Areas of Industry

The biotechnology industry comprises a number of different areas. These include:


Research can be from the perspective of an academic in a wet or dry lab, or from an industry researcher with a particular goal to support the business product line. Both perspectives on research have their pros and cons from the position of the prospective employee. Each perspective demands its own criteria for applicants and establishes its own benchmarks for success, and each perspective requires a different mode of thinking and relating to the employer. Moreover, there is a significant difference in many cases between the culture of a company versus the culture of an academic lab.


Teaching is typically reserved for the realm of the experienced academic or the seasoned industry researcher, both of whom require very strong educational backgrounds. Though typically in biotechnology, instructors are not pigeonholed into teaching solely their focus in their educational background (e.g. the content of their PhD thesis), typically instructors will teach an area that is close to their background. Instructors can be tenured professors to individuals with Masters degrees who have demonstrated significant experience. However, an individual with a Masters degree will have significantly different opportunities in terms of the potential jobs versus a tenured professor. If education is your area of interest, focus on the particular type of teaching position you are interested in, and make contacts with people who currently hold that position. They will be a great resource in helping you along your road to achieving similar goals.


The healthcare industry for people interested in biotechnology is extremely diverse. Careers range from being a physician, to a medical researcher, to a medical technician who runs hospital sample analyses. If you are interested in fields outside the technical or hands-on areas of healthcare, careers in administration, public policy, and behavioral studies are also available. This is something you can explore more in terms of your own goals and interests.


Other professional opportunities include
• Sales & Marketing
• Journalism
• Technical Writing
• Illustration and Design
• Regulatory Affairs and Policy
• Administration and Management
• Recruiting
• IP (Intellectual Property) Law
• Software Design/Development

To pursue careers in these areas, you do not need to necessarily have a background in biotechnology, merely an interest. Because all of these areas converge on biotechnology in some way, many possibilities exist that are tangentially related to the field. Moreover, even if you are not interested in doing technical work in the industry or being a healthcare professional, you can still have an impact on the industry from these various perspectives.

Within the technical perspective there are five key areas:


Bioinformatics is a field which addresses biological questions from a computational perspective. The field includes areas such as proteomics and genomics, but encompasses any area of the life sciences industry where computers are used as the primary tool in answering the scientific question.


This area of biotechnology includes aquaculture and other marine research including ecology and biodiversity of marine ecosystems, genotyping various marine species, helping to maintain natural stocks or establish human-made stocks of seafoods.


Agricultural biotechnology is typically understood to be the alteration the genome of an agriculturally-important species to produce a more favorable crop. This area of biotechnology can also encompass research into different chemicals that are important in the industry like pesticides and herbicides, understanding the relationship between crop plants, wildlife, and humans, and developing new hybrid species.


Medical biotechnology is essentially the hands-on aspect of the healthcare industry. Professionals in the medical biotechnology industry include doctors, medical researchers, and medical technicians who oversee various analyses relevant in a hospital or medical setting.


Though the different areas that fall into this category are quite diverse, the common denominator is that they involve the use of biological systems to accomplish some relevant goal. Examples include the use of purified enzymes to break down cellulose into monomeric sugars for fermentation into fuel, the use of yeast to ferment beer, the genetic modification of bacteria to produce insulin for diabetics or amino acids as dietary supplements, or the use of particular molecules as dyes, antibiotics, or organic acids. Professionals in this career range from academic researchers to corporate technicians to administrators.

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