Biotechnologists use plants, animals, microbes, biochemistry and genetics to develop new products and improve existing ones.
Salary range: £19,000 to £60,000
How to become a biotechnologist
You can get into this job through:
- a university course
- an apprenticeship
- working towards this role
You’ll usually need a degree in a relevant scientific subject, like:
- chemistry or chemical engineering
Employers will expect you to have some knowledge of the biotechnology area you want to work in, for example the food and drinks industry.
You’ll need a postgraduate qualification and several years’ experience for a research job.
You’ll usually need:
- 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English, maths and science
- 2 or 3 A levels, or equivalent, including biology for a degree
- a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study
- equivalent entry requirements
- student finance for fees and living costs
- university courses and entry requirements
You may be able to start by doing a laboratory scientist higher or degree apprenticeship.
You’ll usually need:
- 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship
You could start as a lab technician and work your way up by training on the job. For example, on a part-time degree or a degree apprenticeship.
Professional and industry bodies
You may find it useful to join an organisation like the Science Council for professional recognition, training opportunities and to make industry contacts.
You can find out more about working in biotechnology from:
What it takes
Skills and knowledge
- knowledge of biology
- to be thorough and pay attention to detail
- the ability to work on your own
- excellent verbal communication skills
- maths knowledge
- the ability to work well with others
- analytical thinking skills
- knowledge of chemistry including the safe use and disposal of chemicals
- to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
What you’ll do
In environmental biotechnology, your duties may include:
- developing micro-organisms and plants to clean polluted land or water
- creating alternative renewable sources of energy, like biodiesel
- producing environmentally friendly raw materials for industry, like biodegradable plastics from plant starches
In industrial biotechnology, your duties may include:
- cloning and producing enzymes for use in manufacturing food and drink
- creating biological detergents and dyes for the textiles industry
- improving animal feed
- developing crops that are more resistant to pests
- genetically modifying crops to increase productivity
In medical biotechnology and biotherapeutics, your duties may include:
- studying human genetics, proteins, antibodies, viruses, plants, fungi and bacteria to research and treat diseases like cancer
- developing therapies, vaccines and hormones to treat the cause of a disease
- producing medicines using techniques like cell culture and genetic modification
You could work at a research facility, at a university or in a laboratory.
You may need to wear protective clothing.
Career path and progression
With experience, you could move into scientific journalism, quality assurance management, sales or marketing.