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10 Best Degrees for Biotech What to study for a career in biotech­nol­o­gy

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Technological progress isn’t just about computers and cold, hard machines. Society benefits from an intersection of engineering, computing, and biology to achieve unprecedented feats of technological progress that push humanity forward. As technology becomes less expensive and more available, biotechnologists are finding new and creative ways to manipulate cells and tissues to make the world a better place. Between the food on your plate and the clothes in your closet, you encounter the products of biotechnological advancement every day.

Biotech companies also work hard to synthesize more efficient fuels, develop stronger materials, cure medical conditions, and construct high-tech prosthetics, making the world a healthier and more accessible place for everyone. The biotech boom has just started, and it will only continue to expand. Therefore, if you want to do your part to help the world while enjoying a lucrative career, then you should take a look at this overview of the 10 most valuable degrees in the biotech field.

1. Biochemistry

As the title of the program suggests, biochemistry majors study chemistry as it relates to organic life. Typically, a biochemistry major will pay close attention to amino acids, biological processes, neurology, and various aspects of biology that heavily involve chemical reactions and gene expression. Many biochemistry majors are interested in the medical applications of their knowledge, so they often move on to study medicine or veterinary sciences in graduate programs.

Basic Program Overview

Most programs incorporate a ton of in-depth chemistry courses. Moreover, you should expect to take several math courses and a couple of relevant ethics courses. The majority of programs also include a couple of physics courses. You should expect to have at least one lab per semester. Most biochemistry majors write a ton of lab reports that require very clear verbiage and precise language, so if you are not a native speaker of the medium of instruction, then you may want to take language courses or technical writing courses to improve your proficiency.

Potential Career Paths

Many biochemistry majors work in medical laboratories or pharmaceutical companies. Often, biochemistry majors enroll in medical school, pharmacy programs, or doctorate programs. If you’re interested in developing new technologies, then it may be a good idea to pursue an advanced degree or minor in something related to engineering or computer science. This way, you will stand out more when applying for positions at biotech companies.

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2. Chemical Engineering

Chemical engineers have left their mark on an overwhelming number of everyday items. Most of the food items at the grocery store can only reach your plate or pantry due to the hard work of countless brilliant chemical engineers. Have you ever moved to a new home or put something in storage? If you have, then you can thank a chemical engineer for the sturdiness of your cardboard boxes. Every plastic that you’ve encountered is the result of meticulous research, trials, and planning by chemical engineers. Chemical engineering is the cornerstone of modern progress, and no modern biotechnologies could exist without countless hours of hard work from dedicated teams of skilled chemical engineers.

Basic Program Overview

Chemical engineering is a very intense program. Students will have to take several high-level math, physics, and chemistry courses throughout their studies. Thus, chemical engineering students should be prepared to spend long hours conducting experiments in labs. Most chemical engineering programs also require students to take at least one or two computer science courses.

Potential Career Paths

Many chemical engineers end up working in the energy sector or are involved in some sort of manufacturing. Demand for durable, lightweight plastics continues to increase in many sectors, so you may find work designing plastics for toys, spaceships, prosthetics, body armor, and everything in between. On top of that, you can find a lot of good jobs in quality control, environmental sciences, and mining. No matter where you want to live or what sector you’re interested in, you can probably find a job that lines up with your goals and passions with a chemical engineering degree.

3. Neurobiology

The human mind works in mysterious ways, and neurobiologists work night and day to help humanity achieve a greater understanding of it. Neurobiologists are especially interested in how different parts of the brain affect a person’s biological functions and consciousness. Moreover, neurobiologists work with the spinal cord and nerves within the body and examine how they affect movement and sensation.

Basic Program Overview

Early on in a neurobiology program, students will focus on basic anatomy, biology, and chemistry. Most programs require students to study physics, statistics, and calculus. As students progress through the program, their coursework will cover molecular genetics, advanced neurobiology, and other high-level biology-related topics.

Potential Career Paths

Neurobiology majors have a ton of career options after attaining a degree. While some neurobiology students may want to enroll in law school, medical school, or a doctorate program, a bachelor’s degree in this field will still open up a lot of doors. Whether you want to sell pharmaceuticals, work in a lab, join a forensics team, or develop new biotechnologies, a neurobiology degree will be a great foot in the door.

4. Physiology

Consisting of 78 organs, 7 trillion nerves, and over 200 bones, the human body is extremely complex. Thus, it’s no wonder that it’s taken thousands of years for scientists to develop a basic understanding of human anatomy and physiology. However, despite millennia of scientific advancement, there is still so much to uncover. Physiology majors gain an in-depth understanding of all of the different parts of the human body and how they interact, allowing them to contribute to healthcare, sports sciences, and a variety of other important fields.

