So, You Have a Biotech Degree—Now What?

Industry Advice Science & Mathematics

Biotechnology is a multi-billion-dollar industry that’s constantly growing, evolving, and in need of skilled and experienced workers. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, jobs in this field are expected to grow by 13 percent—nearly double the average growth rate for all other occupations.

“There was a time when we thought we knew all there was to know, and there was nothing left that could make a big impact on the world,” says Jared Auclair, director of Northeastern University’s Master’s in Biotechnology program. “That’s just not the case anymore. In fact, we’ve barely scratched the surface of what we know and the drugs that we can develop.”

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Biotechnology focuses on the intersection of biology and technology, and the development of new products that are designed to make people healthier. Professionals in this field might focus on advanced therapies, stem cell and gene therapy, or biopharmaceuticals, Auclair says. But while these professionals are in high demand, more than half of biotechnology job postings request or require a graduate-level degree.

The reason for this, Auclair says, is because so few people are trained in the latest advancements. “It’s hard to get on-the-job training in advanced areas. A master’s degree prepares the workforce of the future and allows people to up-skill or re-skill in areas that didn’t exist five or ten years ago, such as gene therapy.” It also gives professionals the boost they need to move into more senior-level roles, he says.

Professionals with an undergraduate degree in the biotechnology field typically work in entry-level roles in a lab on a project run by a senior research associate, for example. Professionals with a graduate degree are the senior research associates leading the team, Auclair says.

Advanced Biotech Degrees Open Doors

Biotechnology is a wide-reaching field that touches a number of industries. While pharmaceuticals and drug development are common paths, skilled workers are needed in a variety of settings, including government agencies, clinical laboratories, manufacturing, software engineering, R&D, and business management.

“Our program is unique in that it focuses on both the science and the business, such as how to become not an entrepreneur, but an intrepreneur and create new experiences for companies,” he says. “We try to prepare students for the global atmosphere because biotechnology is different across the U.S., Europe, and Asia. We want students to be able to engage in the global market, too.”

Graduates from Northeastern’s master’s in biotechnology program have gone on to jobs in a variety of companies, from small start-ups to large organizations. Some students have graduated and are using biotechnologies to develop new cosmetics in Asia, while others have applied their studies to agriculture in Europe to improve products developed on farms, he says.

“There’s really a lot you can do in biotechnology, and some of the applications are really quite interesting and exciting,” he says.

Careers in Biotechnology

Other career paths in biotechnology include:

  • Biomedical engineers: professionals who design solutions that improve patient healthcare, such as biomedical equipment, devices, and medical software
  • Biochemists: researchers who study the effects of drugs, hormones, and nutrients on the human body
  • Medical scientists: people who investigate diseases and prevention methods, and standardize drug potency, doses, and methods for mass-manufacturing
  • Microbiologists: professionals who study viruses, bacteria, and the immune system
  • Process development scientists: people who oversee the manufacturing process in an organization’s lab
  • Biomanufacturing specialists: scientists who use tools and methods to guarantee that products meet strict requirements of purity, safety, potency, and quality throughout the manufacturing process
  • Business development managers: professionals who help biotechnology companies formulate and execute growth and investment strategies
  • Directors of product strategy: Biotech professionals who are responsible for the development and execution of the commercialization strategy for new biotechnology products

“There are a lot of opportunities and a lot of jobs in biotechnology—especially if you have an advanced degree,” Auclair says. “Six months after graduation, almost everyone is employed. It’s an exciting field whether you’re looking for a career change or to move up in the field.”

What’s Next?

Once you’ve earned your degree—congratulations!—it’s time to turn your hard work into a reality. In the biotechnology industry, networking is one of the most successful ways to land your dream job.

Attend events. Professional events and networking events are great ways to meet new people in and outside your profession to expand your network. Keep tabs on professional societies and meet-ups for events that fit your interests.

Keep in touch with professors. Your professors are valuable resources for the industry insight they provide and the connections they have in your field. Keep them apprised of your post-graduation plans and reach out when you have questions or need advice.

Use LinkedIn. The professional social network’s features and tools are designed to help job seekers promote their personal brand, build their networking, share ideas, and, of course, find jobs. Join and browse professional and alumni groups to connect with classmates and professionals, keep your resume current, and browse LinkedIn for job postings that align with your interests and expertise.

Browse Northeastern’s alumni community. Northeastern has more than 240,000 alumni as part of its global network, many of whom are willing to help out fellow graduates. Access this directory online or via the Alumni Network app for iOS and Android.

If you’re interested in leading the emerging advances in biotechnology, now is the time to differentiate yourself with a degree. To learn how one can advance your career, visit Northeastern University’s Master of Science in Biotechnology program page.

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