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Whether you are just starting to explore, or have committed to a career in Biotechnology this Career Track offers tips, tools, and action steps to move your career search forward.

The first step in beginning your career journey is to assess your interests, skills, strengths, goals, values, and self to better understand your story and give you career direction.  Then, we can help you reflect on your story and create career exploration goals.

Interests: Know your interests, as they may help to align you with organizations and possible job titles representing a match based on your likes/dislikes. Use these tools below to clarify your interests and possible career ideas based on interests.

  • MyNextMove - Explore career options and interests by keyword or industry, or take their short assessment to find potential career matches based on interests.

  • Strong Interest Inventory (SII) - The SII is a widely respected career interest inventory designed to help people find a fit between their personalities and work. It compares your interests and preferences to people in general and to people who have been happy and satisfied in their careers. The results from the SII identify careers that best fit a person’s interests.

Values: Know your values, as they may help to align you with potential work environments and organizations that match your passion(s) and core belief(s). Use these tools below to clarify your values and identify possible career ideas based on your values.

  • Imperative - This on-line tool will help you evaluate how you can bring meaning and authenticity to your work, as you identify your passion and core values, around work. The initial assessment is free, and can be brought to an appointment with us, for more conversation.

Skills/Strengths: Know your skills and strengths, as they may help to align you with well suited job titles, work tasks and work environments. Use these tools below to clarify your skills/strengths and possible career ideas based on your talents and skills.

  • Career Onestop - Take this short skills assessment to learn more about your skills and how they match up to potential career ideas.

  • Myers Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) - The MBTI is a self-report questionnaire designed to make Jung’s theory of psychological types understandable and useful in everyday life. It is one of the most widely used instruments for understanding personality differences and is widely used to understand people in terms of their decision-making styles, preferences for communication and work environments, and for career development and exploration.

  • CliftonStrengths - The CS helps you to discover your top talent themes. By becoming aware of these talents, you can grow them into strengths. Strengths can be utilized in all aspects of your life, including career planning and during the career search process. The assessment is all about focusing on your natural talents to maximize your potential.

Want some coaching on where to begin?  Not sure which Career Track is right for you?  Make an appointment on Handshake for “Exploring Options”. We’ll be happy to talk more about your Career Track options and explore your interests and skills together, in a coaching relationship.

 Explore Your Track

Biotechnology is the use of living systems and organisms to develop or make products. Biotechnology has applications in several major industrial areas, including health care, crop production and agriculture, non-food (industrial) uses of crops and other products and environmental uses.  In the most basic terms, Biotechnology is a broad field that aims to:

  • Heal the World
  • Fuel the World and
  • Feed the World.

Biotechnology is a subject generally studied at the graduate level. 

Information from Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO)Information from Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO)

Currently, there are more than 250 biotechnology health care products and vaccines available to patients, many for previously untreatable diseases. More than 18 million farmers around the world use agricultural biotechnology to increase yields, prevent damage from insects and pests and reduce farming's impact on the environment. And more than 50 biorefineries are being built across North America to test and refine technologies to produce biofuels and chemicals from renewable biomass, which can help reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Watch this video for an overview of some of the capabilities and potential of biotechnology so you can better understand the basic principles involved with molecular biology and some of the applications in plants, animals and medicine.

See more info on What is Biotechnology?

Biotech Chronicles is a brief history of biotech discoveries, which continue to influence the field today. See essays on genetics and DNA research, profiles of some of the influential individuals who have helped build the biotechnology industry, and an integrated series of time lines, which provide an overview of biotechnology from a historical perspective.

Feeling ready to make a bigger commitment to understanding the business of biotechnology?  Consider taking a MOOC Course:  BiotechU (ThinkBiotech)

Here is some information to get you started:

To work in biotechnology you will need a degree in a relevant scientific subject, such as:

  • Agricultural Sciences
  • Biology
  • Biochemistry
  • Biophysics
  • Biotechnology
  • Chemistry
  • Engineering
  • Genetics
  • Immunology
  • Microbiology
  • Pharmaceutical Sciences
  • etc.