Basic Program Overview

Like most of the programs on this list, physiology majors will have to take courses in biology, high-level math, chemistry, and physics. As you progress through a physiology program, you should expect to take courses on tissues, neurology, in-depth anatomy, and similar high-level subjects. You will likely also take some courses related to kinesiology, training, and exercise science.

Potential Career Paths

Knowledge of the inner workings of the human body is useful across many disciplines. Whether you want to design efficient prosthetics, train athletes, or improve workplace ergonomics, a physiology degree will be invaluable. Furthermore, a deep understanding of the human body will be extremely useful if you decide to go to medical school.

5. Microbiology

Humans are made of tens of trillions of cells, and they all perform extremely specific functions. Understanding cells’ functions and how they interact are vital to improving society and providing more effective medical treatments. However, microbiologists don’t just study the human body. They also seek to understand pathogens, protozoa, and other microorganisms, and they use this information to achieve progress in many scientific fields.

Basic Program Overview

In the first couple of years of a microbiology program, students will take an array of math, physics, chemistry, and biology courses to build a solid scientific foundation for further progress in the major. On top of that, most schools require students to take some kind of medical ethics course. As students make their way through their last few semesters, they will primarily focus on bacteria, human disease, virology, epidemiology, genetics, and biomedical research.

Potential Career Paths

A high percentage of microbiology majors go to medical school or enroll in some sort of master’s program. Nonetheless, you can do a lot with a microbiology degree without having to go to graduate school. Many food technologists, lab technicians, ecologists, science writers, environmental engineers studied microbiology. Biotechnologists across many sectors use their extensive knowledge of cell structures, enzymes, and DNA to make new products, protect the environment, and improve human comfort.

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6. New Media

These days, digital technologies are ubiquitous, and they will only continue to become more and more important over time. All major industries and organizations rely on state-of-the-art devices, databases, and media services to achieve their goals as efficiently as possible. As digital technologies become more important in all aspects of society, new media majors will be at the forefront of human progress and will enjoy great career prospects.

Basic Program Overview

Because there are so many different technologies to explore, new media programs can vary considerably between institutions. However, the best programs will usually include coursework in social media, computer science, design, art, teamwork, entrepreneurship, and more. You should look for programs that involve a lot of hands-on learning in order to build the skills and experience that you need to be successful in the labor market.

Potential Career Paths

Digital devices are more important than ever, and their applications will continue to expand indefinitely, so it’s a good time to get a new media degree. New media experts work closely with scientists and engineers across various industries to solve complex problems to improve the world. Whether you want to work in agriculture, healthcare, energy, animal husbandry, ecology, or almost any other sector, a new media degree will ensure that you’re at the cutting edge of the labor market. With a new media degree, you can become a technology director, publisher, media director, resource analyst, and more.

7. Zoology

Humans aren’t the only living beings on this planet. Millions of species of animals are spread across the world, and many of them help humanity in one way or another. Zoology majors closely study animals for the sake of ecology, agriculture, production, and more. With a zoology degree, you can make the world a more hospitable place for animals and humans alike.

Basic Program Overview

Most zoology programs include courses in chemistry, mathematics, and physics. Subsequently, students will study animal physiology, genetics, evolution, and ecology. Many institutions offer a variety of concentrations, so zoology students can take courses focusing on particular types of animals.

Potential Career Paths

A zoology degree from a reputable institution will allow you to take a variety of positions across the world. Fisheries, wildlife preserves, national parks, zoos, farms, and other institutions that require qualified zoology majors. If you take extra courses in engineering, design, or coding, then your expertise will be extremely valuable for companies that produce animal-related technologies.

8. Plant Science

Plants make life possible. Without them, there wouldn’t be any air to breathe or food to eat. Therefore, advances in plant science, agriculture, and conservation are vital to human progress. A plant science degree will give you a thorough understanding of plants, the environment, agricultural practices, and soil science so that you can feed the world, rebuild ecosystems, and preserve the wide array of plant life on this planet.

Basic Program Overview

Students typically spend the first couple of years in the program studying chemistry, calculus, general biology, statistics, ethics, and plant biology. Eventually, students will have the opportunity to pick a more specialized concentration, and these concentrations vary considerably between institutions. Higher-level plant science courses will focus on agriculture, horticulture, soil management, water management, tissue engineering, and molecular biology.

Potential Career Paths

A plant science degree is useful in many sectors. You can design landscapes, breed desirable cultivars, protect ecosystems, develop novel plant-based products, and so much more. Many companies are switching to plant-based plastics, biofuels, and other plant-based technologies, so there is high demand for professionals who know a lot about plants, manufacturing, computer systems, and biotech across various sectors.

