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Career in Biotechnology

Introduction

The applications of this branch of science are vast and simply mind-boggling. On one hand, it caters to the industrial sector such as food and beverages industry, textiles industry, biological products, medicines and pharmaceuticals while on the other hand this branch of science caters to the requirements of agriculture, animal husbandry, nutrition and environmental conservation. The list is a long and an envious one.

What’s more, the branch of science we are talking about is in itself not confined or bound as a single discipline. Rather it is an interdisciplinary branch of science that is rapidly gaining significance and opportunities for youngsters who want to explore the new frontiers of science are immense. The name of the discipline is Biotechnology.

Although, the name may suggest that this branch of science is steeped in biology but this is not the case. Apart from biology, this branch of science also assimilates diverse subjects like physics, chemistry and mathematics. Furthermore, engineering applications are also an integral constituent of biotechnology.

The concepts derived from this dissimilar mix of sciences are applied to biological matter, generally living cells, for developing new and improved biological and industrial products. Most of the work done by professionals engaged in biotechnology is concerned with research and development work in various laboratories.

Students are showing tremendous interest in biotechnology. The primary reason behind this interest emerges from the fact that the technical and procedural application of biotechnology touches a vast array of disciplines. This in turn opens a lot many job portals for students who are seeking a stable career in their life. Biotechnology, along with its many sub-fields, finds use in so many applications that many new fields have and are being derived from within it.

Step-by-Step

In opting for a specialised profession such as biotechnology, you must plan your career right from your school days. In this context, the combination of subjects of study at the 10+2 level must primarily include Biology, Chemistry, Physics and even Mathematics. Once you have finished schooling you can opt for a suitable undergraduate program (BSc, BE, BTech) in Biotechnology from various academic institutions spread across the country. The duration of a BSc program in biotechnology is three years whereas it is four years for BE and BTech courses.

The eligibility criterion for getting into an undergraduate program varies from one institution to another. In some colleges the eligibility criteria includes a 10+2 with 50% marks in Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Mathematics. In some other institutions, the 10+2 pass percentage required is 55%. Whereas some colleges consider physics, chemistry and biology combination of subjects as a basic entry level qualification and others take into account the physics, chemistry and mathematics combination. Once this eligibility criterion is met, you can get admission in to BSc programs.

However, for many undergraduate courses in biotechnology you need to sit for common engineering entrance exams such as:
•  The Joint Entrance Examination for IITs (IITJEE): for admission to various IITs
•  All-India Engineering Entrance Exam (AIEEE): for admission to various National Institutes of Technology or regional engineering colleges

Other than these common entrance examinations, engineering institutions offering undergraduate programs conduct their own entrance examinations. The result of these entrances will allow you get admission to an undergraduate course in biotechnology in reputed engineering colleges.

Once you have earned a graduate degree in this field you can go for the master’s level (MSc, ME, MTech). For a Masters in Biotechnology, you should either have a graduate degree in biotechnology or in any subject that is related to biological sciences. A graduate degree in subjects such as biochemistry, biology, botany, chemistry, microbiology, pharmacy, veterinary sciences or zoology is acceptable for an entry into a post-graduate program in biotechnology.

Apart from undergraduate programs, many colleges and universities offer five and five-and-a-half year integrate programs (BTech/MTech) for students. It should be kept in mind that a post-graduate qualification in biotechnology is a must to enter the profitable and ever-expanding field of biotechnical applications.

As it is a blend of numerous disciplines, you have to do a specialisation in a number of fields. Some of the common areas of research include fields like: Agriculture and Agricultural Development, Animal Husbandry, Biochemistry, Biophysics, Botany, Dairy Technology, Environmental Protection, Fishery Development, Genetics, Horticulture, Medicine, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Nutrition, Pharmacology, Tissue Culture and Zoology.
 
After post-graduation, you can apply for a doctoral program and from then on if need be, immerse yourself in post-doctoral research.  Here, it is important to point out that a majority of students prefer to do their PhD and post-doctoral research from foreign universities.

Start Early

To follow biotechnology as a preferred profession, you must have a sound grounding in science from the early school days. You must have keen interest in various branches of science not just for study sake or for obtaining good grades. Rather, you must have a keen perception to understand scientific applications and even keep pace with the latest news from the scientific world.

Once you are through with 10+2, you must either opt for an undergraduate course in biotechnology or any subject that is directly or indirectly related to biological sciences. Remember a masters degree is a must to make a successful career in the domain of biotechnology.

Is it the Right Career for Me?

Important traits for getting into this domain are a high degree of intelligence and a general aptitude for science and scientific applications.

Since biotechnology is redefining the boundaries of science, to become a part of such an innovative field you must posses an inherent attitude of originality and imagination. Other skills that will sail you through a successful and a fulfilling career in this path-breaking area are perseverance, immense patience, analytical proficiency, ability to work for long hours, team spirit and communication skills.

What would it Cost Me?

A typical course in biotechnology can annually cost you anywhere between Rs 20,000 to Rs 2,00,000 or above depending on the college you study.
 
Usually, government and regional colleges that select students through tough entrance exams charge less as compared to programs offered by private owned colleges.

Funding/Scholarship

Various academic institutions and universities offer scholarships to deserving students who perform extraordinarily in the entrance test and post-entrance  interviews. However, easy loans are available from banks for students to pursue their academics. The money borrowed may be returned after a student gets a job.

