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Go Beyond the Lab and Pursue a Fulfilling Career in Biotechnology

Career as Biotechnology

Are you intrigued by the double helix structure of DNA and genes? Intrigued by so much information they pack in so tiny space? Are you interested to play some sort of Master who can modify the genes to develop plants and animals with a set of specific features such as a square-shaped pumpkin or a bacteria which can produce large amounts of human proteins? Or would you like to join medical research and develop drugs that can alter a human gene for a desired effect on health, such as, stopping the onset of certain types of cancer? If these interest you, a career in Biotechnology can open many doors for you.

Biotechnologists modify and manipulate various parts of living cells and various biochemical processes in cells to develop various products which are beneficial for humans, animals and plants. They are involved in the research, development and production of such products. For example, Biotechnologists may research, develop, and produce genetically modified seeds, plants with a desired feature (such as resistance to pests), farm animals with a desired feature (such as resistance to a certain type of infection), medicines, biofuels, etc.

Why Become a Biotechnology?

As a Biotechnologist, your primary job responsibility will be working with organic and living matter. You will have to study the cellular, molecular and genetic structure of plants, animals, and microorganisms to engineer them in ways that can be beneficial for humans, animals and plants. You will have to understand the natural biological processes at the cellular and molecular levels to create and engineer advanced products for agriculture, food, pharmaceuticals, healthcare, and other industries as well as for the protection and conservation of the flora and fauna of the earth.

Biotechnologists aim to understand and manipulate the basic building blocks of living things to change their characteristics and functions. For this, they study the physical, chemical, and genetic structures as well as the biochemical processes of cells, tissues, and organisms. They modify the structures and manipulate the processes to create a product, better crop yield, produce a drug, or provide a cure for disease. 

Medical Biotechnology primarily involves the use of living cells and cell materials to formulate and produce pharmaceutical drugs, vaccines, and diagnostic products for the treatment and prevention of human diseases.

What Does a Biotechnology do?

  • Study the genetic makeup of plants, animals, humans, and microorganisms (bacteria, fungi, yeast, etc.,) and their enzymes.
  • Collect, study, and test samples such as blood, cells, tissues, bacteria cultures, etc.
  • Design and implement research studies and develop new research procedures.
  • Set up laboratory equipment to conduct and monitor experiments.
  • Record all the findings from research and experiments and analyze the results carefully.
  • Meet with clients, colleagues and others from time to time to discuss projects, and challenges faced, and offer actionable solutions using biotechnology.
  • Plan project budgets and production costs, and find ways to secure funding.
  • Participate in intellectual negotiations with fellow researchers, academicians, clients, and so on.

How to Become a Biotechnology – Eligibility Criteria

Remember that as Biotechnology is a multi-disciplinary field, it is not always necessary to study for a degree in Biotechnology to build a career in Biotechnology. For example, in the research and development of Biotechnology, knowledge of various disciplines such as Biophysics, Biochemistry, Molecular Biology, Cell Biology, Genetics, etc. are used. In the Biotechnology products development and manufacturing industry, Chemical or Biochemical engineering may find work. Food Engineers may find work.

Undergraduate studies after school:

Keeping Science as your field of study, you can pursue your graduation with a B.Sc degree in Physics / Chemistry / Biology / Zoology / Botany / Microbiology / Molecular Biology / Biochemistry / Life Science / Bioscience / Physiology / Biophysics / Biochemistry / Agricultural Science / Food Science & Technology / Animal  Sciences / Plant Sciences / Biotechnology / Plant Biotechnology / Animal Biotechnology / Marine Biotechnology or a B.Tech degree in Biotechnology / Chemical Engineering / Biochemical Engineering / Food Engineering / Pharmaceutical Technology / Agricultural Engineering / a similar field.

For B.Tech., you will need to have studied classes 11-12 with Physics, Chemistry, Mathematics and Biology. For B.Sc. degrees in Biosciences or Biotechnology, you may study Physics, Chemistry and Biology in class 11-12.

You may also do an MBBS, B.Pharm. or a B.Sc. in Veterinary Science & Animal Husbandry after your class 11-12 with Physics, Chemistry and Biology.