You will also need to develop and demonstrate:

  • Interest and aptitude in science
  • Analytical and problem-solving skills
  • Ability to analyze statistical and technical data
  • Ability to work as part of a team and on your own
  • Project management skills
  • Communication and presentation skills
  • High level of accuracy and attention to detail
  • Initiative
  • Strong IT literacy
  • Ethical awareness

From an entry-level biotechnology position (such as research assistant), with additional education and work experience, you may be promoted to positions with supervisory duties, such as technologist or laboratory supervisor, and scientist. You may also be tasked with supervising, coordinating and managing laboratory personnel, training new hires, writing grants to obtain funding and reporting laboratory findings to upper management. Some senior positions may require a master's degree or PhD as well as years of experience in roles with increasing responsibility.

Guide to Life Science Careers provides a nice overview of opportunities in the field, with a section dedicated to biotechnology.

Vaults Career Guides provide great information about careers in biotechnology and related industries, with an emphasis on preparation and getting your foot in the door. 

So, what is really like to work in biotech? (for PhD level position)

Profiles from the biotech field

Biotechnology Predoctoral Research Training Program Institutions

While it is possible to work as a research technician or research associate with a BS or MS science degree, in the biotechnology industry a PhD degree is generally required for the more advanced positions.

With appropriate education and training, you can seek employment in a wide variety of research and laboratory positions, including pharmaceutical, clinical, agricultural, animal, food and environmental science laboratories, as well as in product development or in government regulatory positions.  In these roles, you may analyze biological and chemical samples, conduct basic or applied research, develop products or new applications for existing technologies or work with genetic material to diagnose or treat diseases. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects employment opportunities for biological technicians (BS level) to grow by 10% between 2012 and 2022 and by 19% for biochemists and biophysicists (PhD holders).

You can find jobs in the healthcare industry, in patient or community education, or in biotech companies where, with BS/MS degrees, you can move from research to program management, or regulatory affairs, quality, and sales and marketing.  It is possible to achieve senior managerial positions in these areas with a BS/MS degree only.  However, with just a bachelor’s degree, the climb to a managerial role in many large companies may take a decade or longer given that most managerial positions require some kind of advanced degree. 

Note:  A PhD does limit your ability to apply to jobs that are lower in the research hierarchy. It is very difficult for someone with a PhD degree to obtain a job as a laboratory technician or research associate.

Many biology PhDs may need to adjust their expectations since it is not realistic for each and everyone to think that it is likely to get academic faculty appointments or even traditional bench research jobs in the pharmaceutical industry or other biotechnology fields.  It will be necessary for some to transfer their skills into office jobs in industry, like business development, law, patents, marketing, and communications.  Versatile PhD is a great, confidential virtual community that provides info on non-academic careers for PhDs, ABDs, and Master’s degree holders.  See more Masters and PhD  students Career Center’s resources

Some view the biotech industry as an alternative to the more conventional life-science paths that lead through medical school or end in academia.  However, given the depth and breadth of the field, it can be challenging to decide where to start outside of these more traditional routes:  the lab in industry, consulting, regulatory… and whether with large companies, small companies or even startups.

The Industry Research Route--Working in industry as a scientist can feel very differently from being in academic research.  Research work in industry requires relinquishing the degree of intellectual freedom allowed in academia although it offers better opportunities to see the fruits of your labor translate into products with the potential to positively impact human or environmental health.   In academia, you are likely to be more isolated, working solo in a more competitive environment.  As an industry scientist, you will have stricter deadlines with specific milestone to meet with your team in order to produce a marketable product that meets regulations. 

The Business Route--You can break into the biotechnology field through the business route, often in a consulting role.  Many companies value business knowledge although they do not necessarily require a full-blown MBA degree. In fact, as many in the field will tell you, “You can always make a scientist a businessman, but you can’t always make a businessman into a scientist.”  For the more entrepreneurial type, there is always the opportunity to start your own shop, but building a startup requires an incredible amount of drive, vision, flexibility, creativity, resilience and stamina, not to mention a healthy dose of “business sense”.

