Biotechnologists use a number of different scientific disciplines such as microbiology, molecular biology, genetics and chemistry to research and develop new products and improved processes for a range of different industries including pharmaceuticals, health care, biofuels, agriculture, food and industrial processing.
You could be:
using living cells to make products with biological ingredients such as hormones, enzymes, antibiotics and antibodies for agricultural, medical and pharmaceutical purposes
using living cells in genetic engineering, to develop new or modified organisms, including genetically modified (GM) crops which have high yields and are resistant to pests and diseases
developing gene therapy techniques to help humans and animals
using microorganisms to help to break down waste materials
developing new processes to help detect and control pollution and contamination in the environment
producing enzymes and preservatives for use in the manufacture of food and drink
using specialist software and technical equipment, writing reports and keeping records
monitoring the safety and quality of any product you work with
keeping up to date with new advances in biotechnology.
The figures below are only a guide. Actual pay rates may vary, depending on:
where you work
the size of the company or organisation you work for
the demand for the job.
Starting salaries for biotechnologists vary depending on which industry you work in. Starting salaries for new graduates may be around £19,000 to £23,000, with experienced biotechnologists earning around £25,000 to £40,000 a year. Some biotechnologists with high levels of responsibility earn up to around £60,000 a year.
Depending on your job you might work in a hospital, industrial or academic laboratory, a factory, an office or a classroom.
In a laboratory you usually have to wear a lab coat and other protective clothing.
In some work there may be a risk of infection or allergic reaction but employers train staff to avoid this.
You would usually work regular hours, but might have to work evenings or weekends.
You might have to travel to conferences.
You normally need a degree in biotechnology or a related subject such as biological sciences, bioscience, biochemistry, microbiology, chemistry, food science, biomedical engineering or pharmacology.
For entry to a degree you usually need 4-5 Highers, normally including at least 2 from Maths, Biology, Chemistry and Physics. Biology and Chemistry are often preferred.
Some entrants have a specialist postgraduate qualification in biotechnology.
Graduates often start out in a technician or research technician post.
You could work in the National Health Service (NHS), scientific research, manufacturing or in the pharmaceutical or food and drink sectors. You could also work in teaching, finance, management, scientific writing, sales and marketing or in government departments.