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Research Jobs in Biotechnology

Research Jobs in Biotechnology

If you’re interested in an academic research career in biotechnology, you’ll find a diverse range of roles, spanning multiple research areas and disciplines.

From genetics to virology, biotechnology researchers have contributed to some of the world’s most pioneering technological advances.

You may be a sciences or engineering graduate embarking on a biotechnology-related PhD, or an early career researcher looking for your next project. Whatever the stage of your career, you will find biotechnology research positions available in higher education, research institutes, an almost limitless array of industrial and commercial settings and government/public sector organisations.

Here we look at the research jobs available in biotechnology, the typical career path into this varied field and what it’s like to work in the sector.

Career Path

Biotechnology research reaches across engineering, technology and medical, agricultural, biological, physical and environmental sciences. Therefore, the area of research you choose will depend on your first degree and/or Masters and biotechnology-related doctoral specialism.

Following completion of a PhD, you will need to look for postdoctoral research contracts which align with your chosen biotechnology specialism. Research projects and activities tend to be fixed-term contracts, so it’s likely that you’ll complete a few postdoc projects before being considered for promotion to senior research associate/fellow or lecturer/senior lecturer.

Alternatively, you may want to consider research posts in related institutes, government or public sector organisations and biotech/life sciences companies.

Working as a Biotechnology Researcher

What’s it like to work as a biotechnology researcher?

Your day-to-day duties will depend on the level of research role you’re applying for. However, in all biotechnology research roles, you’ll be spending a significant amount of time in a lab-based setting, analysing data and testing products and technology.

Working with the research lead and team, you would be expected to contribute and present your research according to your specialist knowledge. If you choose to work in a university, there may also be some ad hoc teaching and demonstration involved.

  • Contributing to research and performing complex data tasks
  • Conducting lab-based experiments and analysis of results
  • Using highly specialised computational equipment
  • Working with a multi-disciplinary team to publish research results
  • Collaborating with project partners and biotech industries
  • Delivery of workshops and demonstrations and PhD, MSc and BSc project supervision
  • Presenting at conferences around the world

Where to find jobs

Biotechnology research and industries have grown exponentially in recent years, particularly in the UK. The success of the COVID-19 vaccine has also helped highlight the biotech industry’s impact on global healthcare technology and research.

As a result, demand for experts and researchers across all areas of biotechnology is high. Universities work closely with project partners and biotech, life sciences and biomedical engineering industries to collaborate on a huge range of research and development projects and initiatives.

Biotechnology research projects, groups and clusters are generally well-funded in the UK, through both public bodies and industry. To find out more about the types of biotechnology research projects currently receiving funding visit the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) .

If you choose to work as a researcher in a university, here are some of the roles you may come across during your search:

  • Research assistant
  • Postdoctoral researcher
  • Research technician/workshop technician
  • Research fellow or associate
  • Senior research associate/fellow
  • Biotechnology (or related discipline) lecturer/senior lecturer

Salaries in biotechnology and engineering research vary depending on the field and specific research activities of the university. However, postdoctoral researchers and research associates can expect to start on a salary of around £30,000 to £39,999 p.a.

PhD Studentships

Before embarking on an academic research career in biotechnology, you will generally need to have completed doctoral studies in a specialist field. For graduates who want to work in biotech industries, a PhD helps you to develop the data interpretation and research skills you need to progress your career at a faster pace.

There are a wide range of PhD studentships available in biotechnology, which is considered a priority industry and area of research. A PhD takes around 3-5 years to complete; most are fully funded and come with a stipend in the range of £15,000 and £17,000 p.a.

You can find current PhD studentships in fields related to biotechnology here .

Further Information:

  • Academic Jobs in Biotechnology
  • Lecturing Jobs in Biotechnology
  • Senior Academic Jobs in Biotechnology

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Biotechnologists use their knowledge of biological science and technology to create and develop innovative products designed to improve the quality of human life

As a biotechnologist you'll study the chemical, genetic and physical attributes of cells, tissues and organisms in order to develop new technologies, processes and products that will address some of the biggest problems facing society.

The role involves manipulating living organisms or their components to design or enhance vaccines, medicines, energy efficiency or food productivity and safety.

You will usually specialise in one area of biotechnology, such as:

  • biochemistry - microbiology, forensics, plant science and medicine
  • cancer studies - detection and treatment
  • genetics - detecting heredity, genetic variation and DNA repair
  • molecular biology - DNA, RNA and protein synthesis function
  • microbial sciences - antibiotic-resistant bacteria and improving fermentation
  • pharmacology - drug action on biological systems
  • stem cell research - modification and regenerative medicine
  • virology - viruses and viral diseases.

You can find work at biotechnology and other commercial companies, research or higher education institutions, government laboratories and hospitals.

Job titles vary and won't always be advertised as biotechnologist. Other job titles include research assistant, genomic technologist, flow technologist and bioprocessing engineer. If the position involves using live organisms and biomolecular processes within a biotechnological discipline, it's likely to be a biotechnologist role.

