Biotech Career Descriptions

Are you excited about the opportunities STEM professions have to offer and want to learn more?  Explore our comprehensive list of career possibilities in the biotechnology industry:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Agricultural Science

Agricultural science includes areas of study such as entomology, the study of insects, the most abundant and varied group of animals in the world; botany, the study of the molecular structure, biology, genetics, physiology, ecology, evolution, morphology and systematics of plants; horticulture, the science of cultivating plants; floriculture, the cultivation and management of ornamental plants; plant pathology, the study of plant diseases; and plant and soil sciences, the study of how plants grow primarily using soil as the growing medium. All of these major areas of study have applications to the food and agricultural industries. Biotechnology techniques are increasingly being applied to food, agriculture and ornamental plants, and knowledge and expertise in these areas of study are very applicable to those market sectors of the biotechnology industry.                                                                                                  

Career Opportunities:

Students who major in entomology frequently find employment in technical areas associated with agriculture and food production, distribution and storage of these products, and agricultural and medical pest control. In industry this means careers in chemical food processing and pest control companies. Entomologists also work in universities and for federal and state agencies. Botanists frequently find employment in agriculture, health, human services, environmental protection, marine biology, pharmacology, biotechnology and genetic engineering, and horticulture and landscape architecture. The areas of horticulture and floriculture tend to be offered in vocational technical schools and in two-year associate degree programs. These majors can lead to work in nursery and landscape management, greenhouse production, and horticulture and floriculture supply firms. Also, this background can be applicable to biotechnology firms concentrating in plant research. Students may choose to get additional education, which can lead to opportunities in research, plant breeding and seed production. Students studying plant pathology and plant and soil science can find employment in seed production, nurseries, greenhouses, fruit and vegetable crop productions and biotechnology firms where the management of plant disease and soil as a natural resource is of primary concern. There are also employment opportunities in universities and government agencies.

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Animal Science

Animal science applies knowledge from the physical and social sciences to the many aspects of animal life, their origins, environmental requirements, development, behavior, diversity and maintenance. Students study such courses as biology, anatomy, physiology, genetics, parasitology, mammalogy and more. Those who choose to go on to graduate education may enter the veterinary, medical or paramedical fields. There are also numerous occupational opportunities for animal science and research paraprofessional personnel in animal care and research facilities.

Career Opportunities:

Students who study animal science frequently go on to veterinary school. However, numerous other opportunities are available. Many employers have three levels of laboratory animal technicians: entry-level, experienced and qualified technicians, and senior research technicians. Career opportunities also exist in marketing, sales, and the manufacture of animal products, equipment and supplies. Employers can include the chemical, pharmaceutical, biotechnology, medical research, food and cosmetics industries, educational institutions, research laboratories and hospitals, and government and military institutions.

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Biochemistry

Biochemistry is the study of the chemical composition of living systems. Some of the most dramatic discoveries of the last three decades have brought to light the atomic structure of proteins, enzymes, and genes. The nature of genetic code is the way in which genetic information determines the structure of proteins and how genes can be turned on and off in response to the demands of the environment. Biochemistry, a rapidly evolving field, also serves as the major supporting science for microbiology, physiology, nutrition, food science and the health sciences. It is also playing an increasingly important role in many applied areas of economic importance such as environmental science, marine science, entomology, animal science, forestry, chemical engineering and agriculture.

Career Opportunities:

Students with majors in biochemistry can find employment in a variety of industries, including chemical and drug companies, the food industry, clinical laboratories, scientific instrumentation suppliers, biotechnology firms, universities and government agencies. Many students choose to go on for graduate degrees that can then be applied in the above employment areas or medicine and dentistry.

