A Guide to Earning an Online Master’s in Biotechnology
If you hold a bachelor’s in a STEM-related major and want to return to school to pursue a research career, consider earning a master’s in biotechnology online. The biotechnology job market holds high education standards and, in the case of many research-intensive jobs, often requires a doctoral degree. A master’s in biotechnology helps graduates secure well-paying positions and widens their career options.
Read on for our guide on what to expect when earning a master’s in biotechnology online in terms of cost, degree requirements, and useful professional resources.
What Can I Learn in an Online Master’s in Biotechnology Program?
Students earning a master’s in biotechnology online learn many transferable skills. The degree provides a thorough foundation in molecular biology and covers the regulations in place for food, drugs, and cosmetics. This knowledge translates to many different industries, such as manufacturing, agriculture, and medical research. Biotechnology learners also develop skills in critical thinking and mathematical reasoning. Some programs also emphasize management and entrepreneurial skills.
What Common Courses Are Offered in a Master’s in Biotechnology Program?
This course covers the foundational principles of general and organic chemistry. Students explore the properties and roles of biological macromolecules such as proteins, lipids, and carbohydrates. Other topics include metabolic pathways, enzymology, and methods used in biochemical research. Course prerequisites typically include introductory coursework in bio-science and bio-organics.
Students survey essential concepts in molecular biology, including nucleic acid structure and function, chromosomal structure, and differences in gene expression between eukaryotes and prokaryotes. They look in-depth at DNA processes of replication, transcription, and translation. The course also touches on technology-related topics such as recombinant DNA technology and DNA microarrays.
A variety of ethical concerns arise when studying the applications of biotechnology. For this course, students investigate traditional philosophical theories on moral good and apply those theories to topics relating to biotechnology, including organ transplantation, using animals as test subjects for research, and in-vitro fertilization.
Food and Drug Law
This course covers the FDA’s approval processes for drugs, biologics, and medical devices, along with its regulations for food and dietary supplements. Students investigate FDA enforcement activities and the civil penalties put in place by the Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act and other statutes.
Cell Culture Techniques
This lab-oriented course covers the basic cell culture techniques used in bioscience research and commercial contexts. Students survey key cell cultivation methods, including detection of contamination, cell culture scale-up, and cell enumeration and media production. The course is tailored to students with limited or no experience with cell culture methods.
What Exams or Projects Should I Expect?
Curricular specifics for biotechnology master’s programs vary, but there are some commonalities. Most programs conclude with a thesis, usually on a contemporary issue in biotechnology. Some allow learners to complete open-ended capstone projects instead, which can take the form of a plan or proposal for a new drug, a piece of medical or diagnostic equipment, or a biotechnology business.
Biotechnology degrees do not typically require specific exams, but many biotechnology master’s programs emphasize laboratory components as part of their culminating projects.
What Specializations Are Available in a Master’s in Biotechnology Program?
If you wish to specialize for a specific career, consider pursuing a biotechnology program that offers degree specializations. Options vary, but the following list includes common specializations.
This concentration is tailored to biotechnology majors who wish to strike out as independent entrepreneurs. Curricula usually cover legal and regulatory issues in the biotechnology and biomedicine fields.
STEM CELL AND REGENERATIVE TECHNOLOGY
Biotechnology majors who want to work in the emerging stem cell and regenerative technology field can pursue this concentration, which usually features a strong laboratory component covering cell culture techniques and DNA microarrays.
DRUG DISCOVERY AND DESIGN
Students interested in biomedicine may choose this concentration, which prepares them for work in the pharmaceutical and drug development industries. Coursework covers topics such as bioinformatics, drug manufacturing standards, and drug approval processes.
What Can I Do with a Master’s in Biotechnology Degree?
Earning a master’s in biotechnology online qualifies graduates for a variety of career paths. Graduates might pursue careers as researchers or as manufacturing facility managers. The following list includes some of the most common master’s in biotechnology jobs.
Biochemist or Biophysicist
Biochemists and biophysicists conduct research on the chemical and physical processes within living organisms. They usually work in laboratories or offices, in academic or commercial settings, and they hold at least a Ph.D.
Biomedical engineers design devices, equipment, and systems for use in the medical and health services field. They work in settings such as manufacturing and university systems, and they usually hold at least a bachelor’s.
Natural Sciences Manager
Natural sciences managers oversee the work of scientists and engineers, directing research and development. These professionals generally hold graduate degrees in science-related majors.
Industrial Production Manager
Industrial production managers oversee the daily functions of manufacturing facilities for fields like biotechnology and nanotechnology. They typically hold at least a bachelor’s in a science-related field along with extensive administrative experience.
Medical scientists conduct research to advance individual and public health. They may work in academic or healthcare settings and usually hold medical degrees or postgraduate degrees in biology.
How Much Can I Make with a Career in Biotechnology?
