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Are Biotechnology Careers Worth It?

by Terri Williams

Biotechnology has produced hundreds of healthcare products and vaccines, and millions of farmers worldwide use agricultural biotechnology to increase crop yields while reducing insect and pest damage and protecting the environment, according to a 2010 report on the Biotechnology Industry Organization website. As a result, the demand for some biotechnology careers is skyrocketing, while other biotechnology jobs are increasing at an average growth rate. Educational requirements and salaries also vary, but overall, biotechnology is a promising career field.

Biomedical Engineers

Biomedical engineering is projected to be the third fastest-growing occupation through 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. While the average growth rate for all occupations in the United States is 14.3 percent, the rate for biomedical engineers is at 62 percent -- more than quadruple the national average. Among other things, these engineers design software to run medical equipment and create computer simulations to test new drug therapies. The annual mean wage for this position was $91,200 as of May 2012, reports the BLS. The educational requirement for biomedical engineers is at least a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering.

Biochemists and Biophysicists

With a 31 percent growth rate, demand for biochemists and biophysicists is more than double the national average. These scientists are needed to develop alternative fuel sources such as biofuels and biomass, and also genetically engineered crops that require fewer pesticides. Biochemists and biophysicists earned an annual mean wage of $89,470, according to May 2012 BLS salary data. They generally need a Ph.D. in biochemistry or biophysics, although a master’s degree is sufficient for entry-level positions.

Microbiologists

Through 2020, jobs for microbiologists will increase at the national average. However, this 13 percent growth rate does not negate the fact that they will be in demand to help develop vaccines and antibiotics to fight infectious diseases, and also create new medicines and treatments for genetic disorders and diseases. Based on May 2012 data, microbiologists can expect to earn an annual mean wage of $73,250. Although the minimum educational requirement is a bachelor’s degree in microbiology or a related field, a Ph.D. is needed for those who wish to engage in independent research.

Biological Technicians

Biological technicians will see a 14 percent growth rate through 2020, which is as fast as the national average for other occupations. According to the BLS, the demand is fueled by biotechnology research. Biological technicians are needed to help biomedical engineers, biochemists and biophysicists, microbiologists and other researchers. Under supervision, they collect samples, conduct research and analyze test results. The BLS reports the annual mean wage for biological technicians was $42,600 in May 2012. In addition to a bachelor’s degree in biology or a related field, the BLS also recommends that students focus on biology courses that emphasize lab work.

About the Author

Terri Williams began writing professionally in 1997, working with a large nonprofit organization. Her articles have appeared in various online publications including Yahoo, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report University Directory, and the Center for Digital Ethics and Policy at Loyola University Chicago. Williams has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

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