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Bioengineering

Bioengineering combines training in natural sciences, mathematics, and systems physiology with the study of engineering. Programs emphasize electronics, signals, systems and controls, fluid and solid mechanics and computer science. They also explore quantitative measurement, mathematical modeling, and analysis of biological systems and processes. Students acquire the analytical and computational tools needed to work in the physical, biological, and engineering sciences. Students of bioengineering utilize problem solving, hypothesis formation and testing, experimental designs, and computational approaches to data analysis and model interpretation, and are well prepared for careers in biotechnology.

Career Opportunities:

Many career paths are available to bioengineering students in government, industry, research and academia. Students with bioengineering degrees have excellent opportunities to work in the fields of environmental planning, medical device and biomedical engineering, management and technology, chemical engineering for biotechnology, safety management, manufacturing, lab management and technology, computer validation, process engineering and facilities technology. Private employers range in size from worldwide leaders in the pharmaceutical industry to biotech start-up firms with three or four employees.

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Bioethics

Although there are no degree programs expressly in bioethics, many schools offer bioethics courses that assess or develop public health policies. Bioethics courses examine the role policy of policy makers in the regulation of bioethical issues, the types of guidelines that should be developed to monitor the use of reproductive and genetic technologies, the decision-making process surrounding death and dying, and the balancing of ethical principles of autonomy, beneficence and justice. Case studies include issues surrounding abortion, selective fetal termination, assisted reproductive technologies, genetic testing, screening and therapy, fetal-maternal conflicts, human genome projects, patient rights, human death, brain death, personal death, persistent vegetative coma, termination of life support, euthanasia, assisted suicide, ethics of human research subjects and eugenics. The goal of these courses is to solidify bioethical principles that can inform general public policy based on a knowledge of ethics, law, medicine, public health policy and human rights. The study of bioethics also explores standards for creating and adhering to standard operating procedures (SOPs) and current Good Clinical Practices/current Good Medical Practices (cGCP/cGMPs).

Career Opportunities:

Bioethics is certain to play a critical role as the field of biotechnology advances. Bioethicists with a broad academic foundation will find job opportunities in industry, academia and policy formulation as consultants, board members, scientific research advisors and thought leaders. Some job positions incorporate principles of bioethics directly, such as a human subjects protection scientist. Other positions involve policy analysis, SOP and cGCP/cGMP development and regulatory guidance.

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Bioinformatics

Bioinformatics focuses on the molecular biology and physics of the cell, with a particular emphasis on the use of advanced mathematics and computation. More simply, bioinformatics integrates biology with information sciences and engineering. Academic programs in bioinformatics strive to arm scientists with a deep working knowledge of the biological sciences and computational methods through an interdisciplinary training that integrates computational methodologies into biological education. Many programs in bioinformatics involve departments of engineering, arts and sciences, schools of dentistry and medicine and schools of law into the coursework and degree program.

Career Opportunities:

Because so much of the biotechnology industry is dependent upon computers, careers in bioinformatics are plentiful and varied. Employment exists in government, industry, research and academia. Fields within bioinformatics include data mining/development, scientific database administration, systems engineering, research technology, product management, applications development, and bioinformatics technology. Many of these positions seek individuals who can devise innovative solutions for the analysis and management of data and databases. Many positions also require some software design and development.

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Biology

Biology is the study of the structure and internal functions of organisms, their metamorphosis over time, their means of reproduction and their responses to changes in their environments. Biology investigates the features of living matter in all scales of size, from the atomic structure of cells to worldwide ecological systems. Fundamental areas of study in biology are molecular biology, immunology, biochemistry, genetics and cell biology. But biology possesses many branches, embracing fields such as anatomy, botany, entomology, zoology, toxicology and virology that concentrate on specific types of organisms. Courses usually include extensive laboratory sections in addition to lectures. Because biology is an interdisciplinary field, it demands a strong background in mathematics, physics and chemistry. Biological concepts, in turn, are essential to other fields such as anthropology, environmental sciences, oceanography, psychology and engineering, which call on a strong background in the life sciences.

