How Long Does Biotechnology Engineering School Take?

Biotechnology engineers find ways to solve some of the most pressing problems in the medical and environment fields. Also known as biotechnologists, biotechnology engineers research the ways by which breakthroughs can be developed by using live microorganisms to treat diseases or help clean up the environment.

The entry point towards becoming a biotechnology engineer is a bachelor’s degree. The best undergraduate courses to prepare for this career include biology, chemistry, biomedical engineering or related fields. Although rare, there are some colleges or universities that offer a bachelor’s degree in biotechnology. A bachelor’s degree typically takes four years to complete for a fulltime student.

You have to keep in mind that a bachelor’s degree is only going to be enough for entry level jobs. You might be employed as a biologic technician where you will be part of a team conducting laboratory tests and analysis of results under the supervision of a biologist or medical scientist. If you are interested in higher level positions or in undertaking your own research in the field of biotechnology, a postgraduate degree is necessary.

A master’s degree in biotechnology is offered in various schools and universities. For example, the University of Pennsylvania offers a professional master’s of biotechnology while Columbia University offers the master of arts in biotechnology program. Fulltime students taking the master’s program at the University of Pennsylvania can finish the program in three semesters.

Fulltime means a student who is taking three to four credit units per term. Those who only take two to three credit units per term can complete the program in two to three years. Each course generally (but not always) counts as one credit unit. Meanwhile, the MA in biotechnology at Columbia University can be finished in one year including the summer semester for students who are studying fulltime. For those who opt to study part-time, the program can be completed in two-and-a-half years.

Individuals who don’t want to stop working in order to obtain their master’s degree in biotechnology can take the online option. Many of these programs can’t be fully completed online because students have to do hands-on work so they might include residencies at a local laboratory to comply with this requirement. This is the ideal arrangement for working professionals who don’t want to be disrupted from their existing roles.

If you want to further deepen your knowledge about biotechnology so that you can perform independent research, working towards a doctoral degree in biotechnology is an option. At Brown University, the PhD in Biotechnology program is composed of 24 tuition units and takes three years of fulltime study to complete. Students are expected to submit their thesis, defend it and pass the final oral exam to graduate from the course.

If you wish to teach at the university or college level, obtaining a PhD is a must. The ideal time to complete a doctoral degree is typically three to four years. There are times when it will not be feasible to do so, such as when you encounter problems with your research or have trouble getting funding. If this is the case, it could take you longer to earn your doctoral degree in biotechnology.

Career Spotlight: Biomedical Engineer

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