Graduates and postgraduates with biotechnology degrees tend to earn high salaries due to the specialized nature of their work. No degree guarantees a particular career or wage, but the following table enumerates average wages for some common master’s in biotechnology jobs for graduates from biotechnology master’s programs.
Source: Bureau of Labor Statistics
Online Master’s in Biotechnology Program Accreditation
Prospective biotechnology majors should only consider programs from regionally accredited schools, as regional accreditation holds more clout than national accreditation. It’s easier to transfer credits between regionally accredited institutions, as well.
Students should also check whether their biotechnology programs hold programmatic accreditation, which indicates higher curriculum standards. Quality biotechnology programs often hold accreditation from the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, the most common programmatic accrediting body for programs in engineering and natural and applied sciences. Other biotechnology programs may have programmatic accreditation from the Association of Technology, Management, and Applied Engineering.
How to Pay for a Master’s in Biotechnology Degree
Paying for your master’s in biotechnology can seem daunting, but there are many resources that can help ease the financial burden. Learners seeking financial aid may opt for fellowships, scholarships, grants, or other financial resources, many of which are tailored specifically to women and minorities.
Techniques for Financing a Master’s in Biotechnology
Biotechnology majors interested in research careers should consider applying for a Ford Foundation fellowship. These fellowships are tailored to high-achieving students who plan on working in academia as teachers or researchers.
This national fellowship fund, established in memory of a prominent Armenian-American educator, offers fellowships of up to $18,000 to aid students in natural and social science majors, most notably law and engineering.
Sigma Delta Epsilon awards fellowships to female graduate and doctoral students majoring in life and physical science topics. Only members can apply, but Sigma Delta Epsilon allows applicants to join upon submitting their applications for a $25 fee.
Scholarships for Master’s in Biotechnology Students
- Who Can Apply: Oregon State University, one of the most highly regarded schools in the Northwest for biotechnology-related topics, offers scholarships to graduate students majoring in agricultural studies or environmental sciences or who work on biotechnology products relevant to the Northwest’s economy.
- Amount: Varies
- Who Can Apply: Undergraduate and graduate students of Latino descent enrolled in accredited institutions may apply for this scholarship. They must demonstrate a minimum 2.8 GPA and submit one letter of recommendation.
- Amount: Varies
- Who Can Apply: Graduate students in natural sciences, mathematics, or engineering-related majors at accredited institutions may apply for this fellowship. Awardees may renew the fellowship for up to three years.
- Amount: $46,000
- Who Can Apply: High school seniors and postsecondary students planning to pursue STEM-related majors at accredited universities may apply for this scholarship. The award prefers applicants with space-related interests.
- Amount: $10,000
- Who Can Apply: The American Indian Science and Engineering Society offers this scholarship to Native American applicants pursuing STEM-related majors at accredited colleges or universities. Applicants must demonstrate a minimum 3.0 GPA.
- Amount: $2,000
Professional Organizations and Resources
Biotechnology graduates may want to join professional organizations, which offer vital resources for networking and professional development. They allow both recent graduates and seasoned veterans to form supportive communities with their peers.
- AIMBE advocates for medical and biomedical engineers through workshops, lectures, and public policy initiatives. The organization also recognizes excellence among members through honors, including its prestigious college of fellows.
- BMES represents students, faculty, and professionals in the biomedical discipline. The organization features an online job board, an annual meeting, and membership benefits, which include access to webinars and educational publications.
- BIO advances biotechnology research in agriculture, industry, healthcare, and other fields across 30 countries. Member resources include discounted conferences and the option to join a committee that influences the organization’s policies.
- The Biotechnology Institute directs several educational initiatives, including its BioGENEius Challenges, which let high school students competitively research agricultural, industrial, and medical biotechnology topics. It also offers volunteer opportunities for professionals interested in education.
- IBE promotes professionals in the field of biological engineering through a variety of professional development resources, including its Journal of Biological Engineering, a digital career center, and an annual conference.
- IFT is designed for biotechnology professionals who work in the food and agriculture industries. The organization offers a career center, a publication on food technology, and professional credentialing as a certified food scientist.
- Founded in 1992, ISAAA proliferates agricultural biotechnology information specifically related to genetic engineering. The nonprofit advocates for agriculture professionals, providing informational resources like a GM approval database and biotechnology events.
- An affiliate of the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, EMBS represents biomedical engineers internationally. Its resources include the EMBS career center, an annual conference, and publications on niche topics.
- NCBI is an extensive resource for molecular biology-related information. The nonprofit advances the cause of biotechnology through research and sponsorship of workshops, lectures, and meetings, also offering research opportunities for postdoctoral students.
- SIMB represents professionals in the microbiology and biotechnology fields worldwide. The organization’s member resources include symposiums, an annual meeting, online job listings, and help finding research consultants through a digital directory.