Best Online Master’s in Biotechnology Programs
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Biotechnology is a rapidly growing scientific field that involves transforming living organisms and biological systems into useful products like medicine, fuel, and even beer. As biotechnology continues to evolve, society may gain the knowledge and tools to cure deadly diseases instead of simply treating their symptoms.
This guide helps you prepare for a career as an agricultural engineer, product development manager, or microbiologist by offering information about the best online master's in biotechnology program. Read on to learn about admission requirements, learning objectives, and course offerings. The guide then explores five major career paths and ends with answers to frequently asked questions.
Related BioTech Programs That Might Interest You
Learn about start dates, transferring credits, availability of financial aid, and more by contacting the universities below.
What Are the Best Online Master's in Biotechnology Programs? Here Are Our Top 5:
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|Johns Hopkins University Baltimore, MD
|Columbia University in the City of New York New York, NY
|University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign, IL
|George Washington University Washington, DC
|Case Western Reserve University Cleveland, OH
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Best Accredited Online Master's in Biotechnology Programs
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How to Choose a Master's Program in Biotechnology
Graduate schools across the country offer master's degrees in biotechnology. While this gives you many options, it can also make selecting a program difficult. Use some of the questions below to help narrow your search and get a sense of your priorities.
To begin, do you want to pursue your degree online or on campus? Online biotechnology master's programs allow individuals with personal or professional obligations to complete their studies on their own schedule. That said, some students, especially those who want the structure and support of traditional classrooms, may prefer in-person programs.
What can you afford to spend on your education? Master's in biotechnology salaries outpace earnings in many other fields, but you may still incur a significant debt by pursuing your graduate education. Public universities typically offer lower tuition than private institutions.
What exactly do you want to focus on during your studies? Some programs offer coursework in both science and business to prepare graduates for management roles in drug manufacturing or genetic engineering. However, curricula in other programs may only feature courses in scientific disciplines to ready students for research-specific positions.
Where is your program located? Students can complete most online programs in biotechnology entirely at a distance, but this question still applies to those hoping to learn on campus. Carefully consider factors like the length of your commute, the quality and cost of living in your school's area, and job opportunities for you and members of your family.
Programmatic Accreditation for Master's Programs in Biotechnology
Accredited schools can demonstrate that their programs meet high educational standards and adequately prepare graduates for jobs. If you attend an unaccredited school, you may not qualify for federal financial aid opportunities, other schools may not accept your transfer credits, and future employers may not recognize your degree.
In addition to regional and national accreditation, schools can also seek out programmatic accreditation for their academic offerings in a particular discipline, such as nursing or law. In the field of biotechnology, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, Inc. (ABET) serves as the primary programmatic accreditor. The Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering (ATMAE) also accredits some programs in this area.
Make sure to check the Council for Higher Education Accreditation's online directory to determine if your chosen program and school hold ABET, ATMAE, regional, or national accreditation.
Master's in Biotechnology Program Admissions
To apply to master's in biotechnology programs, you typically need an undergraduate degree in engineering, science, mathematics, or a related field. Some programs admit students with a bachelor's degree in another area, so long as they can demonstrate completed coursework in math and science.
As part of your application, you must submit your undergraduate transcripts, three letters of recommendation, a resume, a personal statement, and your scores from the Graduate Record Examination (GRE). Schools also often charge a small application fee.
After submitting your application, many graduate schools request that you participate in an interview with their admissions teams. Some schools ask applicants to join these interviews in person, though online programs often allow remote participation. After your interview, schools consider your case and inform you of whether they plan to admit you. In some instances, schools place students on "wait lists," in which case a student may enter the program if an admitted student decides not to attend.
You must hold a bachelor's degree in a related field. Some programs admit students with any undergraduate degree if they have credit in biology, organic chemistry, and advanced mathematics.
Master's in biotechnology programs generally do not require professional experience, though a strong resume can improve your chances for admission or help to offset a low GPA or GRE score.
As a way to ensure that students can meet the academic rigors of graduate school, most institutions require applicants to maintain a 3.0 GPA during their undergraduate studies.
Make sure to begin your application well in advance of the deadline to allow yourself time to collect all of the materials you need to submit. As graduate schools tend not to use the Common App, prepare to submit a unique application to each of your potential programs.
To submit official versions of your undergraduate transcripts, contact your college or university's registrar. They may charge a small fee and require several weeks to process these requests.
Letters of Recommendation:
You should plan to submit three letters of recommendation. Request letters from former professors, especially those in math and science. You can also ask former employers or internship supervisors to write letters on your behalf.