Career Opportunities:

Biology provides an excellent opportunity for preparation in a wide variety of careers or professions in the life sciences, including medical, dental, veterinary and other health related professions. There are many other career areas requiring training in the life sciences. They include biotechnology, zoology, botany, microbiology, physiology, biology or biochemistry. Graduates of life sciences programs can find positions with chemical and drug companies, the food industry, clinical laboratories, scientific equipment suppliers, universities, government and medical research laboratories.

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Biomanufacturing

Biomanufacturing, also known as bioprocessing, involves the large-scale production of proteins, which are used to treat or cure human diseases. The challenge of producing purified proteins in large scale requires that every worker have the technical expertise to carefully complete established procedures regulated by the federal government. A single batch of product can cost in excess of one million dollars. Why is the product so expensive? Before a new medicine can be produced for human consumption, it must be rigorously tested. Each potential drug must pass a series of safety and efficacy trials with strict adherence to FDA guidelines. The approval process typically takes from seven to fifteen years and costs from $200 million to over $500 million dollars. Biomanufacturing personnel must be highly skilled, reliable and attentive workers with a strong level of integrity. Coursework involves acquiring skills in standard operating procedures (SOPs) and process development. Competency-based learning includes practical application of principles and techniques such as preparation of solutions, data analysis, sterile technique, protein purification, fermentation and cell culture.

Career Opportunities:

Many Massachusetts companies are either completing clinical trials or producing new drugs. As a result, the biotechnology industry continues to experience a shortage of skilled biomanufacturing workers. Employment is also available in government and research. Certificate programs in biomanufacturing prepare students for entry-level technician positions in biopharmaceutical production as well as for further study. Other job opportunities include biomanufacturing management and training supervision, lab management, lab technology, computer validation engineering, process engineering, manufacturing engineering and facilities technology.

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Biomedical Science/Technology

Biomedical sciences include major areas of study such as biomedical engineering, biomedical illustration, medical electronics engineering, biomedical instrumentation technology, biomedical laboratory and clinical sciences. Biomedical engineering and the other related technologies are the study and solution of medical and biological problems through engineering analysis technologies. An example of bioengineering is the design and development of prostheses. Biomedical instrumentation technology involves the design, operation and maintenance of biomedical instrumentation employed in hospitals and research laboratories. Other opportunities in biomedical sciences could include biomedical illustration, which is used in the teaching of medicine and use of related equipment. Biomedical laboratory and clinical sciences prepare students for work in health services, medical research device and biotechnology firms.

Career Opportunities:

Career opportunities open to students who major in the biomedical sciences and associated technologies are numerous, and vary with the level of education received. Individuals with more advanced degrees are more frequently involved in analysis and design, while individuals with associate degrees will find employment as technicians who inspect, maintain and repair instrumentation used in medical diagnosis and therapy. Employers are hospitals, medical research facilities, universities, developers and manufacturers of medical equipment and biotechnology companies.

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Biostatistics

Biostatistics involves the application of statistical procedures, techniques and methodology to characterize or investigate health problems and programs. Statistical modeling and analysis, based on the mathematical theory of probability, form an essential part of the scientific method. Students of biostatistics learn how to design the efficient collection of data from experiments, surveys, and observational studies. Statistical computation using computers is an important sub-field that can play a crucial role in research through simulation techniques and powerful data analysis. College courses in biostatistics cover basic statistical techniques for analyzing research data from studies in epidemiology, environmental health, biomedical and other public health-related fields, as well as methods of probability, descriptive statistics, estimation and hypothesis testing, nonparametric methods, techniques for categorical data, regression analysis, analysis of variance, and elements of study design.

Career Opportunities:

Positions in statistics and biostatistics exist in government, industry, research and academia. Nearly all biotechnology companies employ statisticians or biostatisticians. Departments in which biostatistcians play a significant role include clinical research, discovery research (study/design management), and bioinformatics.

