What Is a Biotechnologist and How To Become One

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 5, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Studying how the natural world works has inspired scientific breakthroughs and new technology throughout history. As an exciting field, biotechnology combines research in biology and technology to find life-improving discoveries in areas such as food and beverage, farming and medicine. Understanding more about this career field can guide you in your path toward biotechnology. In this article, we explain what a biotechnologist does and how to become one.

What is a biotechnologist?

A biotechnologist is a scientist who studies biology and develops products and technologies based on their research. They can work with specific organisms, such as marine life, or focus on an industry, such as medicine or agriculture. They can help restore the environment by developing new green technologies.

Biotechnologists work in various positions, such as in research and development, manufacturing or quality assurance. Biotechnology may grow in the future as new specializations develop and researchers continue to make scientific breakthroughs.

Related: 15 Biotechnology Careers To Explore

What does a biotechnologist do?

A biotechnologist performs a variety of tasks based on their level of experience and chosen industry. Many work in a lab and perform research or conduct experiments. They also maintain lab equipment and go into the field to collect data or samples that help them understand how products function in their typical environment. Often, biotechnologists design experiments, then collect and analyze the data from these experiments.

Biotechnologists may work independently or as part of a team to create new technology intended to address problems their industry faces, such as a new type of fertilizer for an agricultural client or a new pain medication for a pharmaceutical company. Many types of companies hire biotechnologists, including environmental protection groups, local or federal governments, research companies and universities. Depending on where they work, some biotechnologists must follow safety protocols while working with hazardous materials or live bacteria and viruses. Other biotechnologists may write or present research papers and work with international teams.

What is the average salary for a biotechnologist?

On average, a biotechnologist can expect a salary of $111,302 per year. A biotechnologist's salary may vary depending on their level of experience, education and industry. Biotechnology positions with government agencies tend to offer higher pay than positions with other companies.

What is the job outlook for a biotechnologist?

The job outlook for biotechnologists is slightly stronger than other jobs. According to the BLS, jobs for biomedical engineers are expected to grow 5% before 2029, which is just above average. As the field of biotechnology branches into more specializations, companies need more biotechnologists to meet demand. Biotechnologists can also specialize in several related fields, such as biology, chemistry or epidemiology, which creates more available positions for future biotechnologists.

Related: How Much Do Epidemiologists Make? Salaries By State Including Job Outlook

What skills do you need to become a biotechnologist?

Skills essential to a biotechnology position can include:

  • Analytical skills

  • Research skills

  • Ability to work both independently and as part of a team

  • Communication

  • Complex and creative problem-solving

  • Technical skills with lab equipment

  • Attention to detail and accuracy

  • Time management

  • Organization

Related: How To Write a Biotechnology Resume (With a Template and Example)

How to become a biotechnologist

Because biotechnologists work in a field that requires years of study, you need to complete several steps before you can become one:

1. Earn a bachelor's degree

A degree in biotechnology or a similar field, such as biology, biochemistry, environmental engineering or engineering, can prepare you for a career in biotechnology. Look for a program that provides many science courses and experience in a laboratory setting, especially if you expect lab work in your future career.

2. Complete an internship

Typically, bachelor's degree programs include an internship opportunity in your field. This allows you to learn more about what to expect in your future career and offers you the chance to meet with professionals in your field. Some people you meet during these internships may help you find a job in the future. You might also meet future colleagues or mentors through an internship program. If your university does not offer an internship through your degree program, consider looking for an internship on your own to gain some experience.

3. Get a master's degree or certification

Many companies hiring biotechnologists require a graduate degree. Having this degree can open more opportunities and improve your chances of finding a biotechnology position. Completing a graduate degree also offers you the chance to specialize in something, such as biomedical engineering, pharmaceutical research or bioinformatics. You may also have another opportunity to take part in an internship, which can improve your professional network and offer more relevant experience.

Biotechnologists rarely need a license in their line of work, but they may choose to complete the Biotechnician Assistant Credentialing Exam, which is recognized by employers throughout the industry. The exam tests skills and knowledge specific to biotechnology, such as research methods, laboratory skills, chemistry, applied mathematics and lab safety.

Read more: When a Professional Degree Will Help You Advance in Your Career

4. Pursue a doctorate

If you prefer a position that involves research or managing other biotechnologists, continue your education and complete a doctorate degree. Universities also require a doctorate from any candidate interested in a career in academics.

Frequently asked questions

Biotechnology is a career that offers many opportunities and a range of specializations. Below, we answer some questions about biotechnologists:

What professional organizations can biotechnologists join?

Biotechnologists have several professional organizations that work to advance the industry, including:

  • American Institute of Biological Sciences

  • American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering

  • Biomedical Engineering Society

  • Biotechnology Innovation Organization

  • Engineering in Medicine and Biological Society

  • Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology

  • Institute of Biological Engineering

These organizations provide opportunities to network with other professionals and subscribe to industry-related news. They can be especially helpful for new biotechnologists looking to start their career.

What is a typical schedule for a biotechnologist?

Biotechnologists who work in a lab usually work a traditional full-time schedule with eight-hour days, unless an active experiment requires schedule adjustments. Biotechnologists who travel to different locations to check equipment or collect data may have a more variable schedule.

Where do biotechnologists work?

Many biotechnologists work in research and development companies or organizations. Others might work in education, pharmaceuticals or medicine, depending on their specialization and experience.

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