Types of biotechnologist

Biotechnologists can be found in a range of industries including pharmaceuticals, healthcare, biofuels, agriculture, conservation, animal husbandry and food production.

Examples of activities you might undertake include:

  • environmental - detecting and controlling pollution and contamination in the environment, industrial waste, and agricultural chemicals, creating renewable energy and designing biodegradable materials to reduce humanity's ecological footprint
  • medical and health - using live organisms or biomolecular processes to develop and improve treatments and drugs, identify inherited diseases, cure certain disorders, and even lead to organ regeneration
  • industrial - using cloning and enzyme production to preserve and enhance the taste in food and drink, and developing enzymes to remove stains from clothing at lower washing temperatures
  • agricultural biotechnology - improving animal feed and genetically modifying crops to increase resistance to pests and improve productivity
  • biofuels - using organic compounds to reduce the cost of bio-refining reagents and put biofuels on an equal footing with fossil fuels, and creating chemicals from renewable biomass to reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • marine and aquatic biotechnology - increasing the yields of farmed fish and designing disease-resistant strains of oysters and vaccines against certain viruses that can infect fish.


Your day-to-day activities will depend on your area of specialism, the sector you work in and the type of employer you work for.

However, you'll typically need to:

  • create, conduct and monitor experiments using live organisms or biomolecular processes in a laboratory setting to solve problems, improve processes and develop new products
  • use scientific knowledge to follow different methodologies to achieve results
  • perform data analysis on your experiments and interpret findings to support scientific investigations
  • record and disseminate results accurately in reports and via presentations
  • set up, maintain and operate standard laboratory equipment and computers
  • work independently and collaboratively with other scientists
  • work to health, safety and environmental regulations and meet quality standards
  • keep up to date with new advances in biotechnology to develop new techniques, products or practices.
  • The starting salary for graduates generally falls between £19,000 and £24,000.
  • The salary for experienced (over five years' experience) biotechnologists can be between £25,000 and £50,000.
  • Salaries in highly experienced roles (ten or more years) with additional responsibilities can rise to £60,000.

Your salary will vary depending on your area of focus and the industry you're working in. Salaries tend to be higher in large companies within the private commercial sector, particularly at senior level.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

A standard working week is usually between 35 and 40 hours. You may need to work shifts, nights and weekends if conducting experiments that need continuous monitoring.

What to expect

  • Work is often carried out in modern laboratories at hospitals, industrial lab units, factories or universities. You'll typically be working in sterile conditions and will need to wear protective clothing, such as a lab coat and safety glasses.
  • You'll usually conduct experiments individually but will sometimes work collaboratively to achieve a common goal. Sharing information with your supervisor and colleagues is typical, and you may also need to attend conference calls or international conferences and produce research papers.
  • Expect to use a range of standard and highly-specialised laboratory equipment and computerised machines to produce results, at times to a short deadline.
  • Biotechnologist opportunities are available across the UK, but particularly in the biotech golden triangle of London, Oxford, and Cambridge, as well as in Scotland. There are, however, new biotech hubs emerging elsewhere in the UK in places such as Bristol. Opportunities are also available overseas, particularly in the USA.
  • You may need to travel to enhance your knowledge and understanding of a specific technique or procedure.


You'll typically need an organic science degree, usually a 2:1 or above, to get into biotechnology. The following subjects are particularly useful:

  • biochemistry
  • biological sciences
  • biology (crop and plant science, environmental)
  • biomedical engineering
  • biomedical science
  • biotechnology
  • chemistry or chemical engineering
  • microbiology
  • molecular biology
  • pharmacology.

It may also be possible to enter the career with a level 6 laboratory scientist degree apprenticeship. Search find an apprenticeship .

Some employers will also ask for a postgraduate qualification such as a Masters or PhD. A PhD is particularly important if you want to follow a career in research. Another option is to take an integrated Masters degree (usually four years or five in Scotland), followed by a PhD.

Search postgraduate courses in biotechnology .

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. You'll usually receive specific training on the job, but will need to have laboratory skills and some experience of working in a lab.

Some large pharmaceutical and medical companies offer structured graduate training programmes, and some employers may support you to complete a postgraduate qualification. Competition is strong for a place on a training scheme.

You'll need to have:

  • an aptitude for bioscience
  • an enquiring mind and the ability to work with abstract concepts
  • organisational and planning skills with the ability to plan ahead while delivering to deadline
  • problem-solving skills
  • good hand-eye coordination and the ability to use technical equipment with accuracy
  • excellent communication skills, both written and verbal
  • the ability to analyse and interpret statistical and technical data
  • patience, and the ability to work methodically and meticulously when following scientific techniques and company procedures
  • the ability to work well as both part of a team and independently
  • good computer skills to record data and write scientific reports
  • a creative and innovative approach to work
  • excellent attention to detail.