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Biotechnology

Biotechnology is the use of living organisms to make commercial products. The techniques of biotechnology are making contributions to medicine, energy, foods, chemicals, materials, waste control, environmental management and agriculture. Programs generally include basic curricula in biology, chemistry and physics with laboratory courses directly relevant to current research in biotechnology, including recombinant DNA, protein technology, tissue culture and molecular genetics.

Career Opportunities:

Biotechnology is an emerging technology. As an innovative field of industry, lengthy research and development efforts are needed before products can be delivered to the marketplace. In its initial research and development phase a biotechnology company requires individuals with advanced degrees, but as the company moves into a manufacturing phase more individuals with good basic science and laboratory skills are needed, and science friendly high school graduates or associate degreed individuals can find entry level employment in the industry. The number of firms devoted to biotechnology research and manufacture of products is growing. Industries that apply biotechnology techniques include human therapeutics and diagnostics, veterinary, agricultural, food processing, aquaculture, chemicals, waste management, energy and environmental protection, and forensics, the application of medicine and science to law. Government and universities also employ individuals educated in biotechnology.

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Chemistry

Chemistry is the scientific study of the composition and properties of matter, and the investigation of the laws that govern them. Chemistry has been divided into several diverse but related branches of study: organic, inorganic, physical, analytical and biochemistry. Organic chemistry deals with carbon compounds and inorganic chemistry with non-carbon compounds. Physical chemistry involves the relationship between the chemical and physical properties of all substances. Analytical chemistry examines the analysis of the chemical composition of all substances. Biochemistry is the study of the chemistry of living organisms. The chemist's approach may be applied or theoretical, or both.

Career Opportunities:

Challenging career opportunities exist in almost all technical fields in which such functions as research, development, production, sales, market analysis, quality control and management are involved. Corporate areas providing the majority of employment for chemists are in the food, petroleum, metals, environmental, biotechnology, pharmaceutical, chemical and health care industries. The government and other institutions such as hospitals and research laboratories provide considerable demand for chemists.

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Clinical Research Trials

A clinical research trial is a scientific study that tests and evaluates the safety and effectiveness of a potential new medicine or treatment for human use. Through clinical studies, doctors find new and better ways to prevent, detect, diagnose, control, and treat illnesses. Clinical trials often require collaboration of several research teams from a variety of organizations, including biotechnology, pharmaceutical and medical device companies, research hospitals, physicians and patient groups, as well as contract research organizations (CROs) and clinical study sites. Certificate and degree programs provide students with an understanding of the clinical trial process, the bioethical aspects of human research, and the skills required to design and manage a successful clinical trial.

Career Opportunities:

Positions in clinical research trials are numerous, including directors of clinical affairs, data associates, facilities technicians, clinical research associates (CRAs), and biostatisticians. Employers of clinical researchers are pharmaceutical and biotechnology companies, research hospitals and contract research organizations (CROs). These organizations directly employ professionals to design and implement trial protocols, and to execute and monitor trial protocols at a separate clinical location, such as a hospital. Jobs in clinical research vary between hourly, part-time and full-time salaried positions.

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Computer Science/Information Technology

Since the application of computers to existing occupations has created additional job opportunities in the business world, the demand for competent users of computers, their operating systems and several of the major types of application programs is expected to continue well into this century. Programs in this area are designed to provide students with the basic knowledge of computers and the skills to become experienced with applications such as spreadsheets, word processing, databases, operating systems, the Internet and networking. Information Systems programs prepare students for employment in the field of information technology. The course of study includes business communications, principles of accounting, computer operations, systems analysis, telecommunications fundamentals, and database design and administration. A networking concentration focuses on data communications and Windows NT.

Career Opportunities:

Potential job opportunities include information systems specialist, database administrator or developer and systems analyst. Graduates with a bachelor's degree may enter careers such as computer operator, software support, data entry operator, computer support technician, training coordinator or office automation specialist.

