How to Prepare for a Biotechnology Career
All signs point to growth in biotechnology careers. In fact, the KC metro is the global leader in the Animal Health industry, and local talent is in high demand (PDF). Read on to find out how to get in on this exciting trend.
Why should I pursue a biotechnology career?
Biotechnology is a booming field with wide applications that range across the fields of agriculture, health care, forensic science, and many other disciplines. According to the 2021 KC Regional Life Sciences Census, the Kansas City region contains 286 biotechnology companies that employs approximately 35,000 people. Meanwhile, there are now 149 university research centers in the area, while 32 medical centers are performing clinical trials.
The field of biotechnology is vast, because this scientific discipline arises from the biology and life sciences combined with technology. If you are an innovator, this is where you want to go. Biotechnology has led to scientific advances in medicine, environmental protection, biochemistry, agriculture, genetics, pharmaceuticals, animal science, and many other fields.
And biotechnology is not just lab work – there are many new discoveries to make and problems to solve in this wide-ranging, complex field. This field is expected to grow very quickly over the next few decades.
A successful career in this exciting area of study all starts with a degree. Want to plan for a successful biotechnology career? Here are a few suggestions from KU Edwards Campus advisors and instructors.
Hands-on experience in biotechnology is key
Even before beginning a biotechnology degree program, it’s a good idea to explore opportunities for hands-on experience and mentorship.
Randall Logan, professor of practice for the KU Edwards Campus undergraduate biotechnology program, said he encourages students to get engaged as soon as they can.
“Hands-on experimental work is the most exciting part of becoming a scientist,” Logan said. “Once students have an opportunity to understand, witness and explore the translational aspects of science, they are hooked!”
Sandra Leppin, KUEC education coordinator, said programs like these, as well as the mentorship and internship aspects of KUEC’s biotechnology degree program, give students valuable experience that can translate quickly into professional success.
“Our hope is that the students gain a good sense of what daily life and real-world experience is needed to be successful in this field, and that potentially, they can make a smooth transition to the workplace immediately after graduation,” Leppin said.
A biotechnology degree should prepare you for a career
When searching for a degree program, Logan suggests prospective students consider whether they want to pursue graduate education, or go straight into the workforce after graduating.
“If you plan to attend graduate school, how well does the program prepare you for graduate work? Does the program provide opportunities for you to generate evidence of your capabilities beyond GPA?” Logan said.
It’s important to seek out biotechnology degree programs that give you that hands-on work that you can add to your resume or CV.
Logan also emphasized the importance of choosing a biotech college program that prepares you for life after graduation. “If you want to enter the workforce, how well does the program train you in workforce readiness skills? Are there opportunities to network with (people in) the industry prior to graduating? Does it allow you to showcase research projects that will give you an advantage over your competition? These are all good questions to consider before you make your choice.”
Talk to an advisor before choosing a degree
Leppin said the best way to have your questions answered and learn how a potential program aligns with your career and education goals is to speak with an advisor before you make your choice.
“Advisors are your best resources to map out a timely graduation, help you hurdle any issues that arise, and are always your go-to place to search out campus resources,” Leppin said. “Personally, I always take the time to make a semester breakdown for my students so they can have a visual representation of how long they’ll be in school, and also so they don’t feel that they’ll never get anywhere or graduate.”
Speak with faculty or students in the biotechnology program
Getting direct feedback from other students currently involved in an area you’re interested in is a great way to learn more about the biotechnology degree’s strengths, concentrations, and whether or not it fits your needs.
Logan said that, like any consumer experience, talking with faculty and students about a program can give you an idea of quality as well as content.
“If you are visiting a new restaurant, do you want to hear the chef’s description of what they have created or do you want to hear the patrons share stories of their amazing dining experience? Probably both, right?” Logan said. “Ask the questions that are most relevant and important to you, but definitely ask current students if they feel prepared for their post-graduation plans, if the program helped them secure their post-graduation plans, if the academic challenges have helped them grow as a scientist, and if they have any advice for you.”
Leppin said direct interaction with faculty is a great way for prospective students to set themselves up for academic success early on.
“I’m always excited when students want to meet with the faculty and have in-depth conversations about their class content,” Leppin said. “They’re the experts, and I always think having an early connection to faculty is critical.”
Job opportunities for biotechnology graduates
A bachelor of applied science in biotechnology can lead to a number of good careers, including:
- Biomedical engineer
- DNA analyst
- Medical Scientist
- Chemical operator
- Biological or Clinician Technician
- Process Development Scientist
Learn more about the Bachelor of Applied Science in Biotechnology degree program.
Do you already have your bachelor's degree and want to take the next step in your medical or health science career? Check out the new Post-Baccalaureate in Health Science program.
The Bachelor of Applied Science in Biotechnology degree program is supported by the Johnson County Education Research Triangle.