Earning a Master's in Biotechnology Online

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The field of biotechnology uses living organisms and the knowledge of living systems to create and improve related scientific processes. According to the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, advances in biotechnology will help reshape healthcare, agriculture, and energy industries. By earning a master's in biotechnology online, students prepare to assume leading research and management positions in these industries and beyond. Graduates gain the skills needed to communicate complex research and apply it to new and useful contexts.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), biological technician careers are projected to grow faster than the average occupation in the U.S. While this career takes home competitive wages, related careers, like those in microbiology, earn wages that nearly double the national average. Read on to learn about biotechnology careers in more detail, including salary and job growth potential, potential sources of education funding, and what students need to thrive in this industry.

Why Get a Master's Degree in Biotechnology?

The type of people interested in earning a master's in biotechnology online varies considerably, due to the variety of available career options; however, typical students tend to share some common traits and qualifications. Aspiring master's degree students must possess a bachelor's degree — typically in a science or technology-related discipline. They also need the drive and interest to pursue further education.

Working professionals may choose to earn a master's in biotechnology online to advance into a more desirable position. Since these degrees allow students to focus their training in a specific discipline, many candidates with a science or technology background can improve their career prospects and earning potential. The following list outlines some of the main reasons students choose to earn online master's degrees in biotechnology.

Pursuing Specialization

In many master's degree programs, students can apply their training to a concentration. This enables them to move into a unique space professionally, either taking on very specialized positions or branching out into another industry altogether. For example, a gene biotechnology specialization can allow graduates to take on research positions in the healthcare industry or pursue careers in agriculture, applying their knowledge and training to growing and developing plants.

Career Advancement Opportunities

In general, a master's degree offers the advanced leadership training necessary to succeed in management and upper-level positions. In biotechnology, master's programs also offer advanced research and practical skills. Graduates can learn how to apply their training to different contexts and situations, such as business and product development. While these positions come with added responsibilities, they also tend to bring benefits like salary increases and job security.

Online Learning Technology

The latest innovations in online learning technology provide students with flexible study opportunities, offering greater accessibility and more study options. Online learners can find distance programs that match their interests with limited or no travel required. Additionally, many online programs allow students to utilize cutting-edge communication technologies that can aid them in their professional careers down the road.

Prerequisites for Online Biotechnology Programs

When applying for an online master's in biotechnology, eligible candidates need to fulfill a set of prerequisites. While these may vary with each program, the following list highlights some of the most common elements that potential applicants should expect to encounter.

    • Work Experience: Biotechnology programs do not always require applicants to possess work experience, but students with practical experience may receive preference during the application process.
    • Exams and Test Scores: Like many graduate tracks, online biotechnology master's programs often require standardized test scores, like the GRE, which remain valid for five years. Though the required scores vary depending on the school, U.S. News & World Report states that strong GRE scores typically add up to more than 310. Some programs may also ask candidates to complete an entrance exam.
    • Coursework: Many programs require applicants to possess specific undergraduate courses. Typically, candidates need to have completed a variety of biology classes, though some programs may also require technology training. Applicants should also aim for an overall GPA of at least 3.0.
    • Recommendations: Letters of recommendation are a common admission requirement for an online master's program. These should come from teachers and supervisors who can speak to an applicant's accomplishments and potential in the field. Typically, programs request 2-3 of these from each candidate.
    • Essays: Some programs ask students to submit an essay. Essays may require candidates to address a specific program-related question or topic or address their personal, professional, and/or research interests.
    • Interviews: An applicant may find that some programs request an interview as part of the admissions process. These interviews allow program advisors to meet with candidates and discuss parts of their application face-to-face. While biotechnology programs do not typically request these, students can take advantage of interviews by asking questions about the faculty and available resources.
    • International Students: Admission requirements for international students typically include additional elements. Many schools require international students to submit English proficiency test results, like the TOEFL, along with transcript/credit evaluations.