Work experience

Try to secure work experience in a laboratory or research setting as this will significantly improve your chances of finding full-time employment. Although large companies tend to advertise formal opportunities, you'll need to make targeted speculative applications to small and medium-sized companies or research units to find out about opportunities. You can also get some experience through work shadowing or insight days and internships.

An industrial placement year can be particularly useful and will help you develop your lab skills as well as a network of contacts.

While any lab experience will be a great help to your career prospects, try to gain experience relevant to your field of interest to enhance your application.

Experience that develops your commercial awareness is also looked on favourably as many employers are keen to employ biotechnologists with an understanding of business.

Find out more about the different kinds of  work experience and internships  that are available.

Large private biotech companies tend to advertise positions with a focus on medical, pharmaceutical and biochemical disciplines, while small and medium-sized enterprises often advertise positions using a different job title.

Jobs are available with:

  • biotechnology and genetic engineering firms
  • food and drink manufacturers
  • environmental and conservation (sewage and waste treatment, fuel, pollutant degradation) companies
  • government and charity research institutes
  • horticulture and agriculture organisations (food and drink science)
  • NHS and private hospitals
  • pharmaceutical and chemical companies
  • private clinical research companies (genetics, disease detection, therapy, etc.)
  • universities and research institutions.

Look for job vacancies at:

  • Chemistry World Jobs
  • Foodman jobs
  • New Scientist Jobs
  • UK Bioindustry Association

Specialist recruitment agencies such as CK Group and SRG also advertise vacancies.

Professional development

You'll usually have a general induction, which includes health and safety training and, in some cases, control of substances hazardous to health (COSHH) regulations training. You're also likely to receive specific on-the-job training to develop essential biotechnological techniques.

You may join a structured graduate training programme, which can take one to three years to complete. Some employers might financially support part-time study for postgraduate qualifications.

You'll be encouraged to undertake continuing professional development (CPD) such as attending conferences and workshops to enhance your technical skills and understanding.

Membership of a professional organisation relevant to your area of specialism is also useful. Membership provides access to training, funding and research opportunities in various areas of biotechnology. Relevant bodies include:

  • Biochemical Society
  • Institute of Biomedical Science (IBMS)
  • Institute of Food Science and Technology (IFST)
  • Institute of Science & Technology (IST)
  • Royal Society of Biology (RSB)

You can also work towards chartership of a relevant professional body and professional registration with the Science Council .

Career prospects

It's possible with experience to progress to a senior scientist position and then into a supervisory or management position. Opportunities for career progression vary depending on the type and size of company you work for, your area of specialism, and your qualifications and skills. You may need to move company in order to move up the career ladder.

Taking additional professional or academic qualifications can increase your career prospects. If you're following a career in academia, it's important to get your research published in journals related to your area of expertise. Securing funding for research projects will also help your career prospects.

With experience, there are opportunities to take on freelance or advisory work. You could also choose to move into another area of an organisation, for example in business development, production, information and data technology, or into a regulatory role.

Alternatively, some biotechnologists move into related careers such as patent attorney, scientific writing and journalism, or into quality assurance management, sales and marketing.

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Pharmaceuticals and Biotechnology

Discovering, developing, producing and marketing products that improve and save lives are all parts of working in the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

The chance to work with cutting edge technology in companies leading global research, and be well remunerated too, makes these industries appealing.

The pharmaceuticals (pharma) industry is reliant on multi-disciplinary, cutting-edge research to produce unique, innovative products, and on large teams of sales people backed up by sophisticated marketing skills. The British pharma industry has a strong reputation for research and development (R&D) of the very highest quality and there are major clusters of pharmaceutical companies in the north-east, north-west, south-east and east of England, and a significant number in Scotland. The industry recruits graduates for a wide range of functions (both science and non-science areas) and employs just under 70,000 people in the UK, of whom around 27,000 are directly involved in R&D. The industry is one of Britain’s leading manufacturing sectors and many international companies have established highly-regarded research laboratories here. However, there are huge pressures on the industry and developing new drugs is particularly difficult as any obvious ones have already been made. Furthermore, patents usually last 20 years, after which any company can produce a far cheaper generic version of a drug. The cost of producing new medicines is so colossal that one failure can have devastating consequences for a company.

The biotechnology (biotech) industry is a newer sector. Biotechnology is the application of biological systems to solve problems, improve processes and develop and manufacture products. Biotech companies exist in a number of industrial sectors, which include: biomedical, food and agriculture, and environmental. The UK leads Europe in the industrial development of biotechnology and during the past decade there has been rapid and sustained growth in the number of specialist biotechnology R&D-based companies. Indeed, since 2016 there has been a 65% increase in the number of UK biotechs (Pharmafocus, April 2019), which has been fuelled by record investment levels. Currently there are just over 3,400 UK biotechs and London hosts the highest number (nearly a quarter), followed by Cambridge and then Oxford. Depending on their size, biotech companies may use support companies, to whom they contract out some aspects of their work, such as the development or marketing of their products.