Many schools require you to submit GRE scores as part of your application. Schools generally do not set a minimum score, but your results still play a large role in the overall admissions decision.
Schools usually charge a small application fee, usually $50-$100. If you can demonstrate financial need, you may qualify for a waiver of this fee.
What Else Can I Expect From a Master's Program in Biotechnology?
While all master's in biotechnology programs can prepare you for careers in private industry or academia, the exact nature of these programs varies considerably. For example, some programs offer formal concentrations, while other allow students to shape their course of study through electives. Some programs may offer accelerated tracks, while others may offer substantial tuition discounts to certain students.
|Business concentrations within biotechnology programs help prepare students for careers in research and project management at private companies. Students take coursework in areas like intellectual property, drug development, financial management in biotechnology, and strategic leadership in biotechnology to supplement their learning in math and science.
|Senior project manager, vice president of global supply chain
|In contrast to the business concentration, students in this specialization focus exclusively on subjects related to biotechnology science and research, often in preparation for careers in academia. For example, students may explore topics like molecular medicine, medical toxicology, drug targets and drug design, DNA damage and repair, and programmed cell death.
|Associate professor of biotechnology, research scientist
|Drug Design and Discovery
|A large percentage of biotechnology professionals work for pharmaceutical and drug development companies. This concentration readies students for work in that industry through coursework in areas such as bioinformatics, underlying disease mechanisms, the identification of biopharmaceutical targets, regulatory affairs, the FDA approval process, and good manufacturing procedures.
|Director of manufacturing science, director of regulatory affairs
|Rather than working for a larger company, many individuals studying biotechnology hope to one day found their own life sciences firm. Through an in-depth examination of subjects like entrepreneurial biotechnology and strategies for startups, this concentration gives students the tools to do just that. Unlike other areas, admission into a concentration in entrepreneurship may require one or more years of professional experience.
|Chief executive officer, chief scientific officer
|Regenerative and Stem Cell Technologies
|Some programs offer specializations within the scientific discipline of biotechnology. A concentration in regenerative and stem cell technologies, for instance, prepares students to take on roles in gene therapy and tissue engineering. Students take coursework in regenerative medicine, stem cell biology, and stem cell culture laboratory methods.
|Principal investigator for gene therapy, associate director of applied stem cell research
What Courses Will I Take in an Online Master's in Biotechnology Program?
As an interdisciplinary discipline, biotechnology synthesizes science and engineering. Graduate students take classes like protein chemistry, experimental design, and bioprocess engineering.
Learners also delve into the business side of the biotech industry, examining laws and regulations, product development, and entrepreneurial opportunities. These programs supplement classroom learning with laboratory training and fieldwork experiences like internships.
Societal Issues in Biotechnology
This core course provides an overview of the history and development of biotechnology in the United States. Students delve into pertinent topics like biohazards, the value of public scrutiny, and legal issues from a managerial standpoint. They also examine the role government agencies play in the research, development, and commercialization of biotechnology.
In this course, students examine engineering concepts related to the conversion of biological materials into food, fuel, and pharmaceutical products. Covered topics include bioenergetics, biokinetics, bioreactor design and selection, and product recovery. The course also covers best practices in manufacturing, emphasizing the role of bioprocess engineering in developing and analyzing medicine.
In this foundational course, students learn about the analytical techniques and statistical concepts commonly used in biotechnology experimental design. Covered topics include linear correlation and regression, population parameters, probability theory and distributions, and categorical data analysis. Students also develop the ability to conduct hypothesis testing for variances and proportions.
Students taking this course receive an overview of how biological agents have historically been used in society and agriculture. Learners examine case studies of major bioterrorism agent releases and resulting government responses, including state and federal quarantine powers and the Posse Comitatus Act. Degree-seekers also examine the mental health consequences of bioterrorist attacks on communities and individuals.
In this class, students learn about the major phases of drug development. These steps include early clinical trial, proof of concept, late stage clinical development, and product registration and approval. The course also covers the application of study design methods to evaluate a drug's efficacy, safety, and tolerability in different therapeutic areas.
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What Can I Do With an Online Master's in Biotechnology Degree?
Learners usually go to graduate school to either advance their current career or prepare for a new occupation. With a master's in biotechnology, graduates qualify for research-focused positions as microbiologists and medical scientists. They may also develop life-saving technologies as biomedical engineers, a career that the BLS projects to grow 5% between 2019 and 2029.
Alternatively, professionals can opt to focus on biotech in business. In this field, job opportunities include laboratory manager, biomanufacturing specialist, and director of drug commercialization
See where a master's in biotechnology degree can take you. Learn more about biotechnology careers here.
