"The promise of biotechnologies that are now within our reach to enhance and extend our lives is astounding." DR ANNA LAVELLE, CEO OF AUSBIOTECH
Biotechnology combines biology and technology to produce new products. It harnesses the distinct functions of living cells - from simple bacteria and yeasts, to complex organisms like plants and animals - in order to improve our lives and the health of the planet.
Biotechnology is an ancient art as well as a modern science. For thousands of years people have used biological processes to make food products, such as bread, cheese, wine and beer, and to preserve dairy products. Today, biotechnology is used in human therapeutics, the agriculture sector, food technology, and medical devices and diagnostics. It also plays an important role in producing clean technologies including recycling and renewable energy.
Dr Anna Lavelle, CEO of AusBiotech, Australia’s biotechnology industry organisation, says that biotechnology is a global industry of the future. "The promise of biotechnologies that are now within our reach to enhance and extend our lives is astounding," says Lavelle. Jobs in the biotechnology industry are diverse, highly-skilled and well paid. The interdependence
of business and science is creating a growing industry. According to Lavelle, "people with both an understanding
of the bio-sciences and business are in high demand. There are jobs in laboratories, clinical trial applications, policy and business development roles for people with bio-sciences training, just to name a few."
Australia is the leading location for biotechnology companies in the Asia- Pacific. There are currently well over 1,500 biotechnology companies in the country, including 450 therapeutic and diagnostic companies and 600–1,000 medical technology companies. This translates to more than 40,000 Australian jobs in the biotechnology and pharmaceuticals sector, and at least another 10,000 jobs in the medical technology sector. Additionally, there are many thousands more jobs in the agricultural and industrial biotechnology sectors.
As in many other science-related fields, postgraduate qualifications are highly beneficial and often essential. A sample of the career opportunities in biotechnology-related fields is outlined below:
- Agricultural scientist: studies agricultural productivity and food safety, explores ways to improve crop yield, control pests and weeds and conserve soil and water; potentially investigates the use of agricultural products for fuels
- Biotechnologist/life scientist: tests and analyses biological compounds that can be transformed into products such as medicines
- Environmental scientist: analyses measurements of air, food, water and soil to determine the best methods to clean and preserve the environment and minimise health hazards
- Food technologist/food scientist: works on quality, safety and innovation of foods, e.g. analysing the nutritional and chemical content of food products, developing methods for the preservation of freshness, altering the characteristics of foods
- Research and development officer/scientist: plans, designs and coordinates research and development for specific programs; may be involved in developing systems and trials to refine and optimise operations or products
Biotechnology in Australia is a rapidly developing industry with strong state and federal government support for innovation.
- Life scientist: $50,000–60,000
- Science technician: $42,000–55,000
Source: Graduate Careers Australia
Consider enrolling in one of the following courses and majors to prepare yourself for a career in the Biotechnology industry.
- B Animal and Veterinary Bioscience
- B Liberal Arts and Science
- B Science
- B Science (Advanced)
- B Science in Agriculture
- Cell pathology
- Nanoscience and Technology