Types of Job

Within the pharma industry there are a range of scientific and non-scientific jobs available, while in the biotech industry the majority of vacancies for graduates are in scientific research, working for small/medium-sized employers (SMEs), perhaps at science parks. The  Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry careers website  has over 100 case studies  of different roles within this sector.

R&D roles overall have the largest demand for graduates. The organic chemist synthesises molecules which may have the desired properties; the physical chemist establishes the shape of the molecule; the biochemist investigates the metabolism of the compound; the pharmacologist examines its effect in vivo; and, if all is well, the pharmacist decides on formulation, while the medical staff are arranging hospital trials and the statisticians are looking for possible irregularities.

Well-qualified scientists, often with a DPhil, are hired as specialists and initiators to become leaders of groups or managers of research in the future. Increasingly it is useful for applicants to have gained relevant, industry-based work experience during their studies.  This enables them to demonstrate to potential employers that they have practical insights into the differences between academic and industrial research in terms of culture and focus. In this area more than any other, a DPhil scientist will be recruited for his or her specific scientific skills rather than as a well-trained scientific generalist. Those recruiting you as the potential leader of a R&D group will be looking not only for specialist skills but also for signs of leadership skills and the ability to motivate a team of staff reporting to you.

The first-degree scientist, however, should be sure that they are in R&D for one of two reasons: either because work in a laboratory is overwhelmingly attractive, and likely to remain so; or because research, and more particularly development, constitutes a good entry point to the industry in which they want to work and within the company there are good prospects of moving on or moving to another function. Graduates can in theory progress in R&D, but they will need to show exceptional talent for research and a strong willingness to develop.

See also our information on  Scientific Research & Development .

Science Roles Outside the Lab

There are plenty of roles/functions for scientists who are keen to use their scientific background outside the lab. These include  Patents , Registration, Regulatory Affairs, Clinical Trials/Research , Medical Writing and Bioinformatics to name a few. See the ABPI case studies for more information. The Careers Service regularly hosts a panel talk on Careers Outside the Lab (most commonly during Michaelmas Term) which gives you the opportunity to hear first hand from scientists working in these sorts of roles. 

Clinical Studies/Research

Clinical research is an essential part of the R&D process and all new medicines are thoroughly tested through a series of clinical trials to ensure they are safe and effective for patients.   Clinical trials  are carried out in three phases which must all be completed before an application can be made to market a new medicine, and there are a variety of different roles for both scientists and clinicians.

Marketing is a demanding role. Preparations for the launch of a new product can begin at least three or four years beforehand. A good deal of market research is needed, marketing and promotional strategies have to be worked out, sales training materials written, symposia arranged for doctors, formulation and distribution arranged for different areas, pricing policies settled, and an outline of manufacturing details fixed. Many eminent companies in the field deliberately seek out Arts graduates for marketing positions, looking for creative flair and believing that the basic science can readily be picked up by a graduate with good intellectual ability.

See our information on Marketing.

Sales are encouraged and supported by medical reps, who are often pharmacists or life scientists, but, increasingly, graduates from any degree discipline. They call on doctors, hospital pharmacists and retail pharmacies to explain the advantages and method of use of their drugs, and to leave literature or some other reminder of their visit. Their role is to persuade professionals to prescribe their products, and to develop relationships for repeat business.

Other roles

Personnel, Finance and Management Services (especially IT/data science) roles are also options within these industries as they have a broad range of management functions. These are often open to graduates from a wide range of disciplines. See our relevant  sector webpages  for information.

Getting Experience

For jobs in the pharma and biotech industries prior work experience is useful, not only for developing skills but also for raising your commercial/industrial awareness. Industrial employers are keen to employ people who understand the business, and certainly a criticism from some employers has been that DPhils (and indeed postdoctoral researchers) often lack commercial awareness. Work collaborations, placements, or work-shadowing whilst studying or during a postdoc can be ways of overcoming this lack of awareness. Some of the larger firms may offer internships, but it will often be necessary to make speculative applications and network to find relevant contacts to approach in smaller firms.

Those who envisage a career in R&D and are intent on obtaining a doctorate are advised by many pharma companies to make contact towards the end of their first degree, and maintain contact throughout their DPhil, so as to develop knowledge of what employers are looking for.

Insight into Pharma/Biotech  is an online webinar run by the Careers Service in which a panel of scientists from a local pharma/biotech company talk about their work in both in R&D and science roles outside the lab. For the academic year 2023/24 it is taking place in Michaelmas Term: check the Events calendar on  CareerConnect  in advance.

The Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry, ABPI, has a  careers section on their website which provides a list of pharma recruiters with work experience opportunities.

Also look out for events run by the  Oxford University Pharmacology Society and the  Oxford University Biochemical Society  where there may be opportunities to meet people working in the industry.