The Regulatory Route--Getting a master’s degree in regulatory science or even a law degree and working as a consultant can be another way to break into the industry.  Similarly to advanced research positions, jobs in regulatory science and governmental policy are usually good options for people with more experience and/or advanced degrees.  (The George Washington University has launched a "first-of-its kind master of engineering degree program in regulatory biomedical engineering to educate engineers who can navigate the regulatory process and help bring new inventions to market faster.")

Does Size Matter?--One of the choices to make as you explore how to break into the field has to do not only with the type but also with the size of the organization you wish to target.  At a large company, you can readily take advantage of courses, network, resources, not to mention the peace of mind of greater job security compared to, let’s say, a startup.  However, sometimes, joining a smaller company may lead to a more rapid career progression due to deeper interactions with colleagues at all levels and the opportunity to engage in a wider variety of roles and projects, with the ensuing development of broader expertise.

The Startup--If you are considering taking a job with a startup, Read these 7 Things To Know Before Taking A Biotech Start Up Job.

Network--Like any other field, networking is crucial for getting a feel for the industry and for meeting the players in the companies for which you may work one day.  Consider attending meetings like those sponsored by the American Chemical Society or the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO) for example.  Leverage UM Alumni and other contacts (UM professors, LinkedIn, personal connections, etc.) to learn about industries, opportunities, application modalities and anticipated hiring needs.

See information on the career potential of a biotechnology graduate at all degree levels

As you explore this track, it will be important to understand current industry trends as well as "hot issues"in the field.  At the exploratory stage, understanding where the industry is going, employment outlook, geographical nuances, etc. will help you determine whether the current and developing status of the industry is one that truly interests you and/or is feasible to pursue based on your specific circumstances.  However, if you are actively job searching, it will be crucial to understand who the key players in the industry are, what challenges companies large and small are facing, which problems organizations are trying to solve, etc.  For example, depending on the specific field of biotechnology that you will be pursuing, you should know not only about issues around animal cruelty, biosafety, (over)regulation, differences between EU markets and domestic ones, the current decline of biotech stocks, the recent pharma mergers and tax implications... but also about the growth of startups and incubators, emerging “futuristic” therapies, and the rise of digital health.

Trends in Biotechnology

Benefits and Risks of Biotechnology

10 top trends driving the biopharma industry today

3 Trends To Help You Improve Your Business Acumen

Armed with some background information and ideas, connecting with professionals can offer next level insights and answer more specific questions. Learn how to identify people to talk with, what to do before your scheduled conversation, what to ask, and more on our website: Networking Resources.

And check out these additional resources:

  • UCAN (University Career Alumni Network) -- Search and connect with U-M alumni who have volunteered to chat with U-M students about all things career-related!

Get Help

Want some coaching around navigating your Career Track?  Interested in talking with a Career Coach about your exploration of a Career Track?

Before Your Appointment: Explore and engage with the tools and links in Explore Your Career Track; Complete the 3,2,1 reflection exercise; Attend a Career Crawl/Workshop related to your Career Track.



You have been exploring your Career Track, and may be wondering “What Next?”  This short exercise will help you clarify your question(s) and identify strategies to answer your career exploration questions.

3   -  What are three take-aways from your exploration of this Career Track?

2   -  What are two questions that you have/ what are you questioning now?

1   -  What is 1 specific action step you plan to take, to answer your 2 questions?

Was this helpful?

 Launch Your Job or Internship Search

Timelines for employment vary greatly, depending on the industry and type of positions.  Below is a list of possible job titles to search job and internship job boards for, based obviously on your interests and educational level:

  • Agricultural Scientists
  • Animal Breeders and Technicians
  • Aquaculturists
  • Biochemists
  • Bioinformatics Specialists
  • Biologists
  • Biomedical Engineers
  • Biomedical Equipment Technicians
  • Biophysicists
  • Biotechnology Patent Lawyers
  • Biotechnology Research Assistants
  • Chemical Engineers
  • Chemical Technicians
  • Chemists
  • Cytotechnologists
  • Drug Developers
  • Environmental Scientists
  • Genetic Engineers
  • Genetic Scientists
  • Laboratory Technicians and Technologists
  • Medical Scientists
  • Microbiologists
  • Pharmacologists
  • Toxicologists

See comprehensive guide to Job Hunting in the Biotech Industry for scientist job seekers.