What to Expect from a Master's-level Online Biotechnology Program

Each online biotechnology master's program offers something unique for students, but many share a similar structure. Distance learners may complete online classes through synchronous and/or asynchronous formats. Most programs also include a set of milestones that learners can expect to complete. The following list outlines some common landmarks.

Major Milestones

  1. Capstone Coursework

    For their capstone, a student will typically complete a large project and presentation, incorporating their training into the project to demonstrate an ability to put theory into practice.

  2. Internships

    Student internships allow learners to gain hands-on training within the industry. Learners take on positions to gain experience and get a better feel for the profession. Some internships involve a lengthy shadowing process.

  3. ResearchProject

    Due to the nature of a biotechnology career, research often plays a substantial role in master's programs. As such, many programs require students to undertake significant research projects to prepare them for research work in the industry.

  4. Thesis Preparation and Defense

    While not every program features a thesis, students may need to complete a thorough assignment, including in-depth research and a defense in front of faculty and department members. This process often involves students comparing their findings to other scholarly work in the field.

  5. Application for Doctoral Programs

    The application process for a doctoral program (or a program that awards a different type of professional degree) requires learners to prepare and gather necessary materials. This may include obtaining recommendations, completing essays, and taking entrance tests before graduation.

  6. Intent to Graduate

    To ensure that their school prepares all the necessary documents in time, students need to submit their intent to graduate. School officials can then confirm that a student has completed all elements of their program and verify that they meet graduation requirements.

Master's in Biotechnology Coursework

The coursework in a master's program varies depending on the school and a student's specific choices, but the following list outlines some of the more common courses in a biotechnology program.

Biotechnology in Healthcare

Students learn to work with new technologies to improve the healthcare industry through processes like stem cell research and innovative treatments. Learners find new ways to integrate their training and communicate ideas within the healthcare industry.

Biofuel

In this course, learners discover methods to turn organic material into efficient and renewable fuel sources. Students can examine the chemical characteristics of biomass and how to best utilize its properties.

Biochips and Biosensors

This course teaches learners to create and operate biochips and sensors and interpret the data provided by these devices. Students may also explore the commercialization process for these consumer products.

Biological Catalysts

Students can investigate catalytic mechanisms in living organisms. They also explore the commercial uses of biocatalysts and the technologies involved with bioprocessing.

Managerial Concepts

Enrollees often take managerial or leadership courses to gain an understanding of business and operational functions. These courses prepare them to train and mentor other workers, evaluate operations, and implement new and improved processes.

Licenses and Certifications

While a career in biotechnology does not usually require any industry licenses or certifications, graduates can acquire additional credentials after graduation to gain a professional advantage. The following list highlights some of the certifications available to graduates with an online master's in biotechnology.

How Much Can I Make With a Master's Degree in Biotechnology?

Graduates who earn a master's degree in biotechnology can look forward to promising salary expectations in their field. According to the BLS, biological scientists earn an annual wage greater than the average occupation — even workers with wages in the 10th percentile make more than $45,000 a year. In the 90th percentile, professionals earn more than $125,000 annually. While these upper-level positions commonly go to those with experience, graduate degrees can also provide access to advanced jobs. Furthermore, with a master's degree, graduates can also pursue nontraditional career opportunities.

How Careers for Master's in Biotechnology Graduates Stack Up Against Similar Careers

Biological Technologist

Median Salary: $44,500

Job Growth: 10%-14%

Biological technologists assist scientists in laboratories. They may help with experiments, provide observations, and conduct analysis. Though these positions often only require a bachelor's degree, candidates with a master's degree may access the most desirable of these positions.

Bioinformatics Scientist

Median Salary: $79,500

Job Growth: 5%-9%

These scientists use bioinformatics to develop and improve pharmaceuticals and medical technologies. They often design means of analyzing or processing biological information. Most professionals need graduate degrees for this career.

Biomedical Engineer

Median Salary: $88,500

Job Growth: 5%-9%

Biomedical engineers design and develop products, working to improve healthcare systems. While some of these positions can be earned with only a bachelor's degree, biomedical engineers typically possess master's degrees.