If you do arrange work experience, there is often confusion about whether you should be paid to do an internship or work experience. It will depend on your arrangement with the employer and also the status of the employer. To find out if you are entitled to be paid when undertaking work experience or an internship, visit the  Government’s webpages on the National Minimum Wage .

Getting a Job

A number of larger companies do recruit graduate trainees for all roles through the graduate recruitment cycle, but for most R&D vacancies requiring specialist postgraduate skills the relevant scientific magazines and websites, such as  New Scientist , are the places to look. Attend the annual  Science, Engineering and Technology Fair  in Michaelmas Term where there will be a range of scientific companies – see our events on  CareerConnect  for more details. If you are interested in working in Oxfordshire then see our webpage on  Finding Work in Oxford  which has information on local science parks. Some University departments and societies may also have strong links to local companies, so keep your eye out for other specific recruitment activities.

Also look at the  ABPI’s directory of pharmaceutical recruiters  which lists pharma companies with job vacancies, and refer to the UK life sciences membership associations, some of which publicise vacancies and / or list details of life science companies which you could approach  speculatively  about job vacancies.  Oxford Science Enterprises  supports local companies as they grow, including a job board used by growing firms with science and technology based businesses.

If you have a postgraduate degree, target specific companies most appropriate to your discipline. The ABPI produces an A-Z of British Medicines Research which identifies research area by company and is available online. Local science parks may be a good source of small companies: the  UK Science Parks Association  will help you locate these. The  Royal Society of Chemistry  has a job search section on its website which may also be helpful. Some companies may also make use of the services of specialist scientific recruitment agencies – details of some of these are given in the Useful Websites section below, along with other relevant life science organisations.

Turnover in sales functions is high; there are usually many vacancies and much recruiting is done through specialist agencies which frequently advertise in relevant magazines and websites, such as New Scientist. However, many major drugs firms recruit directly into sales and use agencies in the autumn to top up the vacancies they have not been able to fill directly. Sales could be the way into marketing and other non-scientific managerial functions and you can expect intensive, frequent, high-quality training.

  • New Scientist

Sector vacancies and occupation information

  • Diversity in Research Jobs
  • Pharmafield
  • Cranleigh Scientific
  • Entrust Resource Solutions
  • Jobs in Pharma
  • Jobs in Science
  • LinkedIn Jobs
  • New Scientist Jobs  – careers articles and jobs.
  • Science: Science Careers   – careers website aimed at postgraduate scientists.
  • Royal Society of Chemistry   – careers information, links and Chemistry World vacancies.
  • OBN  – directory of local companies plus news and jobs.
  • Pharmiweb  – vacancies, links to employers, news.
  • Scientific Professionals  – science vacancies.
  • Clinical Professionals  – vacancies in clinical research, regulatory, business and medical communications
  • Science Oxford  – information on Oxford’s hi-tech community.
  • Oxford Science Enterprises  – supports science-led businesses in the Oxford area and has a job board.
  • Connected Oxford  –  local vacancies and business news, including the pharma/biotech sector.
  • Bio Now  – supports biomedical and life science sectors across Northern England.

Societies, organisations and news

  • Association of the British Pharmaceutical Industry (ABPI)
  • ABPI careers website
  • ABPI Bridging the skills gap in the biopharmaceutical industry (2019)
  • Association for Clinical Data Management
  • Academy of Medical Sciences
  • BioIndustry Association
  • Biochemical Society
  • Royal Society of Biology
  • British Pharmacological Society
  • The Organisation for Professionals in Regulatory Affairs
  • Institute of Clinical Research
  • UK Clinical Research Collaboration
  • Institute of Biomedical Science
  • Royal Society of Chemistry
  • UK Science Parks Association
  • Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy  – biotechnology, pharmaceuticals and healthcare sector information in the publications section of this government website.
  • Office for Life Sciences
  • Life Sciences Organisation
  • European Federation of Pharmaceutical Industries and Associations
  • International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations
  • American Chemical Society
  • Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America

Equality, Diversity and Inclusion

Recruiters are keen to have a diverse workforce, and many will have policies and processes that are proactive in recruiting students and graduates from diverse backgrounds. An increasing number of recruiters are offering traineeships, internships and insight events that are aimed at specific groups and many are being recognised for their approach to being inclusive employers.

Try the following to discover more about the policies and attitudes of the recruiters that you are interested in:

  • Read their equality, diversity and inclusion policy
  • Search their website to see if they have any specific staff networks
  • Look for external accreditation such as whether they are a  Disability Confident employer , a  Stonewall Diversity Champion  or part of the  Mindful Employer charter promoting mental health at work
  • Check to see if they are partnering with organisations such as Rare Recruitment , SEO London , MyPlus Students' Club , EmployAbility or one of the many other organisations that are working for specific communities
  • Explore what they do to celebrate diversity on their Facebook and Twitter pages  

Black Pharma is a social enterprise whose vision is to see greater representation of black professionals across the pharmaceutical industry. They provide support for students and graduates through career programmes and events.  

