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How to become a Biotechnologist

biotechnologist careers

What does a Biotechnologist do?

Biotechnologists apply biological science to industrial problems and commercial and environmental research programmes. They have knowledge of plant, animal and microbial sciences, biochemistry, genetics, computing and some applied aspects of agriculture, horticulture, environmental science and food science. The role involves developing new products and processes in a number of areas, including:

Medical biotechnology
The study of the genetics of humans, viruses, plants, fungi and bacteria to determine the nature of inherited diseases or cancers and then develop therapies to treat the genetic cause rather than the symptoms. Techniques such as cell culture or genetic modification are used to produce medicines safely, cheaply and in sufficient quantities to treat large numbers of people.

Industrial biotechnology
The production and cloning of enzymes used in the manufacture and preservation of food and drink such as beer, cheese and bread, for use in biological detergents, and in producing dyes for the textile industry. Biotechnologists work in the agricultural industry, improving animal feed and genetically modifying crops to increase productivity.

Environmental biotechnology
Biotechnologists develop microorganisms and plants to clean land or water that is polluted with sewage, industrial waste and agricultural chemicals. They also work to create alternative renewable sources of energy such as biodiesel, and seek to produce environmentally-friendly raw materials for industry such as biodegradable plastics from plant starches.

The work involves using computers and specialised technical equipment, and biotechnologists need a thorough understanding of the manufacturing processes of the particular industry in which they work. Other common duties include preparation of reports, presenting the findings of research projects, and record-keeping and related administration.

What's the working environment like working as a Biotechnologist?

The standard working week is 35-40 hours but many employers operate a shift system that includes nights and weekends, as many of the processes in research and industry require continuous monitoring.

Work is carried out in modern laboratories, often under sterile conditions. Protective clothing is worn. There is extensive use of computers and other complex equipment.

What does it take to become a Biotechnologist?

To be a biotechnologist, you should:

  • be interested in and have an aptitude for science, particularly biology and chemistry
  • have an enquiring mind and the ability to work with abstract concepts
  • be methodical and meticulous in your approach to work
  • be skilled at problem-solving and analysing statistical information
  • have good computer skills and the ability to interpret technical data
  • have well-developed communication skills, both verbal and written
  • be able to work well as part of a team and on your own intiative.

Biotechnologist Career Opportunities

Biotechnologists are employed in the research and development departments of pharmaceutical and fermentation companies, horticulture, food science, commerce, healthcare technology and teaching. Many are involved in molecular biology research and data processing posts in academic, governmental and research institutes. Others work in hospital research, diagnostic laboratories, and in administrative capacities in the civil service and government agencies.

Some biotechnologists move into scientific writing and journalism, or into quality assurance management, sales and marketing.

Opportunities for work are available in the UK, Europe and North America.

Further information

If you would like to know anything about Biotechnologist that does not appear on Hotcourses, further information can be found below.

Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council
Polaris House
North Star Avenue
Tel: 01793 413200

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry
12 Whitehall
Tel: 020 7930 3477

The Royal Academy of Engineering
29 Great Peter Street
Tel: 020 7227 0500

SEMTA (Science Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies Alliance)
14 Upton Road
WD18 0JT
Tel: 0808 100 3682

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