Biotechnology applies scientific and engineering principles to living organisms in order to produce products and services of value to society. It is used in processes ranging from cheese production, brewing, and waste water management, through to drug design and gene therapy. The program examines microorganisms, plants and animals in the context of the discovery, understanding, improvement and development of viable products or activities. The discipline combines elements from many areas such as molecular genetics, microbiology, immunology, physics, chemistry, engineering and mathematics.
Courses in the first three years establish a foundation of basic knowledge for the study of biotechnology, and also offer flexibility through electives. Students take many of the core technical skill courses offered in the Bachelor of Science, but also complete a number of courses with a commercial focus. The fourth year can be taken at honours or pass level. Each student completes a substantial research project addressing the industrial, regulatory and management issues surrounding biotechnology.
What Courses Will I Take in a Biotechnology Bachelor’s Degree Program?
If natural sciences are your strong suit, you’ll thrive in a curriculum that is intensely focused on biology and chemistry, with a touch of physics. Along with general education requirements in liberal arts, math and social sciences, you will take degree-related courses in the fundamentals of:
Biotechnology programs tend to emphasize hands-on experience, including huge amounts of laboratory time, research, internships and cooperative learning experiences in local biotechnology industries. That’s why you won’t find biotechnology bachelor’s degree programs online. You may even be able to work in a professor’s own laboratory, helping with research that will be published in a scientific journal.
Can I Specialize within the Degree Program?
In most programs, you can use elective courses to concentrate on a particular area of biotechnology. Depending on your long-term goals, concentrations can be oriented toward life sciences or business. Possibilities include:
Bioscience policy and management
Regulatory affairs and practices
What Can I Do with My Degree?
Many biotechnology jobs require advanced degrees, especially careers in genetics, independent research and postsecondary teaching. Bachelor’s degree holders may become research associates, performing laboratory work that’s typically designed and directed by graduate degree holders. Because of this, many graduates opt to continue their studies. If you’re looking to enter the workforce directly, a bachelor’s degree still qualifies you for a wide range of entry-level positions. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), you will most likely find opportunities in applied research, product development, management or inspection. Other less traditional options are biotechnology sales and marketing or technical writing.
What Kinds of Graduate Programs Can I Pursue?
A Master of Science (M.S.) or Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree in biotechnology would significantly expand your career opportunities. Master’s degree programs emphasize lab work, research and field experience. They offer concentrations such as stem cell research, virology, immunology or biotechnology management. Some schools have combined B.S. and M.S. programs which allow you to earn both degrees in five years. A Ph.D. is required for most independent biotechnology research and university faculty positions. These programs tend to be research intensive.
Remember, too, that you are not limited to biotechnology graduate programs! A bachelor’s degree in biotechnology can form a solid foundation for medical school; dental school; or advanced degrees in biochemistry, molecular biology and other life sciences.
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