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What is Biotechnology?

Biotechnology is a wide-ranging and practical field that involves the application of science and technology to living organisms. It is the science of using biological processes for industrial and other purposes. For example through bioremediation, microbes are used to help clean up contaminated environments following an oil spill. This is one of the fastest developing fields of environmental restoration. Microorganisms can also help treat pollutants such as industrial solvents, metals, pesticides, petroleum hydrocarbons and many other chemicals. In agriculture naturally occurring microorganisms (bacteria, fungi) can be used to break down effluent from dairy farms and reduce leaching of excess nitrogen into waterways.

What Do Graduates Need to Work as Biotechnologists?

Graduates need skills and expertise in biotechnology to be able to work in research and industrial biotechnology environments within New Zealand and around the world. It is useful to take biology, chemistry and mathematics at school and to keep up-to-date with areas of interest, as new applications are developing across a broad range of industries. The field of biotechnology is vast and graduates tend to develop specialist knowledge and skills in particular areas. Commerce, marketing, law and related science subjects are particularly useful as minor subjects or conjoint degrees.

What skills Do Biotechnology Graduates Develop?

Undergraduate and graduate degrees in science provide excellent grounding for a range of careers. During their degree studies graduates develop both technical and generic transferable skills, attitudes and knowledge that are sought by employers. They develop an appreciation of ethical and cultural issues, work on collaborative tasks and are able to understand and present graphical and other visual data. Additional skills include:

  • Problem solving
  • Analytical Skills
  • Scientific method
  • Attention to detail
  • Lateral thinking and creativity
  • Technical
  • Planning/organisation
  • Communication and interpersonal skills
  • Self-motivation

Where Do Biotechnology Graduates Work?

  • Research Organisations
  • Ministry of Science and Innovation
  • Crown Research Institutes (CRIs)
  • Government Agencies
  • Biotechnology Companies
  • Distributors - sellers of specialist instruments and products
  • Patent Attorneys
  • Teaching
  • Journalism/Science writing and editing

Job Titles

The following is a sample of job titles relevant to undergraduates through to graduates with post-doctoral degrees and specialisations

  • Biochemist
  • Biomedical Technician
  • Bioprocess Engineer
  • Biotechnologist
  • Brewer
  • Education/Information Officer
  • Fermentation Scientist
  • Food Technologist/Engineer
  • Geneticist
  • Industrial Research Chemist
  • Investment Analyst
  • Laboratory Technician
  • Management Consultant
  • Microbiologist
  • Medical Science Technician
  • Molecular Biologist
  • Patents Officer
  • Pathologist
  • Policy Adviser/Analyst
  • Process Engineer (biotechnology or chemical)
  • Product Representative/Manager
  • Research Analyst
  • Research Assistant/Technician
  • Research Coordinator
  • Research Engineer (biotechnology)
  • Sales and/or Marketing Specialist
  • Science Journalist
  • Science Technician
  • Teacher
  • University Lecturer

More in-depth information and profiles of graduates now working in the field can be found in the Biotechnology Career View (PDF 381KB)

Further information about Biotechnology at Victoria University of Wellington can also be found on the School of Biological Sciences website.