In environmental biotechnology your work could include:
- developing micro-organisms and plants to clean polluted land or water
- creating alternative renewable sources of energy, such as biodiesel
- producing environmentally-friendly raw materials for industry, such as biodegradable plastics from plant starches.
In industrial biotechnology, your role could include:
- cloning and producing enzymes for use in manufacturing and preserving food and drink (such as beer, cheese and bread)
- creating biological detergents and dyes for the textile industry
- improving animal feed
- developing crops that are more resistant to pests
- genetically modifying crops to increase productivity.
In medical biotechnology and biotherapeutics you might:
- study human genetics, proteins, antibodies, viruses, plants, fungi and bacteria to research and treat diseases/cancers
- develop therapies, vaccines and hormones to treat the genetic cause of a disease rather than the symptoms
- produce medicines using techniques such as cell culture and genetic modification.
In all three areas, your daily tasks would also include using computers and specialised technical equipment, preparing reports, presenting the findings of research projects, and keeping administrative records.
- an interest in and an aptitude for science, particularly biology and chemistry
- an enquiring mind
- good problem-solving skills
- a methodical approach to work
- a high level of accuracy and attention to detail
- the ability to analyse statistical and technical data
- good computer skills
- good spoken and written communication skills
- the ability to work as part of a team and on your own initiative.
Average salary (2013):
The United Kingdom: £19,000 and £24,000 a year.
Qualifications and training required:
To work as a biotechnologist you will need a degree in a relevant scientific subject, such as:
- chemistry or chemical engineering.
To do a science-based degree you will usually need five GCSEs (A-C), including English, maths, chemistry, biology, physics or combined sciences, plus at least two A levels, including chemistry or biology. Check with course providers because other qualifications may also be accepted.
Increasingly, employers want you to have some knowledge of the specific area of biotechnology you want to go into (such as the food and drink industry), plus relevant industry experience (which may be included in your degree course).
For a research post you will usually need a postgraduate qualification and several years' experience in the field.
If you have a scientific background in a related field, such as chemical engineering, you may be able to transfer into biotechnology.