9. Mechanical Engineering

Vehicles, tools, and many other important products can only exist because of precise machining and efficient engineering. Mechanical engineers uncover all of the small parts that go into making the machines and equipment that people rely on in everyday life. Mechanical engineers build their mathematical competence and scientific knowledge to propel humanity forward with useful devices and innovative solutions.

Basic Program Overview

Mechanical engineers can expect to take a lot of in-depth physics and math classes. Moreover, most mechanical engineering programs will require students to pass courses in chemistry and computer science. As students make their way through a mechanical engineering program, they will study computer-assisted design, materials, fluid dynamics, and manufacturing.

Potential Career Paths

Although some mechanical engineering majors choose to pursue graduate programs, a bachelor’s degree in mechanical engineering will make you extremely marketable. Whether you want to work in construction, management consulting, the automotive industry, or aerospace, your engineering knowledge will be invaluable. Furthermore, as more biotech companies develop more unique products, they will need capable mechanical engineers to ensure that they can scale production as efficiently as possible.

10. Computer Science

Computers make the world turn. Without breakthroughs in computing technology, digital devices couldn’t exist, and many everyday tasks that people take for granted would be much more difficult and time-consuming. Breakthroughs in digital technology have allowed technology to progress at an unprecedented rate, and people who understand programming languages, computer networks, and machine learning make new innovations possible. Computers and digital devices will only become more and more integrated into every aspect of life, so pursuing a computer science degree is a great way to make yourself marketable.

Basic Program Overview

The majority of computer science programs require students to attain a basic understanding of chemistry and physics. Computer science majors should expect to take courses in calculus, statistics, and discrete structures. Throughout a computer science program, students will learn to code in common programming languages. You are also likely to study computer architecture, data structures, operating systems, software engineering, ethics, and technical writing.

Potential Career Paths

A computer science degree opens a world of possibilities, so you’ll have the opportunity to enter a sector that you’re passionate about. Computer science majors often develop software, work in cybersecurity, manage databases, and help organizations integrate new technologies. While there are plenty of graduate programs in the computer science field, you will still be able to find a ton of great jobs with a bachelor’s degree. Since many biotechnologies rely on digital hardware and cutting-edge software, biotech companies need computer science majors to ensure that their products are secure, effective, efficient, and compatible with modern computing frameworks and standards.

Necessary Skills and Traits for Biotech-Related Programs

Capacity for Solving Problems

Throughout your studies and career, you will be faced with challenges that don’t have a clear solution. In many cases, you may be the first person to encounter a certain problem. Therefore, you need to be prepared to consider problems from multiple angles, and you should be patient enough to understand that the best solution won’t always come right away.

Teamwork and Communication

Biotechnological progress is only possible with the collaboration of skilled professionals from a variety of fields. Because of this, you will carry out most of your work in a team environment, so it’s important to have good social skills and understand how to work well with others. Moreover, a broad range of individuals from various countries, backgrounds, religions, and cultures contribute to biotechnological innovation. Therefore, you’ll need to overcome your biases, practice cultural sensitivity, and learn how to see things from someone else’s perspective to be an effective team member in a biotech firm.

Mathematical Competence

Every one of these degree programs will require you to take several high-level math classes, and you have to get good grades in these courses to qualify for more advanced courses in your major. Unlike in high school, you cannot fake your way through advanced math courses. Professors require you to show all of your work, and if a professor suspects that you don’t understand the content of their course, then you will not get a good grade. If you struggle with numbers, then you must be prepared to take advantage of all available resources and work extra hard to make it through these programs.

Attention to Detail

Precision is of the utmost importance in the biotech field. A single typo or bad calculation can halt progress, cost a ton of money, and even put people in danger. Thus, to succeed in such a technical field, you need to be a meticulous person who pays close attention to your work.


Linear algebra isn’t a walk in the park, and lab reports will take countless hours of your time. The majority of courses in your program will present serious challenges, and you may find it difficult to wrap your mind around the more complex or abstract subjects that you run into. Therefore, to make it through any of these degree programs, you need to be ready to stay on top of your studies and keep pushing forward no matter how challenging your coursework becomes. Otherwise, you will quickly fall behind, and it will be very difficult to catch up.

Research and Experience are Vital for Success

Good degree programs are often very expensive, so to ensure that you don’t waste your time and money, you should do a lot of research before committing to any institution or course of study. If you’re interested in a certain career path, then you should reach out to professionals in relevant fields to learn more about their workload and see if it’s something that you actually want to do. Moreover, it’s a good idea to talk to alumni of whatever school you want to go to so that you don’t commit to spending four years of your life at an institution that isn’t a good fit for you.

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Ready to start your journey?

Ready to start your journey?