A biotechnologist is a trained scientist who applies his or her knowledge of living organisms to a variety of industries, especially manufacturing, medical, environmental and agricultural. Biotechnology involves modifying structures within single cells and can be used for both scientific research and product development. There are a vast array of job duties that someone who works in this field can perform, depending on the industry he or she works in.
Most biotechnologists usually have a postgraduate degree in biology, organic chemistry, or plant and animal sciences. They may also take coursework in business, since many careers in this discipline are in production fields. Many jobs in consulting or management require advanced degrees, although some research positions may only need undergraduate studies.
An entry level biotechnologist may typically work in a laboratory environment. He or she can assist a laboratory technician and perform research, record findings and analyze results. Entry level positions are also generally responsible for properly using and cleaning laboratory instruments.
Since this field can be applied to various industries, biotechnologists generally specialize in a particular area. One of the most common is in product development and manufacturing. A specialist may use his or her knowledge of microorganisms to make processed food or household products. Many of the additives and preservatives in processed foods are developed by people in this discipline. The discoveries of biotechnologists have produced food items such as yeast, canola oil and soybean products.
The medical industry also uses biotechnology. A biotechnologist who works in the medical field may perform research to discover cures for diseases. He or she can use those findings to help develop drugs or other treatments for pharmaceutical companies.
Someone who works in agriculture may specialize in plant- and animal-related research. He or she will usually research the effects of pesticides and develop alternative ingredients. Some genetically engineer fruits and vegetables to make hybrid produce, such as seedless apples.
A biotechnologist can advance beyond performing research and developing products and methods. He or she may work as a investigator and ensure companies are following safety and health regulations. Experienced professionals can become directors to oversee research teams and work directly with the heads of companies.
Although many modern biotechnologists use their educations to work in industry, others still practice careers in academia. Scientists may be awarded grant money to pursue independent research and publish his or her findings in scientific journals. Other academics work as college professors and advise students, as well as oversee research programs.