Why Get a Biotechnology Degree?
Biotechnology is an exciting field that combines environmental biology and engineering to solve problems and create new products. Biotechnology is used in medical, industrial, agricultural, and environmental applications. Environmental biotechnologists develop and use processes that clean up air, water, and soil pollution. For example, some modify or use microbes and plants that consume pollutants and break them down over time, and some work on creating efficient ways to convert microbes and plants into biofuels or bioplastics.
Environmental biotechnologists have traditionally earned degrees through environmental engineering programs, some of which offer coursework in environmental biotechnology. However, there are an increasing number of standalone bachelor's degrees in biotechnology.
While careers in biotechnology have typically required master's and doctoral degrees, the rapid growth of the field has opened up opportunities for those with bachelor's and associate's degrees. Graduates of associate's and bachelor's degree programs who don't go on to more advanced studies are generally employed as laboratory technicians.
Master's Degrees in Biotechnology
Students will find the most opportunities to specialize in environmental biotechnology at the graduate level. Aspiring students should choose master's programs in biotechnology carefully, as the coursework can vary considerably. Some programs emphasize medical and pharmaceutical applications, while others offer robust coursework in environmental biotechnology. Some are more generalized. Most include a significant amount of lab work and core courses on genomics.
Online Master's in Biotechnology Programs
Biotechnology professionals who have experience in this specialized science and who also understand general business concepts, marketing, and have excellent communication skills are in high demand throughout the world. One of the common denominators the biotechnology industry is currently lacking is experienced and educated leaders to manage corporations as well as research labs. These leadership positions require higher degrees. This is where an online MS in biotechnology can be essential in getting the best of both worlds in a satisfying career. An online master's degree in biotechnology is the best step to take to specialize in this field in addition to gaining invaluable hands on experience. Online programs are becoming increasingly popular because students can earn their degree without interrupting other life commitments.
Who Should Get an Online Master's in Biotechnology?
A master's in biotechnology will open the door to many career opportunities. Professionals who are eager to make a difference in our world and are excited about studying living organisms, technology, engineering, agriculture, gene therapy, and are interested in career advancement should get their master's degree. Biotechnology changes each and every day and so does the way our society is viewing the industry's work. The door to biotechnology professionals is rapidly opening up in industries other than just science. Problem solvers, critical thinkers, and superb communicators who can collaborate with others in a variety of different industries are excellent candidates for an online MS in biotechnology program.
How to Get a Master's Degree in Biotechnology
A master's degree in biotechnology can be earned at a traditional university, through an online program, or a combination of both. Many programs are affordable and self-paced, and it's possible for students to earn their degrees while staying true to their family and career obligations. Online programs are especially convenient for students because most of the material can be studied, reviewed and completed when it fits into their schedules. Some programs require residencies or lab projects so students can gain the practical hands-on experience that is a must in the industry. Those interested in a master's degree in biotechnology can research online programs and simply apply to the ones that meet their needs. Each program is different, so refer to the application for details.
Biotechnology Colleges - Campus Vs. Online Biotechnology Programs
There are a variety of programs to earn a master's degree in biotechnology. Some are on campus, some are online and some are a combination of both. Here are some questions to consider when committing to a program:
- Tuition Fees: Experts recommend comparing the tuition costs between online and on campus programs and not to assume online programs are less expensive than on campus ones. Many times they are even the same amount.
- Faculty Quality: Biotechnology faculty should be highly qualified to teach the material so students are urged to ask who the instructors are for the program they are interested in attending. It's normal to have different online instructors from on campus instructors. For example, online courses are usually taught by adjunct instructors and on campus courses are reserved for professors. Some students prefer adjunct teachers, some prefer professors, but prospective students are encouraged to ask and know who will be teaching course material.
- Student Services: What services are available to online students? Is there tutoring, libraries, curriculum and career counseling available to online students and those on campus? What hours are these services available? Since flexibility is one of the reasons to select an online program, this could be an issue if the support is only available for business hours.
- Program Difficulty: Compare the difficulty of the online vs. campus program. One may assume the online version, due to its flexibility is easier, but this isn't always true. The online program requires self motivation, time management and writing skills some students aren't prepared for so a structured campus setting would be more beneficial for them.
What Are the Best Online Biotechnology Programs?
John Hopkins Biotechnology Online: John Hopkins offers an online Masters of Biotechnology program that challenges students with a rigorous curriculum while preparing them for the biotechnology field. This program can be designed around the students' schedule and includes research, lab time, management, marketing and decision making. The program is flexible which allows students to tailor their schedule to fit into their career path goals.
Harvard Extension Biotechnology Online: Students accepted to this online program will study both online and on campus. A minimum of four courses must be completed on campus, which is part of the degree process. Students will gain biotechnology understanding, theory as well as research in the areas of science, industry practices, data analysis, communications and ethics.
The University of Illinois at Urbana Champaign offers a Professional Science Master's in Plant Biotechnology. Full-time students complete the program in 16 months. Coursework includes Plant Biochemistry; Environmental Plant Physiology; Molecular Genetics; Molecular Biotechnology; Bioinformatics and Systems Biology; Biostatistics; Ecology; and Global Change. Students may choose related science electives from outside the program. Students also learn business basics and what it's like to work in industry through 10 credit hours of required business courses. These include Business Fundamentals; Accounting and Finance; Project and Process Management; Workplace Dynamics; and Law and Regulation. Students work under the guidance of mentors to help with consulting projects for industry. A summer internship and capstone experience are required.
