Biotechnology Major: Salary and Career Facts

Find out about the types of jobs you could pursue in biotechnology, an interdisciplinary degree that combines biology and engineering and technology. Learn about the education requirements, job options and salaries to see if this is the right career path for you. Schools offering Biotechnology Management degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Biotechnologist?

Biotechnology is an applied science that uses living organisms to design and develop useful products in different fields, including medicine, agriculture, energy and manufacturing. Biotechnology majors can choose careers from a range of different specialties and areas. Most biotechnologists work in laboratories. Job duties can include planning projects, managing lab teams, researching biological processes, preparing technical reports and presenting research findings. The following chart gives you an overview of this field:

Biological Technician Biochemists and Biophysicists
Degree Required Bachelor's degree Doctoral degree
Education Field of Study Biology Biochemistry and Biophysics
Key Skills Technical lab skills, observational skills, documentation and communication Advanced math, able to work with clients/patients and design solutions
Job Growth (2014-2024)* 5% 8%
Median Salary (2015)* $41,650 $82,150

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Will I Learn If I Major in Biotechnology?

A Bachelor of Science degree in Biotechnology covers subjects such as molecular and cell biology, biochemistry, physics, genetics and mathematics. As a biotechnology major, you will become familiar with the many applications of biotechnology and learn basic laboratory techniques and methodologies for biotechnology research. You will also learn about the ethical questions surrounding biotechnology applications.

Biotechnology is such a large field that you may choose to focus your coursework in one area, such as agricultural biotechnology, environmental biotechnology, biomedical engineering, pharmaceutical biotechnology or forensic biotechnology.

What Kind of Career Can I Have?

Biotechnology uses living organisms to create new technologies or products. According to the University of Maryland Biotechnology Institute, we don't even know what these new products of biotechnology can or will be. As a biotechnology researcher you could work in a laboratory developing new applications, such as vaccines for new diseases, disease-resistant plants or microbes that eat oil spills. If you prefer developing artificial limbs and life-saving medical devices, you could work as a biomedical engineer.

If you are interested in biotechnology but you do not want to work in a laboratory, then a job as a government regulator or as an attorney may be right for you. As a regulatory affairs specialists you would write the regulations governing the development and use of biotechnology applications.

Biotechnology can be a springboard to further education in medicine and engineering. You may decide to go on to graduate school and earn a Ph.D., M.D. or master's degree in subjects such as biotechnology, bioethics or bioengineering. These degrees will open up new career opportunities. For example, a geneticist examines genes to find cures for diseases. You could also go to law school after you complete your bachelor's in biotechnology, and then work with biotechnologists to obtain patents for new biological inventions and to interpret related laws and regulations that effect biotechnological devices.

What Salary Could I Earn?

Salaries for biotechnology vary by career. With a bachelor's degree in biotechnology you will qualify for an entry-level position as a biological technician or as a biotech research assistant. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reported that biological technicians earned a median salary of $41,650 as of May 2015.

Graduates with a biotech bachelor's degree may work as biological technicians and research assistants in university, life science or government labs. You might also work for chemical manufacturers, hospitals and other testing laboratories.

Those who continue their education will likely find opportunities in the many other research fields. According to the BLS, in 2015, the median salary for biochemists and biophysicists was $82,150, with job openings expected to increase by 8% through 2024.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

One of the closest fields to biotechnology is chemistry. Those who go into chemistry may work in laboratories to study and produce chemical products. As in biotechnology, there is a wide range of specializations in chemistry, and many career options depend on a person's level of education. Chemical technicians need only an associates degree, while chemists and materials scientists need a minimum of a bachelor's degree. Biochemists typically have a doctoral or professional degree.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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