Bioinformaticians use computational concepts and techniques to better understand biology. These scientists analyze large quantities of complex data to identify genes and genomes, as well as their relationship to the genetic basis of disease. Beyond pharmaceutical applications, bioinformatics can also be used to locate and isolate desirable properties in agricultural species.
Drug Design and Discovery
By pursuing a drug design and discovery concentration, students prepare for careers in pharmaceutical development and regulatory affairs. BLS data shows that medical scientists who work in pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing earn a median annual wage of $111,630. These scientists possess in-depth knowledge of disease mechanisms and design drugs for specific pharmaceutical targets.
Biodefense specialists understand the potential threats of bioterrorism agents on epidemiological and microbiological levels, allowing them to detect, deter, and respond to incidents of biowarfare. In addition to helping communities create recovery plans, these professionals assist government agencies with policy development. The biodefense field includes epidemiologists, chemical defense scientists, and emergency management directors.
Regenerative and Stem Cell Technologies
These biotechnologists use their expert knowledge of cell and gene therapies to oversee research and development projects for clinical and industry laboratories. They also create regenerative technologies that can repair and replace damaged organs through tissue engineering processes. To succeed in this emerging field, professionals also need to understand the current state of the biotech industry and how to bring regenerative medicine products to market.
The agritech industry involves using biotechnological tools like molecular diagnostics and genetic engineering to augment animals, plants, and microorganisms. Professionals in this field modify living organisms to be more resilient to disease or to propagate at a faster rate, making products like corn, canola, and soybean more profitable for farmers and less expensive for consumers.
Biotechnology Not for You? Check Out These Related Careers.
Frequently Asked Questions About Master's in Biotechnology Programs
Is a master's in biotechnology worth it?
The value of an online master's in biotechnology depends on each student's academic background and professional goals. Biotech is among the most innovative and fastest growing industries in the United States, providing career opportunities in IT, agriculture, and national security. The size of the biotech market will grow 9.9% between 2019 and 2025, according to Global Market Insights.
What can I do with a master's in biotechnology?
By earning a master's in biotechnology, professionals can pursue research-focused occupations as microbiologists, biomedical engineers, and biochemists. They may work on the forefront of national security as epidemiologists, helping communities defend against and recover from bioterrorist attacks. Alternatively, biotech professionals can use their business skills through careers in biomanufacturing management and quality assurance.
Is microbiology better than biotechnology?
Microbiology and biotechnology are interconnected, each field borrowing concepts and techniques from the other. However, microbiology is the study of microorganisms and their impact on specific microbial and industrial processes. Biotechnology is a broader discipline that, in addition to preparing students for research careers, prepares learners for IT and business management positions.
How much money can I make with a master's in biotechnology?
According to PayScale, the average annual salary for professionals who have a master of science in biotechnology is $70,430. Wages differ between occupations, with manufacturing production managers earning $72,210 and biomedical engineers making $91,410 each year. Salary potential depends on factors like geographic location, employer, and individual qualifications.
The best wages in the biotech industry are reserved for experienced researchers and company leaders. Senior research scientists enjoy an average annual salary of $105,090. Production management directors earn approximately $146,260 each year, with the opportunity to garner as much as $210,000 when adding profit shares, commissions, and bonuses.
Resources for Graduate Biotechnology Students
Amgen's Introduction to Biotechnology
Amgen, a biopharmaceutical company, created this resource for students considering careers in biotechnology. The website provides an overview of biopharmaceutical history and applications.
U.S. Department of Education
If you decide to pursue a master's in biotechnology, see if you qualify for federal financial aid. The ED offers grants, fellowships, and work-study opportunities, as well as resources on how to find other sources of private aid.
Journal of Biotechnology
The Journal of Biotechnology serves as the leading scholarly resource in biotechnology. Anyone can review open access articles on subjects such as gene editing and bioinformatics.
Life Science Dictionary
This free resource offers students an easy way to look up terms related to biochemistry, biotechnology, cellular biology, and genetics. Staff and faculty from Indiana University's Department of Biotechnology maintain the dictionary.
Purdue Online Writing Lab
Both in academia and private industry, biotechnology professionals need to know how to write clearly and effectively. The Purdue OWL provides writing advice on research papers, memos, and resumes.
Professional Organizations in Biotechnology
Once you earn your master's in biotechnology, you can benefit from joining a professional organization. These groups advertise job opportunities, organize research-sharing and networking events, offer professional development and continuing education resources, and conduct and disseminate research. They also raise awareness concerning issues in biotechnology, push for policies and regulations beneficial to the field, and improve the public perception of those working in the medical and biological engineering profession.