As its name suggests, biotechnology is a branch that combines biology and technology. Its main purpose is to utilize living systems and organisms for developing products or processes that are useful for the welfare of human beings. Some examples are the development of new vaccines, medicines, or genetically modified crops.
While considering any field, the questions that most students have are to do with the different career paths that are possible within it, the kind of jobs available, research options ahead, national/international opportunities, the learning curve involved etc.
Biotechnology can be seen as a great career avenue for students who have a flair for innovation and a desire to work for the betterment of society. The basic starting point for any student within this field will be the completion of the bachelor’s degree (BSc or BTech). As biotechnology is a broad field, there are multiple specializations available for students to pursue after this. Some of these are:
• Biotechnology/Medical Biotechnology
• Microbiology/Medical Microbiology
• Biochemistry/Medical Biochemistry
• Genetics/ Medical Genetics
• Nano Biotechnology
• Plant Biotechnology
• Agricultural Biotechnology
• Environment Biotechnology
• Plant Molecular Biology
• Food Technology
Some of the job profiles that a biotechnologist can hold are (this is not an exhaustive list):
• Scientists/ Medical scientists
• Biomedical engineers
• Biochemists and microbiologists
• Medical and clinical laboratory technicians
• Research and development scientists
• Biomanufacturing specialists
Research and development lie at the core of biotechnology and plays an integral role in the advancement of the field. There are many national and international institutions/societies/industries which offer opportunities in the form of awards or scholarships to help students attain their research goals, . Details of the best national and international opportunities can be found in the links below:
National opportunities: https://biotechtimes.org/2017/07/02/biotechnology-internship-training/
STEM Opportunities for High School Students Outside of WHS – Wellesley High School Science and Technology Engineering Department
Someone has rightly said, “With great opportunities, come great challenges.” As with any other field, choosing biotechnology as a career path also throws up many challenges, a few of which are listed below:
• Half-knowledge is dangerous: Many students do not have a complete understanding of what biotechnology is all about. Biotechnology is not only about the aspects of cloning or genetic engineering which a student learns in 12th grade; it is much more than that. So, before choosing biotechnology as a career path, students are advised to do a little more research and and then make an informed decision.
• This field is not for individuals who wants to earn a fast buck! The initial salary packages offered by institutions or laboratories might not be very attractive. But, having said that, if one has a high level of competency and relevant skills, it is possible to earn well as time progresses. Most importantly, one must be really patient and passionate about the science in order to develop a rewarding and stable career.
• The number of companies offering jobs to biotechnology professionals, especially in India, are less compared to those offering opportunities to IT professionals or those in other well-developed fields such as finance. However, with recent advancements, the future looks promising for the field.
• In order to have good career prospects, only obtaining a bachelor’s degree will not be sufficient. Pursing a higher degree (Masters, and PhD if possible) has become a mandatory requirement.
• Though the research environment in India has improved substantially over the years and research and development has been given a lot of support, most students still prefer to obtain their higher education abroad, which adds to the financial burden on them.
How to Know whether it is the Right Fit for You:
Here are some of the peculiar features about biotechnology:
• It can be truly exciting for individuals who have a passion for constant learning and the ability to learn from their failures.
• Patience and perseverance are two important qualities which will be required for a successful career in this field.
• It is interdisciplinary in nature, so those pursuing it should be enthusiastic to constantly adapt and explore.
• It has an exponential growth curve; every month, there are new scientific developments and breakthroughs. Therefore, those working in this field must be up-to date with all the recent advancements within it.
• Biotechnology professionals are primarily known for their hands-on laboratory skills and experience. So, there must be a fine-tuned balance between both theoretical and practical knowledge and students should be motivated to invest in learning new skills from an early stage in their career.
If most of these aspects seem to excite you, or resonate with the sort of personality and temperament you have, then maybe biotechnology is the right fit for you.