Biotechnology is simply the use of biological processes to create products and materials. It is the study of the structure and integrity—chemistry and physics—of any type of tangible material. It is sometimes called "materials science." Bread is a classic example of biotechnology that dates back thousands of years: the yeast, which is a living organism, plays a role in creating bread. Without the little creatures we call yeast, there would be no bread.
Today, online biotechnology programs tend to focus on nanotechnology and biotechnology. But, in reality, any material can be studied these days within this highly interdisciplinary engineering degree major. But, biotechnology today is primarily used to create medicines, enhance agriculture, and improve waste management, among many other functions. It’s a fascinating field, and by studying this subject you can become part of an industry that is shaping our world.
THE CAREER PATH
After you graduate with a biotechnology degree, you’ll have numerous opportunities available for your career. You can work in one of the many science-related careers that involve biotechnology, including biochemist or a food scientists, or you can work in industry research for one of the many different companies that implement biotechnology. Considering that biotechnology is employed by industries such as the food, energy, drug, agriculture, and clothing industries, it’s easy to image all the potential avenues your career could take.
You’ll also enjoy numerous benefits. Besides the broad range of opportunity, there are many careers in this field that bring outstanding salaries. A biochemist, for example, has a median pay of $91,190 (although a doctorate is required), while a microbiologist can expect median a salary of $69,960.
- Biochemist—These highly trained professionals study the biological and chemical principles of living organisms. Using many different processes, including cell development and growth, biochemists plan and execute complex projects using advanced research methods, and manage laboratory teams to ensure proper scientific work. They are employed by research facilities, as well as universities and professional schools. Roughly 14% are hired by the pharmaceutical industry according to the BLS. Although you need a doctorate or professional degree for this career, you can work in a field that has a median salary of $91,190, with the top 10% earning over $177,000 annually. The field is expected to grow by 11%, so if you are able to complete the extensive doctorate programs, you should enjoy a steady, expanding career.
- Food Scientist—As a food scientists, it’s your job to improve the efficiency and safety of our food system. This can include research on methods to improve sustainability or improve crop yields. It can also include creating new food products, or developing better ways to harvest existing crops. They play an essential role in improving the nation’s food supply, and they are employed by food manufacturing companies, universities, and research organizations. With a solid median pay of $61,910, and earnings over $116,000 for the top 10%, this is a career that brings good pay with only a bachelor’s degree. The expected growth is only 7%, which lines up exactly with the national average, but there will be a total of 46,000 jobs by 2026.
WHO IS THE IDEAL CANDIDATE?
Many people will enjoy a degree in biotechnology, but there are a few traits that will help you excel in the classroom and in your career. Above all, a curious mind is probably the most important aspect for someone who wants to major in biotechnology. General curiosity will help you ask questions, questions that could lead to new answers and new innovations. You should also be observant. The ability to pour over scores of data and reach a clear conclusion will help you maintain a career in this field. Finally, you must be a strong communicator. Communication is essential, as you’ll have to not only report findings, you’ll have to explain, in clear terms, why these findings are important.
WHAT SHOULD I LOOK FOR?
Biotechnology degree online programs vary, and so do the courses offered. However, the core for any bachelor's will always include foundational chemistry and physics. For an online master's in material science, the structure and function of materials, data analysis and advanced chemistry are a few core courses. Online biomedical material degree programs will involve the study and synthesis of new materials that are engineered to be implant-friendly to the human body, such as artificial joints. Many engineers in Silicon Valley are enrolled in online materials science degree programs in an effort to develop better, lighter chip materials for use in the semiconductor industry.
Because of the interdisciplinary nature of this degree, most distance materials science programs offer master's or online graduate certificates. Professionals who pursue online study in materials science and biotechnology often already hold bachelor's or master's degrees in chemistry. Some also hold undergraduate degrees in engineering or engineering technology. Some material science master's degree programs will not require a thesis. Instead, practical work or an internship may be sufficient. These programs typically offer a master's of science degree (MS) as opposed to a master's of science in engineering degree (MSE), which is usually required for Ph.D. studies.
Ready to dive headfirst into biotechnology classes? Before you do, slow down and take a thorough look at all available courses to ensure they are right for you. Start by reviewing the specific classes that are being taught in the program. There are different courses from various schools, so you need to verify that the program will help achieve your future goals. While you’re reviewing the program, see if the degree is taught 100% online or if there will be in-person requirements. The following programs are available at least 80% online.
The exciting field of biotechnology is waiting for bright minds like yours! Click on a program below to get the information you need to choose the right program so you can enter this important and interesting field.