How to become a biotechnologist

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role

University

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

  • biotechnology
  • bioscience
  • microbiology
  • biochemistry
  • chemistry or chemical engineering

Employers will expect you to have some knowledge of the biotechnology area you want to work in, for example the food and drinks industry.

You'll need a postgraduate qualification and several years' experience for a research job.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English, maths and science
  • 2 or 3 A levels, or equivalent, including biology for a degree
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study

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Apprenticeship

You may be able to start by doing a laboratory scientist higher or degree apprenticeship.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship

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Work

You could 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.

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Professional and industry bodies

You may find it useful to join an organisation like the Science Council for professional recognition, training opportunities and to make industry contacts.

Further information

You can find out more about working in biotechnology from:

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You'll need:

  • knowledge of biology
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to work on your own
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • maths knowledge
  • the ability to work well with others
  • analytical thinking skills
  • knowledge of chemistry including the safe use and disposal of chemicals
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

What you'll do

Day-to-day tasks

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

Working environment

You could work at a research facility, at a university or in a laboratory.

You may need to wear protective clothing.

Career path and progression

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

Current opportunities

Apprenticeships In England

Laboratory Scientist Degree Apprenticeship (BSc Chemistry) - Lucite International UK Ltd

  • Wage: £11,500.00 - £12,000.00 Annually
  • Location: Billingham

Courses In England

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