In addition to the opportunity to fight disease and hunger around the world, careers in biotechnology also offer above-average job prospects and strong salaries. For example, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that employment for biochemists and biophysicists will grow by 11% though 2026, significantly faster than the average rate of growth for all other occupations. In 2017, the median salary for biochemists and biophysicists exceeded $90,000, and the median salary for biomedical engineers topped $88,000 per year.
A master's in biotechnology opens up two paths for its graduates. Because many of these programs combine coursework in science and business, this degree can help you find entry-level positions in private research and administration at pharmaceutical and medical device manufacturing companies. By using your master's as a springboard to a doctoral degree in biotechnology, you can also take on research or teaching roles at colleges, universities, and government agencies.
Should I Get a Master's in Biotechnology?
Outside of entry-level and support roles as biological technicians, most jobs in the field of biotechnology require at least a master's degree. If you hope to compete for lucrative master's in biotechnology jobs, you should consider beginning your graduate studies. Undergraduate students may seek out in-person master's programs, while online programs might better serve individuals looking to advance their careers or switch industries.
Whether taking classes online or in person, students in biotechnology master's programs first take a series of foundational science courses in subjects like biochemistry, molecular biology, and cellular biology. After completing this core coursework, students can shape their education to suit their academic interests and professional goals. Many programs offer formal concentrations in areas such as biotechnology business, drug design and discovery, and the industrial sciences. In other programs, students choose from electives like food and drug law, medical device regulation, and finance for biotechnology to further customize their course of study.
Master's programs in biotechnology offer support outside of the classroom as well. For example, many graduate schools help their students find internships or part-time jobs at life science companies, allowing you to develop practical experience and industry connections. In addition, learning alongside classmates and instructors offers you an unparalleled opportunity to grow your professional network. If you hope to pursue a Ph.D. in biotechnology, a master's degree can help you meet many of the academic requirements, and many institutions offer guidance and support in transferring credits to a doctoral program.
What Can I Do With a Master's in Biotechnology?
With a master's degree in biotechnology, you can take on a wide variety of professional roles. You may choose to conduct research for a private company working to find treatments and cures to neurological diseases. You may also use your expertise in science and business administration to take on a management position at a medical device manufacturing firm. Some biotechnology master's graduates set out on their own as life science entrepreneurs. Still others continue working toward a doctoral degree to begin a career in higher education teaching or research.
Whatever career path you choose, jobs in biotechnology require extraordinary analytical, math, critical-thinking, and problem-solving skills, and students can gain these skills through a master's degree in biotechnology.
- Biochemist or Biophysicist
Biochemists and biophysicists conduct research to better understand the physical and chemical principles of living things and their biological processes. They may work in basic research or research meant to cure a specific disease or solve a particular problem. With a master of biotechnology, you can take on entry-level roles in this area.
Median Annual Salary: $91,190
Projected Growth Rate: 11%
- Biomedical Engineer
Biomedical engineers employ their expertise in both engineering and the medical sciences to create devices, equipment, and systems used in healthcare. For example, they may design safe biomaterials used in organ transplantation. Advanced and supervisory roles generally require a master's degree in a related field.
Median Annual Salary: $88,040
Projected Growth Rate: 7%
- Natural Sciences Manager
Natural sciences managers play a more administrative role, overseeing the work of scientists and engineers working in biotechnology. While they may direct activities related to research and development, they must also hire staff, create budgets, and communicate with top management. Many natural sciences managers hold an advanced degree in a scientific discipline.
Median Annual Salary: $118,970
Projected Growth Rate: 10%
- Industrial Production Manager
Industrial production managers oversee the operation of diverse manufacturing facilities. In biotechnology and biopharmaceutical manufacturing, managers need broad expertise in areas like equipment design, production operations, quality assurance, and regulatory compliance. A master's in biotechnology with a concentration in business administration can prepare you for these jobs.
Median Annual Salary: $100,850
Projected Growth Rate: -1%
- Medical Scientist
Broadly speaking, medical scientists conduct research to improve individual and community health. To qualify for these roles, you typically need either a medical degree or a Ph.D. in biology or related life science. A master's in biotechnology can help you earn graduate-level credit and improve your chances of admission into a doctoral program.
Median Annual Salary: $82,090
Projected Growth Rate: 13%
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.
- Bachelor's Degree: 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.
- Professional Experience: 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.
- Minimum GPA: 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.
- Application: 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.
- Transcripts: 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.
- Test Scores: 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.
