How to Become a Biotechnology Researcher


Are you interested in studying microorganisms and their life processes? Are you interested in utilizing knowledge of biology to help create useful products, such as those found in medicine?


If you’ve answered ‘yes’ to these questions, you are likely well suited for a career as a biotechnology researcher!


Below we've outlined what you'll need to become a biotechnology researcher. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Educational Requirements

To become an entry-level biotechnology researcher (such as a junior-level research associate, or a laboratory technologist) you need at least a bachelor’s degree in a field such as biomedical engineering, biology, biotechnology, biochemistry or a closely related field.


Coursework in these fields are generally accompanied by laboratory work, which can prepare you to become a research associate by providing you with hands-on skills and experience, which many employers require.


Some courses that will be relevant to the work you will be doing include:


• Principles of Genetics

• Biotech Fermentation

• Immunological Techniques.


In addition to your degree, some companies may require that you have at least two years of related experience to perform duties such as preparing technical reports and quantitative analysis.


To work in a research or research capacity, you will require at least a master's degree in one of the above-mentioned fields. Working as a principal biotechnology researcher (a role that also involves the supervision of research associates and other staff), you will likely be required to have a doctorate degree in a related field and a minimum of 10 years of experience. 





General Job Description

Biotechnology researchers study biological organisms, systems, or processes to learn about the science of life in order to develop or make useful products, or to improve the value of materials and organisms such as pharmaceuticals, crops, and livestock. Biotechnology researchers typically conduct specialized research projects such as mapping DNA, studying pharmaceuticals or finding medical uses for plants.



Typical Job Duties

• Determine objectives, method and budget of research

• Collect and analyze data

• Prepare reports based on findings

• May publish reports

• Study cell cultures

• Provide cultures with new growth media



Experience You'll Need

To become a biotechnology researcher that works in a technological capacity, or as a research associate, you typically need a minimal amount of laboratory experience. A sufficient amount of experience for these positions can be gained through coursework while earning your biology, biochemistry, biotechnology or related degree.


To work in mid-level research positions, such as Scientist I and Scientist II, you'll likely need at least 5 years of research experience, typically gained by working in entry-level positions, as well as during the pursuit of your graduate degree.


To eventually work in senior-level positions, such as Principal Scientist or Principal Researcher, you'll likely need at least 10 years of research experience, and may require some supervisory experience, depending on the requirements of the employer. 



Value of Biotechnology Researchers

The efforts of biotechnology researchers help us further understand the practical applications of organisms and their processes, such as in medicine, agriculture and the protection of the environment. The lessons they teach us can be applied to a number of products that benefit society, including:


• New vaccines to prevent disease

• Genetically modified plants with resistance to pests

• Repair of damaged organs and tissues and improved detection of diseases

• Treatments for human infertility

• Bacteria capable of cleaning up oil spills

• Environmentally friendly biofuels



Salary Level Typical to This Profession

The salary level of biotechnology researchers can vary greatly depending on factors such as their level of experience, their job title, their level of education, where they work, and many others.


Unfortunately there is no specific salary information available for biotechnology researcher, however we can get a good idea of what these scientists earn by examining the salary level of closely related professions.


Salary - Canada: According to the 2018 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans in the Biologists occupational group earn an average of $84,998 per year. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories at the time of writing (June 19, 2019).


Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual salary of workers in the Biochemists and Biophysicists occupational group is $79,390 per year.





Who Employs Biotechnology Researchers?

There are many different types of organizations that benefit from employing the skills, knowledge and competencies of biotechnology researchers, such as:


• Environmental consulting firms

• Biotechnical and pharmaceutical companies

• Companies in the agriculture, food, natural resource and utility industries

• Medical and veterinary research organizations

• Colleges and universities

• Federal, provincial/state and local government departments and agencies

• Private research organizations



Current Job Opportunities

Our job board below has biotechnology researcher postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, when available (although online postings in this field are relatively rare):




Similar Occupational Profiles in Our Database

Listed below are occupations in our database that are similar in nature to that of a biotechnology researcher, as they involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


• Biologist

• Biomedical Ethics Researcher

• Biophysicist

• Clinical Research Associate

• Medical Scientist



References For This Career Guide

Please consult the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a biotechnology researcher:


Occupations in Alberta:Biotechnologist.” (March 16, 2016). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved October 28, 2019.

Life, Physical, and Social Science:Biochemists and Biophysicists.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Employment and Wages - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved October 28, 2019.

Emerging Technology:Biotechnology.” Marya Jan (n.d.). Government of Canada website. Retrieved October 28, 2019.

College to Career:Biotechnology.” (n.d.). American Chemical Society website. Retrieved October 28, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Biotechnology Researcher

Scholarships listed for majors that are relevant for becoming a biotechnology researcher can be found on our Biology Scholarships page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant University Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for working in this field.


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