The University of Michigan in Ann Arbor offers a Certificate in Cellular Biotechnology. Administered by the Department of Microbiology and Immunology, this interdisciplinary program pulls faculty from bioengineering, biological chemistry, biology, chemistry, civil and environmental engineering, physiology, and other areas. Students can work with the University's Environmental Biotechnology Group, which conducts research on using microorganisms to treat drinking water and wastewater.
What Kind of Jobs Can I Do With a Master's in Biotechnology Degree?
Some careers include scientists, research, lab manager, consultant, industry researcher, project manager, agriculture expert, and so much more. Science is blending with business more rapidly than ever before so many corporations will be hiring biotech experts for a variety of reasons.
Biotechnology Career Outlook and Average Salary: Based on your location, position and experience level positions for biological technicians, which sometimes require a master's in biotechnology pay from $30,440 to more than $74,600 annually.*
Are There Undergraduate Programs in Environmental Biotechnology?
A growing number of colleges and universities are offering bachelor's programs in biotechnology that include classes in environmental biotechnology. There are now more than 60 associate's programs and 90 bachelor's programs. Coursework generally includes microbiology, molecular and cell biology, genetics, chemistry, microbial ecology, general ecology, calculus, bioinstrumentation, and bioinformatics. Students learn how to conduct laboratory experiments, solve problems in biotechnology in the most efficient way, create new products, and comply with relevant regulations.
Associate's Degrees - School Spotlight
Austin Community College in Austin, Texas offers an Associate of Applied Science degree and an Advanced Technical Certificate in biotechnology. These hands-on programs prepare graduates for careers as laboratory assistants in medicine, research, and industry. Students learn basic lab techniques such as micropipetting and preparing solutions. As they advance, students learn quantitative techniques and cell culture procedures. They also learn about more advanced issues such as bioinformatics, regulatory affairs, and more.
Bachelor's Degrees - School Spotlight
University of Maryland University College offers an online bachelor's degree in biotechnology. Program applicants must already have a background in biotechnology through transferred credit from approved community colleges. The program has been designed with input from employers and industry experts. It emphasizes hands-on experience, combining laboratory skills and coursework with real-world internship experience.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Worcester, MA offers an undergraduate degree in Biology and Biotechnology. Available environmental courses include Environmental Biology, Biodiversity, Plant Diversity, Ecology, Animal Behavior, Plant Physiology and Cell Culture, Fermentation (for bioenergy), Environmental Change: Problems & Approaches, and more. Students complete extensive lab work and a Major Qualifying Project in the senior year. The college's George I. Alden Life Sciences and Bioengineering Educational Center is a laboratory and classroom building dedicated to undergraduate biotechnology and science students. The Institute also has a Life Sciences and Bioengineering Center. These two facilities are designed to provide hands-on research experience for undergraduates.
Graduate Certificates in Biotechnology
A biotechnology graduate certificate can enhance an engineer's or biologist's resume with biotechnology credentials, without the significant investment of a full master's degree.
UMass Lowell in Lowell, Massachusetts offers a Graduate level Environmental Biotechnology Certificate. The interdisciplinary certificate draws upon faculty in the Departments of Biological Sciences, Chemistry, and Civil & Environmental Engineering. Students must choose two of three required courses, which include Environmental Microbiology, Biology of Global Change, and Biological Wastewater Treatment. They also choose six to eight credits of electives dealing with environmental bioremediation, which include Environmental Aquatic Chemistry, Environmental Fate and Transport, and Hazardous Waste Site Remediation, among others.
Doctoral Programs in Environmental Biotechnology
There are only about 10 Ph.D. programs in biotechnology in the United States. Pursuing a Ph.D. program, however, is an excellent way for corporate professionals to advance their careers.
The University of California, Davis Biotechnology Program offers two Ph.D. options. The first is a Designated Emphasis in Biotechnology. Ph.D. students in related programs may add the emphasis to demonstrate their knowledge of biotechnology. There are 30 participating biotechnology graduate programs, including Civil and Environmental Engineering; Horticulture and Agronomy; Plant Biology; Agricultural and Environmental Chemistry; and Soils and Biogeochemistry. Candidates may choose from 250 faculty trainers. The program also offers an Advanced Degree for Corporate Employees (ADP) that allows biotechnology firm employees to earn a Ph.D. in specialized fields of biotechnology, including Plant Biology; Chemical Engineering; and Biochemistry, Molecular, Cellular & Developmental Biology. Students attend classes and meetings on campus, and conduct thesis research at their corporate laboratory.
The University of Tennessee, Knoxville offers related doctorates through its Microbiology, Earth and Planetary Sciences, Ecology & Evolutionary Biology, Civil & Environmental Engineering, and Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering Departments. Ph.D. Students can apply to conduct their research at the University's Center for Environmental Biotechnology. The Center's research areas include environmental toxicology and water quality, as well as and bioenergy and biofuels.
Employment as an Environmental Biotechnologist
Most environmental biotechnologists work for private firms that provide bioremediation services, or for environmental consulting companies hired by manufacturers and extraction companies. Some conduct research for biofuel firms.
The biotechnology space is experiencing explosive growth. According to the Biotechnology Institute, employment has grown by more than 90% over the past 10 years.
The outlook is favorable for environmental biotechnologists too. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics expects demand for biological technicians to grow 7% through 2030.*
Learn more about a career as an environmental biotechnologist.