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Dentistry

Dentistry is the science concerned with the diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases of the teeth, gums and related structures of the mouth. Dentistry also incorporates the repair or replacement of defective teeth, oral surgery and maxillofacial reconstruction.

Career Opportunities:

Careers in dentistry that are related to biotechnology include research, clinical trials, public health dentistry and medical writing. Positions can be found in government, industry, research and academia.

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Electronics Technology

Electronics technology includes the study of electronic circuit design, computer-aided design, computer-aided manufacturing and electromechanical systems. Programs can concentrate in areas such as robotics, digital electronics, optical electronics and biomedical electronics. Students study courses such as technical mathematics, fundamentals of electronics, semiconductor devices, microprocessor theory, applied physics as well as other technical and scientific courses. Programs include extensive lab and "hands-on" activities. Electronics technology programs tend to be associate degree programs rather than bachelor or advanced degree programs. Students wishing to go on to further education could continue in the numerous engineering majors.

Career Opportunities:

Students who study electronics technology find employment as field service technicians, assembly line technicians, testers and troubleshooters. Career fields that need electronics technicians are manufacturing, production, and research and development. Employment can be found in industry and government.

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Engineering Science/Technology

Engineering is defined as the application of science and mathematics by which the properties of matter and the sources of energy in nature are made useful to people in structures, machines, products, systems and processes. Engineering areas of concentration are numerous. For the purposes of this directory, which focuses on the biotechnology industry, a selected group of engineering majors are included. They are bioengineering, biomedical and clinical engineering, biophysical engineering, chemical engineering, electrical engineering, electronic engineering, environmental engineering, food engineering, marine engineering, mechanical engineering, medical engineering and nuclear engineering. All of these programs build on a foundation of basic sciences, humanities and social sciences, mathematics and engineering sciences. Students are encouraged to view the role of engineering as a service to humanity and to develop the problem-solving skills required in the technological professions.

Career Opportunities:

Graduates of the numerous engineering/technology programs can find employment in government and industry. Industries include medical, biomedical, biotechnology, device, chemical, pharmaceutical, petrochemical, plastics, fiber and textile, food, environmental, marine and ocean, electronics, optics, computer, agricultural, natural resources and many more. Although many students go on to graduate study in engineering and the sciences, an engineering education can also provide a foundation for the study of architecture, law, education, business, medicine and other professions.

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Environmental and Earth Science/Geology

Students planning to major in environmental science will find that programs are broad-based and interdisciplinary, designed to give an understanding of the complex interrelationships that exist at the earth's surface. Programs focus not only on physical and biological systems, but also include study of social, political and economic issues. Students study the biological, geological, chemical and physical aspects of environmental science. They also study disciplines such as economics, political science, management, and energy and technology policy in order to integrate scientific and societal issues. Environmental technology programs can include courses on occupational health and safety, hazardous materials management and industrial wastewater treatment.

Career Opportunities:

Graduates of these programs can find employment in private industry, government and environmental foundations. Career areas can include technology assessment, risk analysis, public health policy, water resource policy, population biology, transportation logistics and planning, resource economics, regional development, energy analysis, and municipal and industrial waste remediation, prevention and control. Some students choose to go on to graduate work in environmental science, others can go into other graduate fields such as medicine or law where their expertise in environmental science gives them a competitive edge.

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Food Science

Food science is broadly defined as the profession that deals with the scientific and technological aspects of foods and related products. Since food is the most chemically and physically complex material in nature, and because it is subject to so many changes, the food scientist's training must be truly interdisciplinary. Food scientists and engineers are included in the design, construction, operation of plants, equipment and processes for producing food products. They work on extracting, separating and concentrating plant and animal parts, cellular constituents and biochemicals; removing contaminants from foods, and preventing recontamination; flavoring and stabilizing foods, as well as restructuring and texturizing food; providing storage environments; and freezing and drying processes. Numerous biotechnology companies are involved in food products.

