How to become a Biotechnologist

Biotechnologists study plants, animals and microorganisms. They use this knowledge to develop uses for biological processes, which include creating products for pharmaceutical, agricultural, diagnostic and environmental use, and advancing industrial processes. Their work may incorporate the use of small molecule technologies, nanotechnology, bioinformatics and synthetic biology.

Personal requirements of a Biotechnologist

  • Enthusiasm and aptitude for science and research
  • Able to think logically and analytically
  • Able to carry out detailed and accurate work
  • Good communication skills
  • Able to solve problems and think creatively
  • Able to work independently or as part of a team
  • Able to grasp the ethics of scientific research involving humans

Education & Training for a Biotechnologist

To become a biotechnologist you usually have to complete a degree in biotechnology or a degree in science with a major in one of the life sciences. You can also become a biotechnologist by completing a degree in chemical engineering with a major in any type of biological engineering. To get into these courses you usually need to gain your Senior Secondary Certificate of Education. Prerequisite subjects, or assumed knowledge, in one or more of English, mathematics, chemistry, biology, earth and environmental science, and physics are normally required. Most universities in Australia offer degrees in these areas. Universities have different prerequisites and some have flexible entry requirements or offer external study. Contact the institutions you are interested in for more information. For full details, refer to the entries on the website at www.goodcareersguide.com.au or university handbooks.

Duties & Tasks of a Biotechnologist

Biotechnologists may perform the following tasks:

  • study the genetic, chemical, physical and structural composition of cells, tissues and organisms
  • identify ways in which organisms and biological processes can be used to create new medicines, vaccines, foods, fuels and pharmaceutical products
  • develop diagnostic tools to rapidly detect diseases
  • use bacteria, enzymes and other organisms for a range of industrial uses, including agricultural production, food production and waste removal
  • crossbreed animals and plants to encourage beneficial characteristics such as disease resistance, improved nutrition and accelerated environmental adaptation
  • conduct research and experiments in the fields of genetic modification and biomolecular engineering, which involves altering the genetic make-up of plants and animals
  • conduct human stem cell research with the aim of treating or preventing illnesses
  • use biological engineering processes to create biological products for commercial use, such as biomaterials, chemicals or fuels.

Employment Opportunities for a Biotechnologist

Biotechnologists are employed in federal, state, territory and local government organisations, including research organisations. They are also employed in private industry, hospitals, educational institutions, primary production and fisheries. Entry to some jobs is highly competitive. With appropriate qualifications and experience, biotechnologists may progress to running their own laboratory or move into a career in government relations, regulation, quality assurance or allied business services such as clinical trial development. Senior positions in the industry often require an honours, masters or doctoral degree, demonstrating a high level of competence in the laboratory.

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