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Biotechnologist

Biotechnologists use plants, animals, microbes, biochemistry and genetics to develop new products and improve existing ones.

Salary, a pound sign Salary: £19,000 to £60,000 average per year
Hours, a clock face Hours: 35 to 40 per week

1. Entry requirements

You’ll need a degree in a relevant scientific subject, like:

  • biochemistry
  • bioscience
  • biotechnology
  • chemistry or chemical engineering
  • 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 could start as a technician if you have an HND or foundation degree, and work your way up.

You could also move into biotechnology if you’ve a background in a related field like chemical engineering.

Future Morph has more information about becoming a biotechnologist.

2. Skills required

You’ll need:

  • problem-solving skills
  • a methodical approach to work
  • a high level of accuracy and attention to detail
  • the ability to analyse statistical and technical data
  • IT skills

3. What you'll do

You’ll work in 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
  • 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

4. Salary

Starter: £19,000 to £24,000

Experienced: £30,000 to £50,000

Highly Experienced: up to £60,000

These figures are a guide.

5. Working hours, patterns and environment

You’ll usually work 35 to 40 hours a week, including shifts, nights and weekends.

You’ll mainly work in a laboratory, often in sterile conditions. 

You’ll usually wear protective clothing like a lab coat and safety glasses.

6. Career path and progression

With experience, you could move into scientific journalism, quality assurance management, sales or marketing.

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Last updated: 21 December 2016