The UK Equality Act 2010 has a number of protected characteristics to prevent discrimination due to your age, disability, gender reassignment, race, religion or beliefs, sex or sexual orientation. For further information on the Equality Act 2010 and to find out where and how you are protected, and what to do if you feel you have been discriminated against, visit the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s webpage on the Equality Act and the Government’s webpages on discrimination .

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Alternative titles for this job include.

Biotechnologists study plants, animals, microbes, biochemistry and genetics to develop new products and improve existing ones.

Average salary (a year)

£23,000 Starter

£44,000 Experienced

Typical hours (a week)

37 to 40 a week

You could work

evenings / weekends / bank holidays on shifts

Meet Dr Marin Sawa

You could work on a wide range of research projects as a biotechnologist. Find out how Dr Marin uses biotechnology to create a green energy solution.

2 minute 30 second watch

I'm developing a bio energy wallpaper that can capture light energy and convert it into electrical energy. It could be an alternative to solar panels and it could be generating electricity simply from growing algae on your walls.

I really enjoy working with algae and seeing the bacteria not only because they produce oxygen, so I get a lot of oxygen out of them, but because they're green. And as a human being, I naturally react to the colour green or green organisms. I think it's just something in our DNA that remember that our ancestral root actually comes from photosynthetic organisms.

And by tapping into algae’s photosynthetic power, you could be charging everything from your phones to sitting room lights, to little sensors. It is incredibly green, clean energy solution.

I use inkjet methods to interface these photosynthetic microorganisms onto paper, and I use paper for biodegradability and also paper being quite common element in architecture, mostly in material. And these patterning plays an important role in designing not just functional but aesthetic.

I then construct the bio electrons into bio photovoltaic devices. I will measure the output and also analyse the longevity of the living bio photovoltaic system. Who knows? We may have photosynthetic organisms as our charging points across the world.

It makes so much more sense to surround our living environment with green surfaces that harvest light and enrich our environment.

How to become

How to become a biotechnologist.

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • an apprenticeship
  • working towards this role

You can do a degree qualification in a relevant scientific subject, like:

  • biotechnology
  • microbiology
  • biochemistry
  • food science
  • chemistry or chemical engineering

As well as a degree, some employers may want you to have a postgraduate qualification, especially for research posts.

Entry requirements

You'll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English, maths and science
  • 2 or 3 A levels, or equivalent, including biology or chemistry
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study

More Information

  • equivalent entry requirements
  • student finance for fees and living costs
  • university courses and entry requirements


You may be able to get into this job by doing an apprenticeship, such as:

  • Technician Scientist Level 5 Higher Apprenticeship
  • Laboratory Science Level 6 Degree Apprenticeship

These apprenticeships take between 3 and 5 years to complete.

  • 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship
  • higher and degree apprenticeships
  • guide to apprenticeships

You could start as a lab technician and work your way up by training on the job. For example, on a part-time degree or a degree apprenticeship.

Professional and industry bodies

You can join an organisation like the Science Council , which can help you:

  • get professional recognition
  • find training opportunities
  • make industry contacts

Further information

You can find out more about working in biotechnology from the Science Council.

What it takes

Skills and knowledge.

You'll need:

  • knowledge of biology
  • knowledge of chemistry including the safe use and disposal of chemicals
  • maths knowledge
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • analytical thinking skills
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • the ability to work well with others
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

What you’ll do

What you'll do, day-to-day tasks.

As a biotechnologist, your day to day duties will depend on your specialism.

In environmental biotechnology, you could:

  • clean polluted land or water using micro-organisms and plants
  • develop alternative sources of energy, like biodiesel
  • make environmentally friendly raw materials, like biodegradable plastics

In industrial biotechnology, you could:

  • clone and create enzymes for use in manufacturing food and drink
  • improve animal feed
  • modify crops to increase productivity and resistance to pests

In medical biotechnology and biotherapeutics, you could:

  • study human genetics, antibodies, viruses, plants, fungi and bacteria
  • develop therapies and vaccines to tackle the causes of disease
  • produce medicines using techniques like cell culture and genetic modification

Working environment

You could work at a research facility, at a university or in a laboratory.

You may need to wear protective clothing.

Career path and progression

With experience, you could move into areas like:

  • project or departmental management
  • science communications
  • quality assurance
  • bioinformatics and data analysis
  • freelance consultancy or scientific advisory work
  • biotechnology policy and ethics

Current opportunities

Apprenticeships in england, chemistry technician degree apprentice (level 6), phosphonics.

  • Wage: £23,400.00 Annually

Degree Apprentice Laboratory Technician Level 6 (Biosciences)

  • Wage: £21,543.00 Annually
  • Location: Sherrington Building, Ashton Street, Liverpool

Courses In England

Gce chemistry.

