What are transferable skills and why do you need them? What does it mean to be employable today and in the future?...
- Requires a high level of accuracy, a methodical approach to work, and good problem-solving skills
- With experience, option to move into scientific journalism, quality assurance management, or sales or marketing
- You'll usually wear protective clothing like a lab coat and safety glasses
Biotechnologists seek to understand and manipulate the basic building blocks of living things, and they use the techniques of molecular biology to do so. They study the genetic, chemical and physical attributes of cells, tissues and organisms, and identify practical uses for this knowledge.
You will specialise in either environmental, industrial or medical biotechnology.
In environmental biotechnology, your duties may include:
- Developing micro-organisms and plants to clean polluted land or water
- Creating alternative renewable sources of energy like biodiesel
- Producing environmentally friendly raw materials for industry like biodegradable plastics from plant starches
In industrial biotechnology, your duties may include:
- Cloning and producing enzymes for use in manufacturing food and drink
- Creating biological detergents and dyes for the textiles industry
- Improving animal feed
- Developing crops that are more resistant to pests or genetically modifying crops to increase productivity
In medical biotechnology and biotherapeutics, your duties may include:
- Studying human genetics, proteins, antibodies, viruses, plants, fungi and bacteria to research and treat diseases like cancer
- Developing therapies, vaccines and hormones to treat the cause of a disease
- Producing medicines using techniques like cell culture and genetic modification
You could work at a research facility, at a university or in a laboratory. You may need to wear protective clothing. It's not uncommon to work shifts, nights and weekends when conducting experiments that need continuous monitoring.
Being a Biotechnologist would suit someone with a high level of accuracy, a methodical approach to work, and have good problem-solving skills.
You'll usually need a degree in a relevant scientific subject like biochemistry, bioscience, biotechnology, chemistry, chemical engineering, or microbiology. Employers may expect you to have some knowledge of the specific area of biotechnology you want to go into, like the food and drink industry.
For a research post you'll usually need a postgraduate qualification and several years' experience in the field.
You'll usually need 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 7 (A* to B), including English, maths, chemistry and biology, 2 or 3 A levels, including a biological science for a degree.
Alternatively, you may be able to start by doing a laboratory scientist higher or degree apprenticeship. You could also start as a lab technician and work your way up by training on the job, for example, on a part-time degree or a degree apprenticeship.
You may find it useful to join an organisation like the Science Council for professional recognition, training opportunities and to make industry contacts.
With experience, you could move intoa more senior position. Some biotechnologists may also choose to move into scientific journalism, consultancy, quality assurance management, sales or marketing.