees in biotechnology and related fields. These associate of applied science degrees focus on practical laboratory skills that are in high demand within the industry. This means that graduates often find jobs as technicians soon after graduation. Without a bachelor's degree or more, however, opportunities for advancement are limited.

Most universities do not offer four-year undergraduate degrees in biotechnology. Instead, most students interested in biotechnology complete an undergraduate degree in a broader field of life or chemical sciences, or in engineering. The particular major a student chooses depends on what aspect of biotechnology interests him or her most. Potential college majors include:

  • Animal Science
  • Biochemistry
  • Bioengineering
  • Bioinformatics
  • Biology
  • Botany or Plant Biology
  • Cell Biology
  • Chemical Engineering
  • Computational Biology
  • Environmental Science
  • Food Science
  • Forestry
  • Genetics
  • Microbiology
  • Molecular Biology
  • Zoology

Some universities do offer majors in biotechnology, but each focuses on a very specific area of the field. The University of California–Los Angeles (UCLA) offers a plant biotechnology major through its College of Letters and Science. The University of California–San Diego offers a major in bioengineering: biotechnology through its Jacobs School of Engineering. The University of Nevada offers a major in animal biotechnology through its School of Veterinary Medicine. Each of these majors will teach different, specialized skills and prepare students for a different, distinct area of biotechnology.

Some universities, like North Carolina State University, do not offer a major in biotechnology but do offer a minor. Yet universities change the majors they offer to adapt to the needs of industry. Thus, more schools will likely offer biotechnology majors in the near future.

During college, students should continue to read about biotechnology and to attend lectures and workshops. Students should also complete one or more internships or work-study programs. An internship is an opportunity for a student to work in a laboratory with a more experienced researcher. Students can complete internships in a professor's lab on campus or off campus at a biotechnology company, hospital, or government laboratory.

Internships during the school year are usually part-time so that students can continue taking classes. Summer internships are often full-time positions. Internships can be paid or unpaid. Full-time internships usually include a salary. The pay won't be nearly as much as a researcher makes, but it is usually better than what would be earned in fast-food or campus jobs. Internships are sometimes available for high school students, but they are much more common for college students.

Additional topics

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCool Science CareersThe Education Path for a Biotech Career - Before College, Undergraduate Degrees, Graduate Degrees