Biotechnology is the study of biology to make products. While the most common field for biotechnology is in medicine and pharmaceuticals, biotechnology is also heavily utilized in agriculture and clean energy. Often, the research revolves around the genetic manipulation of microorganisms. Advances in this field help improve lives as well as the health of the planet.
Thanks to biotechnology, we have biotechnology-based vaccines and healthcare products, biorefineries for clean fuels, and bioengineered crops that reduce the need for pesticides and fertilizers. In fact, biotechnology is even utilized in waste systems management to diminish the resources needed to handle sewage.
Working in this field requires specialized education in genetics, biology, chemistry, immunology, and more. While it is possible to enter this career with a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology, many aspiring professionals complete a graduate certificate, master’s, or PhD. Taking the time to complete a degree can be very challenging for many professionals, but thankfully, numerous online biotechnology degree programs are available across the country.
Which degree a student pursues depends on their career aspirations. Those wanting to work in a lab can find entry-level work with an undergraduate degree. If teaching or research are career aspirations, then a more advanced degree may be necessary. Many master’s and PhD programs include extensive coursework in leadership and management in order to prepare graduates to lead teams of scientists.
Continue reading to learn about top programs, at all levels, in biotechnology. Also included below are profiles of some top professors in this field and some do-it-yourself training options for those looking to get started in this career.
Dr. Qiang Chen, known as Shawn to his colleagues, is a molecular biology researcher and professor at the Arizona State University School of Life Sciences. His research focuses on biological agents to develop new therapeutic treatments and vaccines. He has worked on the Zika virus, Ebola, SARS-CoV-2, and colorectal cancer.
When not in the lab, Dr. Chen acts as an advisor for undergraduate and graduate student research projects. Most students that he mentors are working with human clinical trials, as he has more than two decades of experience in this area.
Not only is Dr. Beatrice Kondo the assistant program director for the master’s of science in biotechnology, but she is also the advisor to all students pursuing further education in a professional medical school.
Prior to working in academia, Dr. Kondo had a successful career in software test engineering. She even worked on testing the control systems and software for the Hubble Space Telescope. Currently, she teaches courses in comparative animal physiology, genomics and personalized medicine, and advanced cell biology. Her doctorate in biological sciences is from the University of Maryland.
Dr. Jelena Janjic’s expertise lies in new drug delivery systems, medication dosing methods, and therapeutic interventions for chronic pain. She also has performed extensive research on how the immune and nervous systems interact with chronic pain. In fact, she is the founder and co-director of Duquesne’s Chronic Pain Research Consortium. This consortium has secured over $5 million in external funding for research and education.
Dr. Janjic teaches courses in pharmaceutical biotechnology, drug delivery systems, and pharmaceutical manufacturing. She is also currently a faculty fellow for the US Airforce, where she helps train medical residents and fellows.
University of Maryland Global Campus
The online bachelor’s in biotechnology at the University of Maryland Global Campus was designed with input from employers and professionals in the field to create a program that produces employable graduates. The program offers a bachelor’s of science or a bachelor’s of technical and professional studies. Students in either program learn ethical research practices, strong communication skills, the scientific process, and critical thinking.
This program consists of a total of 120 credits that can take approximately four years to complete. Students must complete 41 credits in general education, 43 credits in electives, and 36 credits in major-related courses. Required classes include Inquiries in biological science, molecular and cellular biology, bioinformatics, and laboratory management and safety.
Arizona State University – School of Life Sciences
Arizona State University’s School of Life Sciences offers an online bachelor of science in biological sciences – biomedical sciences. Students all across the country can begin their education and training in biomedicine and biotechnology without having to relocate. Some students are even able to continue working while pursuing their studies. Students who graduate from this program are prepared for further education in medicine or for entering a career in research.
There are a total of 40 classes required for this program, offered in short seven a half week terms. Coursework students complete include immunology, biotechnology, genomics, and more. In addition to lecture courses, students also complete extensive lab classwork.
Duquesne University – Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences
Coursework for the online master’s of science in biotechnology at Duquesne University Bayer School of Natural and Environmental Sciences not only focuses on sciences but also includes instruction in business, ethics, and leadership. Science classes feature topics such as medical devices, commercial research, regulatory affairs, and product development. Graduates of this program can move into a career in biotechnology or can continue their studies to earn a PhD.
Admission requirements for this program include a bachelor’s degree, a statement of purpose, official transcripts, two letters of recommendation, and GRE scores.
University of Wisconsin, Madison – School of Medicine and Public Health
The master of science in applied biotechnology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison School of Medicine and Public Health can be completed online in as little as two years. This flexible program is geared towards students pursuing leadership and management positions in biotechnology. Based on the successful on-campus program, the online degree features the same teachers and curriculum adapted to distance learning.
There are three tracks students can choose to complete within this major. They are business management, quality assurance, and research and development. Admission requirements include a bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution, at least two semesters of college-level lab coursework, and a 3.0 GPA.
Johns Hopkins University – Krieger School of Arts and Sciences
Professionals already in this field who are looking to advance their biotechnology education can complete the online certificate in biotechnology enterprise at Johns Hopkins Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. This certificate provides advanced training in the development and commercialization of biotechnology as well as education on product development and financing. One benefit of this program is the strong networking opportunities that can help graduates secure work upon completion of the certificate.
The five required classes completed for this certificate can be applied to the master’s of science in biotechnology enterprise and entrepreneurship, should students wish to continue their studies.
Northeastern University – College of Science
With an online certificate in biotechnology from Northeastern University College of Science, professionals in this field will be able to apply their improved competency to contribute to advances in research and commercialization. Some students even use this program as a starting point for the more advanced master’s of science in biotechnology.
Coursework for the certificate consists of didactic classes and collaboration in ongoing research projects. This allows students to immediately apply the concepts they are learning.
Not all aspiring biotechnology professionals have the time or resources to dedicate to a bachelor’s, master’s, or certificate program. Since even a basic understanding of biotechnology can improve job prospects of advancement opportunities, ambitious scientists can complete stand-alone coursework in this field. This do-it-yourself route can offer opportunities to learn the most recent advances in the field with minimal time commitments and expense.
The Massachusetts Institute of Technology offers hundreds of courses online, including many in biology and biotechnology. All of these classes are pre-recorded lectures students can watch at their own pace.
Many courses include readings, exams, assignments, and instructor insights. Biotechnology-specific classes include experimental molecular biology: biotechnology and harnessing the biosphere: natural products and biotechnology.
Coursera is an online learning platform offering short courses in everything from business to languages. They also offer more than 20 short courses in the field of biotechnology. These courses can be completed anywhere from a few hours to a few days, depending on the topic.
Courses are taught by professionals in the field from top institutions such as the University of California San Diego and the University of Manchester. Costs for the classes vary from $50 for one-time classes to $39 or more for ones requiring a subscription.