Post Graduate studies:

For your post-graduation, you can choose to obtain an M.Sc degree in Physics / Chemistry / Biology / Zoology / Botany  / Microbiology / Molecular Biology / Biochemistry / Life Science / Bioscience / Physiology / Biophysics / Agriculture / Agricultural Science / Food Science & Technology / Animal  Sciences / Plant Sciences / Biotechnology / Animal Biotechnology / Plant Biotechnology / Marine Biotechnology / Agricultural Biotechnology / Microbial Biotechnology / Plant Breeding & Genetics / Animal Breeding & Genetics / Genetics / Molecular Biology / Cell Biology / Similar field (if you have done a B.Sc.) or an degree in Biotechnology / Chemical Engineering / Pharmaceutical Technology / Biochemical Engineering / Food Engineering / Agricultural Engineering or a similar field (if you have done a B.Tech. or a B.Pharm. B.Pharm. graduates are eligible for studying M.Tech. in Biotechnology / Pharmaceutical Technology). 

You may also do an M.Sc. or a Master’s in Veterinary Sciences with a specialization in Animal Biotechnology. Or, you can do an M.D. in a medical discipline of your choice.

Doctoral Studies:

After obtaining your graduate and postgraduate degrees, to develop a rewarding career in Biotechnology, you should do a Ph.D. in Biotechnology / Biochemical Engineering and Biotechnology / Animal Biotechnology / Plant Biotechnology / Pharmaceutical Biotechnology / Medical Biotechnology / Genetics / Molecular Biology / Cell Biology / Genomics / Microbial Biotechnology / in a similar field.

If you have done an MBBS in the graduate level, you can directly join a Ph.D. program in a suitable field of Biotech, such as Medical or Pharmaceutical Biotechnology.

You have done an MD, then also you can join a Ph.D. program in Medical Biotechnology. You may also join an M.S.T.P. (Medical Scientist Training Program) in USA which prepares you to work in high-end futuristic research in various areas. You may choose to do an M.S.T.P. in Medical Biotechnology.

Job Opportunities

After B.Tech. in Biotechnology or a related field, you can get entry-level jobs roles (related to manufacturing and administrative roles) in various industries including Pharma/Biochemical/Cosmetics/Agro-based/Food production companies such as Sales Executive, Production Executive, Laboratory Assistant, QA Analysts, to name a few.

After Biotechnology or a related field, you can get into Biotech research with job roles like Research Assistant/Associate or Research Fellow in various universities and research institutions as well as in the numerous Biotech Companies in India like Biocon, Panacea Biotec Ltd., Wockhardt, GSK Pharmaceuticals, Dr. Reddy’s Laboratories, etc.

If you hold a Ph.D. degree in the above-mentioned fields, you can bag the job roles such as a Post Doctoral Research Fellow or a Junior Scientist in a scientific research institute or in a university in the country such as:

  • Institute of Life Sciences (Bhubaneswar)
  • Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine (Bengaluru)
  • National Institute of Animal Biotechnology (Hyderabad)
  • National Institute of Biomedical Genomics (Kalyani)
  • National Institute of Plant Genome Research (New Delhi)
  • Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology (Thiruvananthapuram)
  • Regional Centre for Biotechnology, Centre for Cellular and Molecular Biology (Hyderabad)
  • Indian Institute of Science
  • IITs

There are job opportunities in academia too. For instance, if you hold an M.Sc or Ph.D. degree, you can join Universities as a Research Associate/Assistant or Doctoral/Postdoctoral Research Fellow in biotech or similar departments in the university. Also, with a Ph. D. degree, you can opt for the job role of an Assistant Professor (research & teaching in Biotechnology) in universities or colleges.

Work Environment

The working environments of Biotechnologists may vary according to their projects and job responsibilities. They may either work in laboratories or offices and they may also sometimes have to work in manufacturing plants/factories of companies. In such cases, they may have to work in hazardous environments. Also, if they are in academic roles, they may work in laboratories/offices/classrooms of universities or research organizations. Although Biotechnologists have normal working hours, sometimes they may have to work extra hours if it involves meeting deadlines or completing experiments.  