  • Start date: 01 September 2024
  • Location: NORTHAMPTON

GCE A Level in Chemistry

  • Start date: 02 September 2024
  • Location: Brentwood

Jobs In the United Kingdom

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6 biotechnology universities in the UK leading the way for future talent

Willow Shah Neville

The U.K. has a selection of world-class universities offering biotechnology courses, whether students are looking for undergraduate or graduate programs. The country is also home to the ‘golden triangle’, encompassing the biotech hubs of Oxford , Cambridge , and London, all of which boast some of the world’s best universities for biotechnology.

In this article, we have listed six of the top biotechnology universities in the U.K. 

Table of contents

University of cambridge .

Known for its academic excellence, the University of Cambridge has given rise to numerous famous science graduates, including Sir Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin, and Stephen Hawking. 

The university’s Department of Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology offers an undergraduate course in Chemical Engineering and Biotechnology, which integrates the two topics together and teaches students the scientific principles that underpin them both, as well as how they can be applied to solve real-world problems. 

Graduates of the course can expect to find careers such as: creating chemical and biological processes to transform molecules into valuable products; designing chemical and biological products for the benefit of society; using new technologies to facilitate the energy transition away from fossil fuels and to mitigate the effects of climate change; provision of improved healthcare and therapeutics; and using systems thinking to improve the sustainability of processes and products.

As well as the combined topic undergraduate course, the university also offers a Master of Philosophy (MPhil) specifically in Biotechnology. The program is designed to provide students with core and advanced knowledge skills, practical and research skills, and business skills in biotechnology.

To help matters further, the historic city of Cambridge itself happens to be a major biotech hub within the U.K. and is home to numerous startups and well-established companies, offering prospective graduates plenty of opportunities to get a job in the biotech industry once they leave university. 

University of Oxford

Just like the University of Cambridge, the University of Oxford is world-renowned for its academic prestige and is situated in another major biotech hub in the U.K., in the historic city of Oxford. 

Even more impressive is the fact that the University of Oxford helped to develop one of the first COVID-19 vaccines with AstraZeneca, which just goes to show how much of a powerhouse it is in terms of scientific research. 

This U.K. university offers two undergraduate courses related to biotechnology, which are Biomedical Sciences and Biochemistry. The Biomedical Sciences program focuses on how cells, organs, and systems function in the human body, while the Biochemistry program involves learning about the use of molecular methods to investigate, explain, and manipulate biological processes.

There are also a number of graduate programs to choose from at the University of Oxford, including a Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) in Biochemistry and a Master of Science (MSc) in Biochemistry, both of which aim to train students in cutting-edge laboratory research applying techniques in bionanotechnology, biophysics, computational biology, microscopy, molecular biology, structural biology, and systems biology to a broad range of fields including cell biology, chromosome biology, drug discovery, epigenetics , host-pathogen interactions, membrane proteins, ion channels and transporters, and RNA biology.

Additionally, a PhD course is available in Interdisciplinary Bioscience, which is a four-year course supported by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) that provides innovative training for graduates from a life science, physical science or computational and mathematical science background who wish to conduct leading-edge bioscience research. 

Imperial College London (ICL) 

Another one of the most prestigious universities in the U.K., based in the nation’s capital, Imperial College London (ICL) runs multiple undergraduate and graduate courses related to biotechnology, and is perhaps one of the most exciting universities in the U.K. to study biotech due to the array of options available. 

The university has an undergraduate course in Biotechnology, which explores the vital links between biology and technology and teaches how bioprocesses can be applied to real-world situations. During the course, students will gain hands-on lab skills, while also learning about applications, industry, and entrepreneurship. There is even an optional year abroad or a year in industry/research. As well as simply studying biotechnology on its own, students can choose to take Biotechnology with Language for Science to advance language skills, or Biotechnology with Management to develop management potential. 

Other undergraduate degrees offered at ICL that could offer you a career in biotechnology include Biomaterials and Tissue Engineering , Molecular Bioengineering, and Biochemistry. 

ICL’s graduate programs include three MSc courses. One is in Applied Biosciences and Biotechnology, which will provide students with an in-depth understanding of modern bioscience research and allow them to acquire the skills necessary to pursue a career in the field. Meanwhile, the second MSc course is Engineering for Biomedicine, in which students will learn how to tackle modern healthcare challenges with bioengineering technology, and the third course is Advanced Chemical Engineering with Biotechnology, which will provide students with a firm foundation in the science and engineering of biological processes. 

And, for those more interested in active research, there are four Master of Research (MRes) programs available: Biological and Physical Chemistry, in which you can tackle the multidisciplinary problems that lie between life sciences and physical sciences; Cancer Technology, in which you can develop a unique understanding of cancer from a bioengineering perspective; Chemical Biology and Bio-Entrepreneurship, whereby you can learn the skills needed to address future scientific challenges in chemical biology; and Drug Discovery and Development, in which you can build your expertise in multidisciplinary drug discovery research and explore emerging technologies.  

University College London (UCL)

Another one of London’s prestigious universities is University College London (UCL). It is considered one of the top universities in the U.K. for courses that combine biotechnology skills with pharmaceutical management skills. 

