Biotechnology  Program Description


Insider Info

dotYou'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
Your online guide to biotech

BIO: the Biotechnology Industry Organization
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Just the Facts

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