Experts from Grand View Research, Inc. project reported that the biotechnology industry will grow into a $2.4 trillion market by 2028. Some of the exciting trends in this growing industry are personalized medicine, genome editing, and synthetic biology. Students who are considering biotechnology careers will surely enjoy taking part in these world-changing technologies, not to mention the financial rewards that will come with it.
This document will help guide you in your career exploration. It will discuss all the information you need to know before pursuing a career in biotechnology, which you may also find helpful if you are pursuing other STEM careers. Among the topics covered are its benefits, career outlook, skill requirements, career progression, and career options.
Experts say that there is a need for interdisciplinarity in higher education to meet the demands of today’s job market. Luckily for aspiring biotechnologists, the field itself is interdisciplinary. Biotechnology represents the coming together of two disparate subject areas: biology and technology. It combines theories studied closely in natural sciences and engineering degrees and applies these to real-world concerns. This means that students will stand on the shoulder of not just one set of giants, but two!
Biotechnology allows for the improvement of our food sources. One of the oldest known forms of biotechnology, fermentation, has been around since the start of civilizations. Today, with genetically modified organisms and genetic engineering, we can make food safer, tastier, more nutritious, and more accessible to people, all thanks to biotechnology.
College in America is so expensive and the average time it takes to repay student loans will make you rethink if college is even worth it. The good news is there are scholarships and fellowships for every education level in biotechnology. Not all degree programs have the same benefit. Students who have an interest in biotechnology should seriously consider taking advantage of this and making a career out of it.
As illustrated in the chart below, biotechnology contributes to many sectors; the top among them in the U.S, therapeutics, diagnostics, and analytical services, and other services and suppliers. Globally, health-related applications account for the highest percentage (48.64%) of the biotechnology market in 2020 (Grand View Research, 2021).
Source: USA Life Sciences Database
Biotechnology is currently among the top 50 highest-paying college majors. In May 2020, an average biological technologist earned around $46,340 per year while those that made it to the highest top 10% earned $74,600 and above (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021). Meanwhile, biological scientists earned as much as $137,030 annually (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021).
Navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing, the top-paying industry for this position, gives biological technologists an annual mean wage of $58,440 (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021). In Connecticut, the biotechnology salary is $ 32.86 per hour or $68,360 per year (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021).
Between the years 2019 and 2029, experts from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) project a 5% growth in the employment of biological technologists. This means there will be 4,300 more job openings for them. Note, however, that employment growth in the entire field of biotechnology will be much bigger. This year, 283,645 people are already working in biotechnology in the United States (IBIS World, 2021).
|Environmental Science and Protection Technicians||$46,850||8%|
|Occupational Health and Safety Technicians||$72,530||4%|
|Clinical Laboratory Technologists||$54,180||7%|
|Zoologists and Wildlife Biologists||$66,350||4%|
|Agricultural and Food Scientists||$68,830||6%|
|Biochemist and Biophysicists||$94,270||4%
|Natural Sciences Managers||$137,940||5%|
The U.S. Department of Labor came up with a Bioscience Competency Model, which illustrates the skills necessary for biotechnologists and similar occupations. The skills listed below are derived from the model itself.
The following are listed under Industry-Wide Technical Competencies in the Bioscience Competency Model:
The following are selected from personal, academic, and work competencies included in the Bioscience Competency Model:
In this section, some job opportunities that you can include in your biotechnology careers list will be discussed. Depending on career goals and priorities, one may opt to take either an associate or bachelor’s degree to start their biotechnology careers. Associate degree graduates can become laboratory technicians, and work their way up the career ladder by eventually earning more degrees, certifications, or experience. A bachelor’s degree holder, on the other hand, may land an entry position related to their undergraduate major. They may specialize in a specific area by getting an advanced degree and earn a leadership position in health organizations.
Education in biotechnology is now easier to attain as there are several online degrees that students can take in the safety and comfort of their homes. The start of a career in biotechnology is now literally at everyone’s fingertips.
Environmental science and protection technicians conduct laboratory work and fieldwork. Their tasks include ensuring environmental safety, preventing pollution, and conducting laboratory analyses. Depending on role specifications, they may need to undergo training for handling health and waste hazards.
Median Annual Salary: $46,850
Chemical technicians work under chemists and chemical engineers, and with more experience or advanced degrees, they may advance to these positions. They are expected to know how to work with technology and handle laboratory equipment. Most employers look for internship experience among candidates for this position.
Median Annual Salary: $49,820
Occupational health and safety technicians are responsible for maintaining safety standards in the workplace. They also educate and monitor coworkers to ensure that they follow company and government regulations.
One in five health and safety technicians work in the manufacturing sector (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021). With more experience or a more advanced degree, they may become health and safety specialists.
Median Annual Pay: $72,530
Clinical laboratory technologists collect and analyze body fluid samples, typically to detect diseases. BLS enumerates the following types of clinical laboratory technologists: (1) Blood bank technologists, (2) Clinical chemistry technologists, (3) Cytotechnologists, (4)Immunology technologists, (5) Microbiology technologists, and (6) Molecular biology technologists.
Median Annual Salary: $54,180
Zoologists and wildlife biologists study all aspects of animal life, including their food, ecosystem, and behavior. As they progress in their careers, they are expected to specialize in a species. For instance, they may become ornithologists, ichthyologists, or entomologists.
A bachelor’s degree is only a starting point for this position. To be able to gain more independence in research, zoologists and wildlife biologists need more advanced degrees.
