Biotechnology is a growing and diverse field that feeds off knowledge from numerous disciplines, including computer science, medicine and psychology. Traditionally, the most useful qualifications for biotechnology jobs were those at the master's and doctoral levels. Recently, however, the rapid growth of the industry has opened new opportunities for people with associate and bachelor's degrees, though advanced degrees are still more valuable.
Ph.D. in an Advanced Science
The most useful qualification to work at the highest levels of the biotechnology field is a Ph.D. in a scientific field of study. The options for study vary widely based on what area of biotech a student wants to work with. One career path might begin with a Ph.D. in pharmacology, which would lead to research in the production of technology-based drugs and medicines. Alternatively, a student might specialize in cell biology or genetics, which could lead to a career conducting genetic research and finding ways that genes can help cure diseases.
Because so much of biotechnology -- but not all -- is geared toward augmenting human health, a medical degree is a valuable qualification. In addition, many medical schools offer specializations or research opportunities in the biotechnology field. Such is the case with Rutgers University's Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, which hosts a center for advanced biotechnology and medicine. There, trained doctors conduct research on cell development and molecular genetics using a biotechnology framework.
An engineering degree, either at the bachelor's, master's or doctoral level, is another valuable course of study for a career in biotechnology. Even with a bachelor's in an engineering-related field like physics or chemistry, opportunities abound. One such example is the bioprocessing of chemicals to produce pesticides and fertilizers for agricultural companies and other farms. This process requires a close understanding of engineering processes to help with the manufacturing of such products. Other mechanical engineering opportunities are readily available, such as those involved with producing items like artificial joints.
Not all biotechnology jobs necessarily involve science. Because of the rapid expansion of biotechnology companies, new job opportunities in financial and operations management have opened. Useful education for these sorts of positions includes a Master of Business Administration or a degree in accounting or finance. Positions at the management level could even include jobs in marketing, which would include creating communications and other materials to bring a new biotechnology product to the market. Combining an advanced degree in a business-related field with an undergraduate degree in a science field is the best combination and would make a student an attractive candidate for management-level positions in biotechnology.
Kevin Wandrei has written extensively on higher education. His work has been published with Kaplan, Textbooks.com, and Shmoop, Inc., among others. He is currently pursuing a Master of Public Administration at Cornell University.