Career Opportunities:

The food industry is the largest industry in the U.S. The industry and employment levels are exceptionally stable; opportunities for promotion are good and salaries are competitive. The need for food professionals in developing countries makes it possible for individuals to find employment in a variety of areas. Job descriptions can include product, process and equipment development; quality assurance; food inspection; regulation; management; technical sales; and international food research, development and distribution. In addition to employment in the private sector, graduates of food science or engineering programs can find work in government research and regulatory agencies concerned with food production.

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Health Sciences

The health sciences field examines how organisms function in health and disease. College degree programs balance science and health courses, including biology, chemistry, physiology and pathology. Pairing these sciences with mathematics, business management and statistics allows students to focus on applied science and healthcare. In addition, students can also approach health science study from the social science perspective. This type of health science major, sometimes referred to as health services, focuses on the management of health services organizations and healthcare delivery systems, disease prevention and management, public health, epidemiology, and pathophysiology.

Career Opportunities:

Health sciences and services students with advanced degrees will find a variety of job opportunities in government, industry, research and academia. Positions are available in areas of discovery and clinical research, biostatistics, lab supervision, medical writing and pharmacy, as well as business development, product marketing and executive administration.

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Law

Law is the study of the body of rules and principles governing the affairs of a community and enforced by a political authority.

Career Opportunities:

Careers in law that relate to biotechnology include intellectual property rights, corporate deals, regulatory affairs, policy analysis, legal research, quality assurance monitoring or management, standard operating procedure (SOP) compliance monitoring or management, corporate legal counsel/attorney and marketing.

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Marine Biotechnology

Marine biotechnology involves the application of modern biology and biotechnology to study, protect and enhance marine resources. The world's oceans represent a major, though mostly unexplored, portion of the earth's genetic resources. Students learn how research and the tools of biotechnology can be applied to develop new foods, pharmaceuticals, minerals, and energy, to help meet the needs of the world's expanding populations and economies. Additionally, biotechnology can be used to sustain the robustness and health of marine life through analysis, detection and treatment.

Career Opportunities:

Positions are available in government, industry and research. College programs train individuals for a range of positions, including marine laboratory technicians, researchers, oceanographic equipment specialists/technicians, marine veterinarians, aquarium managers and underwater robotic systems specialists/technicians.

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Medical Technology

Medical technology involves the application of principles of natural, physical and biological sciences to the performances of laboratory procedures used in the diagnosis and treatment of disease and the maintenance of health. It is typically a four-year program, while a medical laboratory technician program is usually a two-year degree, or a minor in conjunction with a four-year degree in applied medical sciences. A background in science is required. Students attend courses including immunology, hematology, clinical chemistry and microbiology. Medical technology majors must also spend a portion of an academic year in a clinical internship. Medical technologists often work with other scientists or medical researchers to organize laboratory experiments, perform laboratory tests, monitor procedures, correlate results and monitor quality, troubleshoot problems and develop new tests and research methods. Medical laboratory technicians perform medical laboratory tests under the direct supervision of a medical technologist. Advancement is possible by acquiring additional education and passing a Board of Registry certification examination.

Career Opportunities:

Medical technologists find jobs within clinics, research institutions, biotechnology, pharmaceutical companies, hospitals, and medical and dental school laboratories. Employers can include industry, universities, research laboratories, government, public health institutions. Career fields can include sales and marketing of biomedical supplies, and consulting.

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Medicine

The field of medicine involves study of the science of diagnosing, treating, or preventing disease and other damage to the body or mind.

Career Opportunities:

Medical doctors can find ample opportunities to work in government, industry, research and academia. Positions in the biotechnology industry include medical director, medical advisor, clinical trials researcher, lab director, scientific reporter, epidemiologist, director of hospital/research site, medical writer, health services director and laboratory scientist. Career options are also available in fields such as medical affairs, regulatory affairs, administration and information management.

