In this interactive activity produced for Teachers' Domain, learn about the vital role biotechnology professionals serve in health care, and explore the wide range of jobs available in the following career paths: research and development, manufacturing and production, quality control and assurance, and clinical research. Read job descriptions, education and experience requirements, and testimonials from people working in entry-level as well as senior-level positions.
The biotechnology industry has shown steady growth since the late 1980s and is projected to continue growing. Many biotechnology companies begin small—a group of researchers seeking to create a new technology or solve a problem using biotechnology. Others are large multinational corporations that use the tools of biotechnology to advance their research or improve their production processes. Biotechnology products have widespread applications—from human and animal health, to agriculture and environmental cleanup—and are produced using a wide variety of biological processes. However, most biotechnology companies operate in a similar way.
Simply defined, biotechnology is the use of living cells, including their genes and proteins, to solve problems and make products. The range of products is wide and varied, and includes new therapies for fighting cancer, drought-resistant crops, plastic made from corn instead of petroleum, microorganisms that clean up oil spills, and fuel (ethanol) from fermentation. The responsibilities for developing these products are fulfilled by people with different levels of education and experience.
A biotechnology company may combine the work of a scientist researching the structure of a human protein involved in disease; a laboratory technician conducting experiments designed to learn about that protein; a facilities technician repairing equipment; and/or a clinical research associate overseeing a large clinical trial. The knowledge and skills required for a job in biotechnology are highly transferable between industry sectors. Someone employed by a chemical company can conceivably move to a pharmaceutical or a food products company within the biotechnology sector. Jobs can be performed in a laboratory, in a field, or in a manufacturing facility.
Because the biotechnology industry is experiencing such rapid growth, the demand for skilled workers is high. There are often more jobs available than there are skilled workers to fill them. Many companies hire graduates of technical institutes or community colleges, or those who have completed college-level courses in chemistry, biology, mathematics, or engineering. While most biotechnology jobs require the application of scientific and technical know-how, there is considerable opportunity to pursue a career in nonscientific and nontechnical areas. Companies rely on people performing all kinds of jobs to be successful, including people in administrative, business development, financial, and legal and advisory roles.
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