Biotechnology is as important as ever, to help combat disease, learn about genetics and conduct agricultural research. If these possibilities excite you, you might want to consider one of the many career options in biotechnology.
What do biotechnologists do?
There are two important fields for biotechnology jobs, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics: medical research and development, and agricultural research and development. On the medical track, there are opportunities for geneticists, clinical researchers and biomedical engineers. On the agricultural side, plant breeders and animal researchers deal with the genetics of plants and animals.
Which colleges offer biotechnology degree programs and certificates?
Biotechnology programs can be found at an array of colleges. Biotechnologists typically need at least a bachelor's degree in the field, and several of the top schools in the country offer these. If you want the on-campus experience, then perhaps check out the University of Houston's bachelor's degree program in biotechnology or the master's or Ph.D. program in biotechnology at Brown University. If an online program suits you better, then perhaps check out the University of Maryland University College for its online master's degree program in biotechnology or the University of California, San Diego, for its online graduate certificate program in biotechnology project management. Community colleges around the country also offer biotechnology programs, which you can then transfer into a bachelor's degree program.
If you're not sure where to start looking, U.S. News & World Report created its own ranking of the best graduate programs in biological sciences, and these schools can be great options for places to begin your research into the field and its opportunities:
- Stanford University
- Harvard University
- Massachusetts Institute of Technology
- University of California, Berkeley
- California Institute of Technology
- Johns Hopkins University
- Princeton University
- Scripps Research Institute
- University of California, San Francisco
- Yale University
- Cornell University
- Washington University in St. Louis
Are there financial aid resources available to help biotechnology students pay for their education?
If you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, you might qualify for federal loans or grants, such as the following:
- Federal Direct Loans
- Perkins Loan
- Federal Work Study
- Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants
In addition, the school you're attending or applying to might also offer scholarships and loans to qualifying students; the school's office of financial aid can help you figure out if you qualify. The University of Nebraska, for example, posts scholarships, fellowships and awards for biotechnology students online. Private websites such as Scholarships.com also offer listings of scholarships and grants that students might qualify for.
What's the career outlook for biotechnology jobs?
According to data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, biotechnology careers in general are expected to have steady, and in some cases above-average, growth through 2022. Biological technicians can expect to see 10 percent job growth nationally, while job growth for agricultural and food scientists across the U.S. is projected to be 9 percent. Some of the biggest biotechnology job growth is expected to be in biomedical engineering, which the BLS expects to grow by 27 percent nationally through 2022.
State data aggregated by Projections Central show a similar trend through 2022, with decent job growth across biotechnology in general and especially strong growth for biomedical engineering.
The states showing the best growth projections for agricultural engineering jobs are:
- Virginia: 34.8%
- Iowa: 28.3%
- Kansas: 22%
- South Carolina: 21.6%
- Texas: 21.4%
For biological technicians, the data show the best job growth through 2020 is expected to be in the following states:
- Utah: 31.2%
- Georgia: 27.8%
- Kentucky: 24.2%
- Alabama: 23.8%
- North Carolina: 22.6%
Biomedical engineering jobs are projected to grow the most in these states:
- Utah: 105.1%
- Virginia: 95.9%
- North Carolina: 90.5%
- Massachusetts: 87.8%
- Louisiana: 82.4%
- West Virginia: 80%
- Arizona: 76.2%
- Iowa: 74.5%
- Rhode Island: 74.3%
- South Carolina: 73.8%
How can I receive additional information about biotechnology programs?
If a career in one of these biotech fields is appealing, the next step is to seek out information on biotechnology programs. Individual schools typically have their own courses and requirements for biotech students, so contact the admissions office of any school you're interested in to find out the particulars of its program.
Agricultural and Food Scientists, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jan. 8, 2014,
Biological Technicians, "Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition," Bureau of Labor Statistics, Jan. 8, 2014,
Long Term Data for Agricultural Engineering, Biological Technicians and Biomedical Engineers, Projections Central,
Best Graduate Schools in Biological Sciences, 2014 Rankings, U.S. News & World Report,