Biofuels/Biodiesel Technology and Product Development Manager

Median Salary: $140,700

Job Growth: 5%-9%

In this career, professionals use their knowledge of biological process technologies to develop alternative and efficient fuel sources. Candidates with graduate degrees may rise to management positions more quickly and with less experience.

Bioinformatics Technician

Median Salary: $48,330

Job Growth: 5%-9%

Bioinformatics technicians assist scientists with their experiments, research, and laboratory work. They may also design and operate the tools used in the field. Technician positions typically require a bachelor's degree.

Biologist

Median Salary: $77,500

Job Growth: 5%-9%

Biologists research living organisms and study their properties, including how they function and develop. In the field of biotechnology, this information can assist in identifying properties that might be useful in other products. Most biologists possess master's degrees in this field.

Medical Scientist

Median Salary: $84,800

Job Growth: 10%-14%

Medical scientists perform the research necessary to better understand diseases and human interactions with illnesses. They may also assist in developing biotechnical products and services. Many of these scientists possess doctorates, but some may acquire such positions with a master's degree.

Biostatistician

Median Salary: $87,800

Job Growth: 15%+

Biostatisticians develop theories and models to study and investigate various life sciences. They may use these tools and information to assist in the development of biotechnological products and services. The majority of professionals in this field possess at least a master's degree.

Source: U.S. Department of Labor, O*NET

Paying for an Online Master's in Biotechnology

Paying for an online master's in biotechnology is a major concern for students, but online learners can take advantage of several factors to reduce the time and money spent pursuing their degrees. The following are a few cost-saving elements associated with online degrees.

  1. Lower online tuition rates
  2. Reduced study timelines
  3. Accelerated program options
  4. Reduced travel costs

Furthermore, online students can access many scholarships and other funding options. In addition to state- and school-specific scholarships, master's students pursuing a degree in a STEM field, like biotechnology, can apply for program-specific scholarships.

Scholarships for Online Biotechnology Master's Students

Students should explore a variety of scholarship options throughout their degree program. Some scholarships target students who live in a certain state or belong to a certain demographic, while others allow anyone to apply. The following list outlines a few funding options available to biotechnology students.

Professional Organizations and Resources

Professional organizations can be valuable for biotechnology students and experienced industry veterans alike. Access to research, scholarship opportunities, and industry mentors can help students and recent graduates get started in the field. Alternatively, established professionals can access research, continuing education opportunities, and professional development workshops. The following list covers a few prominent associations in the field.

  • Biotechnology Innovation Organization: As an industry trade organization, BIO represents biotechnology companies and centers. The organization advocates for its members, hosts events, and provides access to resources.
  • International Association for Plant Biotechnology: Members gain access to industry events and publications, along with a large professional network.
  • American Association of Pharmaceutical Scientists: This association consists of professional members of the pharmaceutical sciences industry. Members can explore opportunities for education, research, career development, and industry events.
  • Coalition for Life Sciences: Seeking to advance the biological sciences and further their medical applications, CLS also unites professional organizations and strives to improve public policies, education, and funding in the field.
  • Society for Industrial Microbiology and Biotechnology: SIMB supports the microbiology industry by connecting professionals and providing them with access to research and publications. The society also hosts events and offers education opportunities and career support.
  • International Council of Biotechnology Associations: ICBA unites its member associations into one voice, promoting the field and advocating for better public policies. ICBA also offers access to industry events, information, and resources.
  • American Life Sciences Innovation Council: ALSIC strives to improve medical innovation by supporting and promoting its growth, educating the public on its importance, and working with government regulators to enhance the environment.
  • International Union of Biological Sciences: IUBS unites various organizations and associations dedicated to biological sciences to share information, research, and resources. Visitors to its website can explore publications, events, and educational content.
  • Society for Biological Engineering: SBE unites members of the biological engineering community, providing access to networking events, new research, and other educational opportunities.
  • USA Life Sciences Database: This resource allows visitors to access life sciences partners, statistics, and a calendar with various events. The database helps connect life sciences professionals with each other.