Salary of a Biotechnology

Beginners in this field who are employed in the Government sector usually have a starting salary of Rs. 55,000 – 65,000 per month along with various government perks/allowances. The salaries can go up to Rs. 120,000 – 180,000 per month and even more, as you get promoted to senior-level roles. If you join private sector biotech or pharmaceutical companies, on the other hand, offer a monthly salary package ranging between Rs. 45,000 – 80,000 to an entry-level graduate/postgraduate in Biotechnology.

While the average monthly stipend of a Junior Research Fellow is Rs. 35,000, the average monthly stipend of a Senior Research Fellow is Rs.38,000, with other benefits/allowances. After obtaining a doctoral degree, you can upgrade to the level of Scientist E with an average monthly package starting from Rs. 59,400 and can go up to Rs. 1,82,400. Similarly, after obtaining a postdoctoral degree, you can upgrade to the level of Scientist D with a starting monthly salary of Rs. 68,900, going up to Rs. 2,05,500. In about 4-8 years, you can further get promoted to the level of Scientist C with starting monthly salary of Rs. 79,800, going up to Rs. 2,11,500; after 8-12 years, you can get promoted to the level of Scientist B with starting monthly salary of Rs. 1,31,400, going up to Rs. 2,17,100, and finally, after 12-16 years, you can upgrade to the level of Scientist B with starting monthly salary of Rs. 1,44,200, going up to Rs. 2,18,200.

The average monthly salary range of Biotechnology professionals in Academia is also extremely good. For instance, the average monthly salary of an Assistant Professor is around Rs. 79,000 – 1,10,000. The average monthly salary of an Associate Professor is around Rs. 1,20,000 – 1,60,000 and that of a Professor is around Rs. 1,80,000 – 2,40,000.

In Industry-specific job roles, if you have a B.Tech. / M.Tech. in Biotechnology, you can either get to work in industrial production processes in Biotech, Food Tech, Pharma and other related industries. After B.Tech., your starting salary could be between Rs. 30,000 – 45,000 a month. After M.Tech., you may look forward to earning anything between Rs. 60,000 – 80,000 or more a month.

You can also join as a Research Associate in the industry after your M.Sc. You will earn about Rs. 25,000-30,000 a month. After your Ph.D., you will earn about Rs. 70,000-1,20,000 or more per month or even more.

In industrial production, mid-level salaries range from Rs. 60,000 – 2,00,000 or more per month while senior-level salaries range from Rs. 2,00,000 to Rs. 8,00,000 or even more per month.

In industrial research, mid-level salaries range from Rs. 80,000 – 2,00,000 or more per month while senior-level salaries range from Rs. 2,00,000 to Rs. 6,00,000 or even more per month.

Career Progression in Biotechnology Profession

As mentioned before, the career growth chart of Biotechnology professionals looks quite bright. Once you get into the field in any industry, be it Pharma and Biochemical, or be it Agricultural or Genomics, you can expect to higher up the ladder by constantly learning about the latest trends in the field and upskilling.

For instance, if you are in Academia, you can begin your career by being a Junior Research Fellow/Associate and then after 2-3 years, you can become a Senior Research Fellow/Associate. Again, if you begin your career as an Assistant Prof. of Biotechnology in a College/University, you can become a Professor in about 10-14 years’ time. If you are in the research domain, you can become a Junior Research Scientist and in about 10-15 years’ time, you can become a Senior Research Scientist/Analyst.

If you are in Management/Administrative roles, within 5-10 years, you can go from being a Production Executive to General Manager – Product and then to a Vice President / President.

India is fast emerging as a leading destination for clinical trials, contract research, and manufacturing activities which is further boosting the growth of the Bio Services sector. According to the latest IBEF (India Brand Equity Foundation) report, the Indian Biotech industry is predicted to grow at a CAGR of 30.46% to reach US$ 100 billion by FY25. Furthermore, the Indian government has undertaken several initiatives in this field including a Biotechnology industry partnership program to foster the development of new technologies. According to the 12th Five-Year Plan, the government aims to spend US$ 3.7 billion on biotechnology to accelerate the pace of research, innovation, and development in this field. At the pace the industry is growing and expanding, it can be assumed that employment opportunities in this sector will rise in the near future.

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