- Application Fee: 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.
|Biotechnology Business||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|
|Biotechnology Science||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|
|Entrepreneurship||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|
Courses in a Master's in Biotechnology Program
Most master's in biotechnology programs begin with foundational courses in physiology, biochemistry, and bioinformatics. After completing this core coursework, however, you can choose from a variety of electives to prepare you for your career. The list below includes five commonly found classes in these programs.
- Molecular Biology
In this class, students explore key topics in molecular biology, including DNA replication, transcription, translation, nucleic acid structure and function, chromosome structure, and the remodeling and regulation of gene expression. Students also receive an introduction to recombinant DNA technologies, which facilitate the joining together of DNA from two different species.
- Recombinant DNA Laboratory
Building on the introduction offered in molecular biology, this course offers students practical opportunities to learn about DNA manipulation. Topics covered include restriction mapping, applications of the polymerase chain reaction, bacterial transformations, plasmid purification, and gel electrophoresis. Students with relevant professional experience may opt to test out of this class.
- Life Science Entrepreneurial Ventures
Emphasizing collaborative and experiential learning, this course helps prepare students who want to start their own biotechnology business. At the beginning of the semester, students form groups to develop a business plan and a pitch to a mock venture capital firm. Students also explore case studies of practical life science ventures.
Ethical considerations affect nearly every aspect of biotechnology. Students in this course develop an understanding of traditional philosophical theories and use these theories to examine issues such as organ transplants, experiments with human subjects, experiments with animal subjects, in vitro fertilization, and the collection and use of research data.
- Legal Aspects of Biotechnology
Often offered as a companion course to bioethics, this class helps students understand how the law shapes research and practice in biotechnology. In addition to issues of privacy, biological law survey courses also cover topics like patents, contracts, compliance, and regulatory statutes in the sector.
How Long Does It Take to Get a Master's in Biotechnology?
Most master's in biotechnology programs consist of 30 credits, and full-time students usually earn their degree in two years. Part-time students may require up to four years to finish these programs.
Some students can potentially graduate even faster. For example, those students who completed significant coursework in biology and chemistry while pursuing their bachelor's degree may qualify to skip this foundational coursework at the graduate level. Similarly, students who enter a program with multiple years of professional experience can often test out of laboratory work.
Finally, some asynchronous online programs allow students to study at their own pace. Students can advance through their coursework as soon as they demonstrate mastery of the material, opening up the possibility of earning their degree much sooner. However, academic advisers often caution against moving too quickly, as this can lead to stress for some students. In addition, students usually need to pay the same amount in tuition no matter how quickly they earn their degree.
How Much Is a Master's in Biotechnology?
The cost of a master's in biotechnology varies considerably from program to program. You may pay anywhere from $1,500-$2,000 per credit for tuition. For a 30-credit program, this means you can expect to pay roughly $45,000-$60,000 for your degree. As one way to lower your tuition, seek out a public university in your state that offers discounted tuition to residents.
Beyond tuition, consider other expenses that contribute to the overall cost of your education. Students who pursue their degree on campus often pay for room and board and other fees associated with campus services and activities. Distance learners can avoid paying for rent and meals, but schools may charge fees specifically for online students. In some cases, these fees can total as much as $200 per credit hour.
Your first step in paying for your degree is completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). Using the data from the FAFSA, the federal government determines whether you qualify for grants, work-study positions, or student loans. At the same time, seek out private scholarships and fellowships, some of which may cater to students seeking a degree in biotechnology.
Certifications and Licenses a Master's in Biotechnology Prepares For
- Center for Professional Innovation and Education Certifications
CFPIE offers several biotech, pharmaceutical, and medical device certification programs, including those for manufacturing controls, clinical compliance, good laboratory practices, and document management. While requirements vary, most certification programs require the completion of four training courses offered online or in-person. Most applicants achieve certification in 18-24 months.
- Project Management Institute Certifications
A certification from PMI can signal your expertise in management theory and principles. To earn one of PMI's eight levels of project management certification, you must submit an application detailing your education and professional experience. If approved, you may take an online certification exam.
- BioPharma Institute Certifications
The BioPharma Institute offers professional certifications in areas like clinical trial monitoring and management, obtaining approval for clinical trials, good clinical practice, good manufacturing practice, and drug development. Most certifications require participants to complete a self-paced training course and pass an online exam. Certification costs between $500 and $1,200.
Resources for Graduate Biotechnology Students
Amgen, a biopharmaceutical company, created this resource for students considering careers in biotechnology. The website provides an overview of biopharmaceutical history and applications.
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.
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.
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.
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.