To become a biotechnologist, also known as a biological technologist, means combining the fields of biology and technology to come up with scientific solutions in a vast array of industries and sectors, including agriculture and public health. Such a professional assists a biological scientist with activities such as research or collecting data, performing tests or experiments, and drawing graphs and charts in a medical or diagnostic laboratory setting. Thus, to become a biotechnologist requires a significantly high level of training, which can be obtained at an institution of higher learning.
The most common educational path taken to become a biotechnologist is getting an Associate of Science (A.S.) or Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree in biotechnology or laboratory science, which typically takes two years. This program is mainly offered at community colleges, although some technical schools offer it as well. Typical subject areas include cell and molecular biology, immunology, nanotechnology, health science, and biomanufacturing. Some educational institutions might require taking general education courses such as English composition or mathematics, include an internship, train students in using computer systems, or offer specialties such as disease control or pharmaceutical research. The associate’s degree is primarily designed to provide the laboratory skills necessary to become a biotechnologist.
Although it is not necessary to do so to become a biotechnologist, some people get a bachelor’s or master’s degree in biotechnology, both of which can be earned from colleges and universities. The bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to complete, and people interested in the graduate degree need at least an undergraduate degree as one of the requirements for entering a two-year program. The courses offered in these tracks tend to be more specialized in certain subject areas, such as food biotechnology or cancer cell biology. Holding a bachelor’s and/or master’s degree in biotechnology can enhance one’s hiring chances and earning potential due to a higher level of training and expertise.
Some colleges offer certificate programs, which usually take about half the time of associate’s degree programs to complete. The certificate, however, is for people interested in entry-level positions. People in such positions are referred to as biotechnicians, or biological technicians, and some of them work under biotechnologists.
Upon completion of an academic program, graduates can work in a variety of workplaces, which include medical facilities, research laboratories, health or environmental organizations, and government sectors. Some biotechnologists might choose to become biological scientists; this profession requires the acquisition of a Ph.D.