Job Description:

Biotechnologists develop new products, such as vaccines and biodegradable materials, using biological knowledge. They use plants, animals, microbes, biochemistry and genetics to develop new products and improve existing ones.

Job Category:
Pharmaceutical & Life Sciences

What you will do:

You’ll work in environmental, industrial or medical biotechnology.

In environmental biotechnology, your duties may include:

  • developing micro-organisms and plants to clean polluted land or water
  • creating alternative renewable sources of energy, like biodiesel
  • producing environmentally friendly raw materials for industry, like biodegradable plastics from plant starches

In industrial biotechnology, your duties may include:

  • cloning and producing enzymes for use in manufacturing food and drink
  • creating biological detergents and dyes for the textiles industry
  • improving animal feed
  • developing crops that are more resistant to pests
  • genetically modifying crops to increase productivity

In medical biotechnology and biotherapeutics, your duties may include:

  • studying human genetics, proteins, antibodies, viruses, plants, fungi and
  • bacteria to research and treat diseases like cancer
  • developing therapies, vaccines and hormones to treat the cause of a disease
  • producing medicines using techniques like cell culture and genetic modification


You’ll need:

  • knowledge of biology and/or chemistry
  • maths knowledge
  • knowledge of chemistry including the safe use and disposal of chemicals
    to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently
  • IT skills

You’ll also need:

  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • the ability to work on your own
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • the ability to work well with others (teamwork)
  • analytical thinking skills problem-solving skills
  • a methodical approach to work (organisational skills)
  • a high level of accuracy and attention to detail
  • the ability to analyse statistical and technical data
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a biotechnologist, you will typically need a strong foundation in science and mathematics. While there are no specific GCSE subjects that are absolutely required to become a biotechnologist, there are certain subjects that can provide a solid educational background and help you prepare for further studies and a career in biotechnology. Here are some GCSE subjects that are relevant:

  1. Biology: Biology is a fundamental subject for anyone interested in biotechnology, as it provides a strong understanding of living organisms, genetics, and cellular processes.
  2. Chemistry: Chemistry is crucial for understanding the chemical reactions and processes that underlie biotechnology, including DNA analysis, protein synthesis, and biochemical reactions.
  3. Physics: While not as directly related as biology and chemistry, physics can provide valuable skills in data analysis, experimentation, and understanding physical processes that may be relevant in some areas of biotechnology.
  4. Mathematics: Strong math skills, particularly in algebra and statistics, are essential for conducting research, analyzing data, and solving complex problems in biotechnology.
  5. Computer Science: As biotechnology increasingly involves data analysis and modeling, computer science skills, including programming and data analysis, can be highly beneficial.
  6. Additional Sciences: If your school offers additional science subjects such as environmental science or applied science, taking these courses can provide a broader understanding of scientific principles.
  7. English: Good communication skills are important in any field, including biotechnology. English classes can help you develop written and verbal communication skills, which are important for documenting research findings and collaborating with colleagues

Post School

You’ll likely need a degree in a relevant scientific subject, like:

  • biochemistry
  • bioscience / biological science
  • biotechnology
  • chemistry or chemical engineering
  • microbiology
  • chemistry

Employers may expect you to have some knowledge of the specific area of biotechnology you want to go into, like the food and drink industry.

For a research post, you’ll usually need a postgraduate qualification and several years’ of experience in the field.

You could start as a technician if you have a foundation degree, and work your way up.

You could also move into biotechnology if you have a background in a related field like chemical engineering.

Working Hours and Environment:

You’ll usually work 35 to 40 hours a week, including shifts, nights and weekends.

You’ll mainly work in a laboratory, often in sterile conditions.

You’ll usually wear protective clothing like a lab coat and safety glasses.

Career Path & Progression:

With experience, you could move into scientific journalism, quality assurance management, sales or marketing.