For instance, State Bank of India, Allahabad Bank, State Bank of Mysore and Bank of Baroda are some popular banks that offer attractive loans to students. These loans include library fees, book purchases, travel expenses and often allow students to purchase computers, accessories and scientific instruments required to complete their work.

Job Prospects

Biotechnology assimilates in itself a number of disciplines. Further, there is a great demand for biotechnical experts in countless industries and sectors. The following are applications where biotechnological techniques are used extensively:
• Agriculture
• Animal Husbandry
• Environment Conservation
• Genetic Engineering
• Health Care
• Medicine
• Industrial Research and Development

Career opportunities for students in biotechnology abound. Those specialising in different sub-disciplines of this field can easily find jobs in both private and government sector undertakings. If you have acquired a post-graduate degree in biotechnology then you can easily find a suitable position in a number of industries.

Major recruiters include industries engaged in processing and developing agricultural and biological products, bio-processing industries, pharmaceutical and chemical industries. There are ample opportunities in industries producing healthcare products, textile industry, cosmetics and organisations engaged in different types of industrial research and development.

These days a growing number of qualified biotechnical professionals are engaged by different industries for environment protection activities and for the safe disposal of hazardous materials.

Pay Packet

Like any other job profile, the pay packet largely depends on your academic qualification, your area of specialisation and the institution from where you have earned your degree. Fresh graduates in this field can generally bag a monthly salary in the range of Rs 8,000 to Rs 20,000.

It has been observed that candidates with a Masters degree in Biotechnology get a better starting salary as compared with students who just have a graduate degree in this field. With an increase in the level of experience, there is abundant scope for getting fatter pay cheques in this exciting and inspiring profession.

Demand and Supply

A number of factors determine the demand of professionals from this interdisciplinary field. India primarily being an agrarian economy, requires professionals who can improve agrarian practices and optimise agricultural output. The growing population of the country requires improved life sciences related products and medicines. This in turn fuels the demand for an increased research and development of vaccines, medicines, tissue culture methods and so on.

There is a steady demand for these professionals in numerous organisations engaged in different types of industrial research and development. On the supply side, technical colleges are trying their best to meet the growing demand for qualified professionals.

One major problem faced on the demand side is that a vast majority of students who are engaged in cutting edge research often tend to leave India to complete their research projects. Moreover, once these students complete their research work they tend to stay and work abroad.

Market Watch

Biotechnology has been making steady progress in last decade and a half. More than half of the earnings from this industry currently come from exports and the trend is expected to remain the same in the coming years.

Although, students doing research work in this field have a tendency to work in foreign countries, yet there is huge potential for students who wish to stay and work in India. According to a recent survey, India is stated to become an international focal point for development of biotechnology.

The areas where biotechnology has grown in India includes Agricultural Biotechnology, Animal Husbandry, Bioinformatics, Bio fertilizers and Dairy development. Growth has also been seen in the area of Bio-resource Development, Plant Biology, Marine Biotechnology, Microbiology, Genetic research.

The changes in the patent regime along with the initiatives taken by the government are expected to bear fruit. All this will lead to a rapid growth and expansion of biotechnological industries in the country.

International Focus

At the international level, India has started making its presence felt in the domain of biotechnology. However, there is tremendous scope for graduate and post-graduate students from this field especially in the United States and in European countries.

A large number of post-graduate students and research scholars tend to move out of India to complete their higher studies. Furthermore, these students prefer to seek employment in the country where they complete their studies or research projects.

Positives/Negatives

+ves:
• This is an upcoming and constantly growing science and has worldwide scope especially in terms of research.

• The scope for research is very wide and efficient work gets fast acclamation within multinationals.

• If you succeed in clearing the tests and interviews, it is assumed you are the right fit for the profession.

-ves:

• The number of seats for biotechnology courses is very limited across colleges in comparison with subjects such as physics, chemistry or biology.

• The testing and interviewing processes usually are difficult and one has to be technically expert.

• The number of companies employing biotechnology students is less when compared with number of companies hiring IT professionals or finance professionals.

• You will have to put in a lot of hard work which can be frustrating at times.

• This is not a profession for people who want to make fast buck but for people who are looking for a long and a well charted career.

Different roles, different names

Biotechnology, as the name suggests is the technology of biology and the scope of both put together. On the one hand, it has concepts from biology explored in depth. On the other hand, this subject explores the impact and the influence of technology on the subject matter. The subject is quite similar to Bioinformatics, which explores biological information in depth using analytical and scientific tools.

Top Companies

Some companies to work with:
1. Biocon
2. Serum Institute of India
3. Panacea Biotech
4. Mahyco Monsanto Biotech
5. Rasi Seeds
6. Novo Nordisk
7. Aventis
8. Indian Immunologicals
9. Venkateshwara Hatcheries
10. Ranbaxy
11. Dr. Reddy’s Labs
12. Piramal Healthcare.

Overall, these are some of the major names in Indian biotechnological industry which extensively use biotechnological processes and techniques to develop and innovate products and processes.

Tips for Getting Hired

1. Apply to at least five to ten top companies to have options for selecting the best job offer out of the ones received.

2. Carry proof of your technical expertise and assure as much as possible that you will be an asset to the company that hires you.

3. Demand a reasonable salary as in the beginning, your focus must be to learn how the industry works, overall.

4. Explore all the possible learning and development opportunities that the companies you have applied to, will provide you. This will help you in choosing the best out of all the offers received.

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