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Microbiology

Microbiology focuses on the study of viruses, bacteria and the immune system. It is an attractive area of study because of its central position in the study of the life sciences, its connection to the medical fields and its direct role in biotechnology. The recent explosive growth in biotechnology depends heavily on using microorganisms to produce biomedical and industrial products. This has drawn microbiology to the center of such basic life sciences fields as molecular genetics, cell biology, immunology, pathology and virology.

Career Opportunities:

Microbiology is one of the most rapidly developing sciences. It is likely that major future developments in microbiology will be in the areas of basic research, health, environment and the application of biotechnology to medical therapeutics and diagnostics, pharmaceuticals, agriculture, chemical, environmental and food industries. Employment is also possible in universities and government agencies.

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Nursing

Nurses are educated and trained professionals who are involved in the diagnosing, treating or preventing of disease and other damage to the human body and mind. They are often directly involved with individuals who need care and attention.

Career Opportunities:

Biotechnology careers for nurses include opportunities in health education, quality assurance/compliance, clinical lab management, clinical research management, public health nursing, medical writing, administration, information management and research coordination

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Pharmacology

Pharmacology is the study of the mechanisms by which the behavior of living tissues is altered by drugs and other chemicals. Areas of investigation can include the mechanisms of drug addiction; absorption and distribution of drugs and environmental pollutants; effects of drugs on behavior; metabolism and mechanism of action of cancer chemotherapeutic agents and more. The related area of toxicology studies how the interactions of organisms, with chemical and physical agents in the environment, induce toxicity and pathogenesis. The goal is understanding the origins of genetic disease in humans.

Career Opportunities:

Careers in pharmacology and related scientific disciplines can be in a variety of areas, such as clinical, community or hospital pharmacies. In industrial settings graduates can find employment in the chemical, biotechnology, pharmaceutical, food and nuclear industries. Opportunities also exist in universities and with government agencies.

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Physics

Physics is concerned within the fundamental principles that govern natural phenomena. It treats matter, energy and interactions at the fundamental level. Understanding these principles can help unravel, explore and predict the basic phenomena and processes not only of physics but also of biology, chemistry and the earth and space sciences. Physics is a constantly changing science with aspects that sometimes cross over into other disciplines. Physics is a laboratory-based science. Experiments reveal the observable properties of the natural world, and the theories provide an understanding of the observations. Mathematics serves as the essential language for the analysis of experiment and theory. Physicists usually choose to be either experimentalists or theorists. The experimentalist uses apparatus that is often quite sophisticated to test hypotheses and theories, to make discoveries of new phenomena, or to develop new applications of ideas. Theorists use that data to develop new explanations, hypotheses or theories. College courses in physics cover electricity and magnetism, quantum mechanics, optics, thermodynamics and solid-state physics. Physics courses assume a knowledge of mathematics and an acquaintance with other sciences.

Career Opportunities:

Physics is an excellent background for a wide variety of careers in science, and science-related and technological fields. The undergraduate major is frequently taken by individuals planning to apply to medical or dental school. Physics can also be a reasonable preparation for law school. Many students take courses in other sciences, mathematics or engineering in order to strengthen their "marketability" or to prepare for graduate work in biophysics, geophysics, oceanography or polymer science, for example. In addition to work in industrial, government, and high-technology laboratories in areas of applied physics, students who have mastered the fundamental principles emphasized in a physics education may find opportunities in such allied fields as biophysics, computer sciences, medical devices, medical and radiation physics, geophysics and various branches of engineering.

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Public Health

Public health is an interdisciplinary field that primarily addresses the physical and environmental health concerns of populations at risk for disease and injury. Students in public health programs learn about health promotion and disease prevention technologies and interventions. For biotechnology applications, students study biostatistics, epidemiology, health administration/services/management and environmental health. Biostatistics involves the application of statistical procedures, techniques and methodology to characterize or investigate health problems and programs. Epidemiology is the systematic study of the distribution and determinants of disease or disability in population groups. Health administration/services/management falls into both the public and private sectors of health service delivery, incorporating health planning, organization, policy analysis, finance, economics and marketing. Environmental health includes diverse disciplines such as chemistry, toxicology and engineering, and is concerned with the identification and control of factors that affect health in both natural and man-made environments.