A referral from a contact goes a long way when looking for a job.  

Check out UCAN (the University Career Alumni Network) to search for and connect with professionals wh0 have volunteered to talk with students about their positions and how to break into their industries!

You can also use the groups you have been contributing to on LinkedIn as a valuable referral source. Our favorite tool is the “Find Alumni” feature (under the “connections” tab) to find professionals in your intended field to reach out to. Check out this article: Using LinkedIn to Find a Job or Internship

    In the end, you want to talk with the people who work in your field as networking is incredibly important in this job search. 

    Only a small percentage of positions are secured through job boards.  A larger percentage of positions are uncovered and eventually secured through personal outreach to and active engagement with various professionals in the field, basically through what many people generically refer to as “networking”.  Does this mean that you should not bother looking at job boards?  Absolutely not!  Job boards can be extremely helpful to get a sense for the most active companies, variety of positions, job descriptions, salary ranges, etc.  However, mining job boards should not be the only technique in your search.  You are likely to be more successful if you take a multi-pronged approach.

    Researching The Key Companies

    Some of the largest biotechnology companies in the word include:

    Be sure to also check this handy resource on, where you can search by state and city a lot of biotech companies all over the United States

    When launching your internship/job search:

    1. Write your resume with a focus on achievements, goals, and skills. Remember that the first person reviewing resumes may not have a science background although they know what keywords they are looking for, in terms of techniques and skills.  Be clear but speak in terms that even a non-expert might understand what your are saying.

    2. Tailor your resume to the job, which may require you to do small edits to your resume, by inserting key words from the posting or re-ordering your experience to make the most relevant entries first on the list.

      Ensure your cover letter touches on why you are a good fit for the job, what skills you can bring to the company, and why you want to work there.  Strive to link past experience to the position you are targeting.  Remember:  Employers look at relevant, past positive records as the best predictors for future success at their organization.

    3. Do as much research as it takes to write a substantive and tailored cover letter.

    Resume Resources

    UM Career Center Resume and Cover Letter Resources

    UM Biomedical Engineering Networking, Resume/CV, Cover Letters and Interviewing Tips & Resources

    How to Craft an Industry Resume (for PhDs)

    Resume Samples

    See resume and cover letter tips in this guide to Job Hunting in the Biotech Industry for scientist job seekers

    How to Find a Job in Biotech and Resume/CV Tips

    The Scientist’s Conundrum: CV, Resume or Something In-Between?

    Resume Articles

    If you did some preliminary research on the industry and the organization when you applied, be prepard to do even more research should you be invited for an interview. You will want to review the organization’s website, its projects, the current portfolio of products, and be prepared to discuss them cogently.  The more you know about the organization you are applying for, the easier it will be to connect your experiences and skills to their needs, thus improving your chances of getting hired.

    Interview Resources

    UM Career Center Interview Resources

    Interview Articles

    Visit The Career Center website for more information on resumes, interviewing, and networking

    Get Help

    Want some coaching around launching your Career Track?  Interested in gaining experience including securing Internships or looking for Jobs?  

    Before Your Appointment: Explore and engage with the tools and links in Launch Your Career Track; Complete the 3,2,1 reflection exercise; Attend a Career Crawl/Workshop related to your Career Track.



    You have been launching your job/internship search, and may be wondering “What Next?”  This short exercise will help you clarify your question(s) and identify strategies to answer your job/internship search questions.

    3   -  What are three take-aways from exploring the resources in "Launching Your Job/Internship Search"?

    2   -  What are two questions that you still have/what are you questioning now?

    1   -  What is 1 specific action step to help answer your 2 questions?

    Was this helpful?



    Photo Credit: Tiago Gerken