Median Annual Salary: $66,350
Microbiologists are the unsung heroes of the pandemic. However, their roles today are emerging still. They are becoming communicators, science ambassadors, and advocates in the presence of COVID-19.
Rob Knight, in TED Talks, once spoke about how our microbes make us who we are. Microbiologists, in that sense, have a very crucial role in our society, for they are the ones who are studying and growing the body of knowledge on microorganisms. They are serving both scientific and philosophical worlds.
Median Annual Salary: $84,400
Entry-level positions such as technicians usually require at least an associate degree. Certainly, certificate programs can help with career advancement in biotechnology. However, most of them require candidates to have at least a bachelor’s degree and some years of experience.
As shown in the chart below, all biological scientists in the U.S. are degree holders. More than half of them also pursued continuing higher education.
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021
An advanced degree can help you achieve your long-term career goals in biotechnology. It is ideal for those who want to pursue a leadership position or obtain more independence in research. Below are some of the most common job positions that someone with an advanced degree can land within healthcare organizations, pharmaceuticals, government offices, and other institutions.
Epidemiologists study and find solutions to issues in different public health areas. The majority of them (36%) are employed by state governments. They typically need to acquire at least a master’s degree to be able to practice their profession.
Median Annual Salary: $74,560
Biomedical engineers design, build, and test tools for enhancing human healthcare. For instance, they may work on creating medical devices, electronic monitoring systems, and artificial human body parts. Many of today’s healthcare technologies are products of the ingenuity of biomedical engineers.
Median Annual Salary: $92,620
According to BLS, there are four types of agricultural and food scientists. First, there are animal scientists who specialize in farm animals and food production. Second, there are food scientists who are focused on the nutritional content of food. Third, there are plant scientists who are experts in growing and enhancing crops. And lastly, there are soil scientists who study soil for improving crop production and land use.
Median Annual Salary: $68,830
Medical scientists conduct research and experiments to treat or cure human diseases. Thirty-five percent of them are employed in the industry of research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021). They need a doctorate to be able to practice their profession and become a team leader.
Median Annual Salary: $91,510
Biochemists and biophysicists study biological processes and work on contributing to the body of knowledge in their respective fields. They also conduct applied research and perform experiments aimed at improving human lives. By 2029, 1,400 professionals with a doctorate will be needed to perform this job in America (U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2021).
Median Annual Salary: $94,270
It takes a doctorate and several years of experience to land a managerial position in natural sciences. Natural sciences managers lead a team of scientists in conducting experiments. They then communicate their findings to other managers and top executives.
Medial Annual Salary: $137,940
While there is no licensure examination for biotechnologists, they can still showcase their aptitude in their specializations with professional certifications. These can demonstrate one’s dedication to their profession and are good additions to one’s list of credentials.
Certifications for biotechnologists need not be limited to their field of expertise. For instance, if one is wanting to pursue a leadership position, there are leadership certifications that will showcase that specific skill.
In the field of Biotechnology itself, most certifications are offered by universities and even some of the oldest colleges in the U.S. They come in the form of short courses that students need to pass. Some of the institutions that offer certifications in biotechnology are Agriculture Education Services & Technology Inc., MIT Professional Education, and The University of Florida.
There are many other career options for holders of biotechnology degrees. They may find themselves working in sales, writing, education, and other fields, where they can still use their medical and scientific knowledge and skills. Listed below are some of the job positions that may interest them.
Animal care is one alternative career path in biotechnology. Those who earned an associate degree accredited by the American Association of Veterinary State Board are eligible for the Veterinary Technician National Examination. After passing which, they may practice veterinary technology.
Veterinary technologists and technicians assist veterinarians and scientists during medical examinations and laboratory tests. A biotechnology degree will develop among students the necessary skills for this job.
Median Annual Salary: $41,970
Together with editors, medical writers develop materials containing medical and scientific information. They must have a good understanding of these topics to be able to effectively communicate them to a broad range of audiences. Their works may be published in scientific journals, technical reports, and books, to name a few.
Median Annual Salary: $102,603
Postsecondary teaching is a good option for biotechnology professionals with advanced degrees. The main task of this job is to hone students to become experts in the field of biotechnology or other science-related subjects. In the process, teachers will have to prepare and deliver instructional materials and design and implement assessments.
In 2019, there are 64,700 employed postsecondary teachers in biological sciences. By 2029, 6,000 more job openings will be available to teachers of this subject matter.
Median Annual Salary: $80,790
Despite the coronavirus pandemic, there is an overall optimistic tone that reverberates in the field of biotechnology. Philip Reilly, for instance, in his paper titled “The Impact of COVID-19 Pandemic on the Biotech Industry” published in Human Gene Therapy, concluded with the following statement: “In 2021, the biotech sector will have a valuation at or above the valuation it had in late 2019. Preclinical work will be robust. Clinical trials will be near the volume of a year earlier. The regulatory review of clinical trials will be more efficient. New biotech companies will raise needed capital, and the number of new IPOs will not be much different than in 2019. There will be an uptick in M&A activity as large pharmaceutical companies acquire smaller companies… Most important, the contributions of talented scientists both inside academe and in the industry will continue to initiate discovery programs, many of which will lead to new drugs in our endless battle against disease.”
As we continue to fight COVID-19, it is becoming more and more apparent how much we need medical laboratory professionals. A degree in biotechnology is just one path among many toward this profession. If you are interested in exploring other paths, an understanding of what STEM is and what fields it has will be very helpful.