Career Opportunities:

Careers in public health are available in a wide range of fields in government, industry, research and academia, and include positions as health educators, clinical research assistants (CRAs), research associates, program coordinators and directors, data analysts, sales representatives, infection control specialists, pharmacological researchers, and marketing and fundraising administrators. Careers also fall into fields such as government and regulatory affairs, advocacy, administration and information dissemination.

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Quality Assurance (QA)/Quality Control (QC)

In biotechnology, QA/QC involves the use of tools and methods to assure that products meet high standards of purity, safety, potency and quality. Students gain knowledge about product validation procedures that meet appropriate regulatory agency requirements as well as current industry practices. QA/QC training provides engineers, technicians, and manufacturing workers with the techniques necessary to meet stringent regulations and customer demand, and to improve the design, production, inspection, packaging and marketing of their products.

Career Opportunities:

A wide range of QA/QC positions exist in government, industry and research. Positions include QC supervisors and technicians utilizing chemistry and microbiology, validation managers, QA documentation specialists, and senior management positions in QA/QC regulatory affairs.

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Regulatory Affairs

College programs in regulatory affairs offer training in law, regulation, economics, marketing and health. Knowledge of the legal and regulatory environment is prerequisite. Training emphasizes pharmaceutical/biotechnology drug regulatory affairs, while also exploring economics, business, policy development, policy analysis and law.

Career Opportunities:

Many employment opportunities can be found in government, industry and research. Careers within regulatory affairs in biotechnology include compliance monitoring, standard operating procedure (SOP) development and analysis, current good clinical practice/current good medical practice (cGCP/cGMP) development and analysis, safety maintenance and monitoring and senior management positions.

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Careers in Companies that Support the Biotechnology Industry

A great variety of scientific and non-technical career opportunities exist for individuals from a wide range of backgrounds. Candidates with complementary training in the life sciences will find their combined skills in high demand.

Two market sectors — Scientific Equipment & Supplies and Scientific Services — provide numerous products and services required by the biotechnology industry. Firms in these sectors include equipment manufacturers and contract research and clinical laboratories.

Other market sectors that support the Massachusetts biotechnology industry specialize in the industry's specific requirements for human resources, marketing, insurance, real estate, legal and other professional services. Many of the firms in these sectors are Associate Members of MassBio:

  • Law firms that help manage and protect the intellectual property and patent portfolios that are a major underpinning of the industry.
  • Consulting and professional firms that target industry-specific issues in human resources, accounting, and public relations.
  • Government affairs consultants that assist with legislative strategies.
  • Software companies that design applications that control design and manufacturing, automate clinical laboratory equipment, or enable the capture of vital research information in a database.
  • Real estate firms and engineering companies that specialize in developing facilities tailored to the biotechnology industry.
  • Marketing firms that have developed expertise to promote the products and services offered by the industry.

In addition, the biotechnology industry will always need individuals who can help companies secure financing for the commercialization of new technologies. Jobs in investment banking are open to those who understand the financial and strategic needs of a biotechnology company. Venture capital and asset management firms need financial analysts with scientific/medical expertise to assess prospective investments. Strategic consulting firms that help evaluate operating strategies and business opportunities need analysts with both business and scientific expertise. Contract consulting opportunities also exist in smaller companies, which out-source specific projects or functions in an attempt to contain overhead. Many equipment and laboratory suppliers need individuals with laboratory or sales experience. Waste management firms specialize in handling and disposing of toxic/nuclear waste as well as biomedical waste.

Career opportunities in these companies will continue to expand for individuals who can help solve the challenges that face the fast-growing biotechnology industry.

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