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Program Description

Just the Facts

Biotechnology. A program that focuses on the application of the biological sciences, biochemistry, and genetics to the preparation of new and enhanced agricultural, environmental, clinical, and industrial products, including the commercial exploitation of microbes, plants, and animals. Includes instruction in bioinformatics, gene identification, phylogenetics and comparative genomics, bioinorganic chemistry, immunoassaying, DNA sequencing, xenotransplantation, genetic engineering, industrial microbiology, drug and biologic development, enzyme-based production processes, patent law, biotechnology management and marketing, applicable regulations, and biotechnology ethics.

This program is available in these options:

  • Certificate / Diploma
  • Associate degree
  • Bachelor's degree
  • Graduate Certificate
  • Master's degree
  • Doctoral degree

High School Courses

See the high school courses recommended for programs in this career cluster:

See the high school courses recommended for programs in this pathway:

Additional Information

You'll spend several hours peering at wriggly objects through a microscope. And it may take a while for your nose to get used to all the chemical smells in the lab. But as a biotechnology major, you'll learn a lot about science and the awesome power humans have over nature.

Biotechnology involves tinkering with living things in order to produce needed or beneficial products or results. These could be better crops or more powerful drugs or cures for diseases. Most graduates work in labs.

Some universities offer bachelor's degrees in biotechnology. They take between three and five years.

However, in several cases, students major in a related field, like biology. They then choose courses to prepare them for biotechnology careers. That's because biotechnology is more of a real-life career field than an academic area of specialization.

There are graduate programs for those who want to deepen their knowledge, get involved in high-level research or teach.

"The typical student comes in from high school with courses in biology, chemistry, mathematics and physics," says Bert Holland. He is the director of a biotechnology program. "It's a regular science admission profile. Students actually don't take any specific biotechnology courses until year two."

Dorothy Sweeney is the associate director of Penn State University's biotechnology institute. She says her school looks for high standardized test scores and a proven track record of interest in life sciences.

The most important courses and extracurricular clubs to focus on would revolve around math and science. Computer literacy is definitely key to this field as well.

In addition, Sweeney says science reporting or writing in high school, membership in science honor societies or professional organizations and volunteerism are good.

Some of the courses you may take in an undergraduate biotechnology degree program could include introductory biology, cell biology, general botany, organic chemistry and calculus.

Other common courses are environmental education, pharmacology, virology and microbiology. Programs may include an internship.

Students don't need to have their own lab equipment or scientific materials. These are generally provided in labs. Public computers are also available. But it is always useful to own one.


Occupational Outlook Handbook
Find more information related to the Biotechnology field of study.

Biomedicine and Biotechnology at About.com
Your online guide to biotech

BIO: the Biotechnology Industry Organization
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