This is because it offers an MSc in Biotech and Pharmaceutical Management that focuses on the business and management of biotechnology and pharmaceutical ventures, as well as a Drug Discovery and Pharma Management MSc, which was introduced by UCL as a spin-off from the MSc Drug Discovery in response to the increasing opportunities which now exist for research scientists who can evaluate the business potential of their science as well as generate the science itself.

There are also undergraduate courses at UCL that students can take to help them launch a career in biotechnology. The UCL Department of Biochemical Engineering offers two main undergraduate programs. These are a Bachelor of Engineering (BEng) in Biochemical Engineering and a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in Bioprocessing of New Medicines (Business and Management). The BEng in Biochemical Engineering fully integrates engineering and biotechnology and is ideal for those who would like to explore careers in the biotechnology, pharmaceutical, or bioenergy sectors, while the BSc in Bioprocessing of New Medicines is designed to give students a firm grounding in both the science of bioprocessing and the management of new emerging technologies in healthcare.

Additionally, the university offers a Master of Engineering (MEng) in Biochemical Engineering, which is a four-year program that builds upon the BEng, enabling students to gain research skills. An MSc in Biochemical Engineering is also available to take, plus postgraduates can build on this even further, and have the opportunity to complete a PhD in Biochemical Engineering, too. 

University of Edinburgh

The University of Edinburgh is a top biotechnology university in the U.K. and is home to the Institute of Quantitive Biology, Biochemistry and Biotechnology, which brings together researchers from a range of backgrounds to tackle fundamental questions in biology and to develop biology-based solutions to real-world problems.

As well as offering a BSc in Biological Sciences, which gives a broad overview of the subject area, the university offers students the opportunity to specialize within Biological Sciences, including a BSc in Biological Sciences with a focus on biotechnology. In this program, students will explore areas including microbial biotechnology, genetic and cloning technologies, drug design, plant cell technology, synthetic biology , stem cells, and biological production methods. 

There are also 12 other Biological Sciences degrees, with focus areas such as biochemistry, cell biology, genetics, and immunology. 

The university also offers an MSc specifically in Biotechnology. Here, students will learn research and development skills to enable the creation of new products and services, investigate the economic basis for current biotechnology structures and areas of future demand, including the global pharmaceutical industry and carbon sequestration, learn how technology can be applied to solve pressing real-world biological problems, and gain the skills and expertise needed for future developments in biotechnology.

Furthermore, there is the option of an MSc in Synthetic Biology and Biotechnology, in which students will have the opportunity to develop the skills and knowledge necessary for developing innovative solutions and tackling the pressing global challenges we are facing, such as rapidly changing human demographics and resulting health pressures, growing demand for more and healthier food, resource shortages, and sustainable fuel transition and a cleaner environment.

University of Manchester

The University of Manchester only offers a few biotechnology-related courses, but considering it is home to the Manchester Institute of Biotechnology, it is considered one of the best universities to study biotech in the U.K. 

The institute was founded in 2006 to facilitate cross-disciplinary research to develop new biotechnologies that have applications in human health, the energy economy, food security, and the environment, and currently has more than 40 research groups that lead a portfolio of pioneering research projects that continue to advance our knowledge and uses of biotechnology. 

The University of Manchester offers a 3-year BSc Biotechnology undergraduate program, in which students can develop a comprehensive understanding of science, technology and business management, and collaborate with entrepreneurs on a project to develop a business plan for real life sciences products. There is also the option to do a four-year BSc program in Biotechnology with Industrial/Professional Experience, in which students can spend the third year of their degree gaining valuable work experience to enhance their CV, with a choice of placements from placements all over the world.

In terms of graduate degrees, the university provides students with the opportunity to complete an MSc in Biotechnology and Enterprise. Here, students will learn how to turn scientific discoveries into inventions and commercial products and develop research skills in biotechnology and scientific knowledge applicable to a range of careers, including working as a consultant, in business development, as a research and development manager, patent engineer and technical specialist, or continuing research in a PhD program.

Biotech spinouts from UK universities

Over the years, there have been numerous biotech companies that have spun out of U.K. universities , which just goes to show the quality of research being conducted at the top universities in the country. In fact, the University of Oxford, the University of Cambridge, and ICL were all recently listed as the U.K.’s most prolific universities when it comes to filing patent applications and producing startup spinouts with a focus on biotech, as well as artificial intelligence (AI) and greentech. Many of the top biotechnology universities in the U.K. also have partnerships with U.K.-based biotech companies . Perhaps one of the best examples of this is biotech company Apollo Therapeutics, which has core innovation sourcing and drug discovery collaborations with the University of Cambridge, UCL, ICL, and King’s College London, allowing it to translate some of the world-leading basic biomedical research conducted in the U.K. into innovative new therapies.

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    Actively Hiring. 6 months ago. Today's top 114 Biotechnology jobs in Bristol, England, United Kingdom. Leverage your professional network, and get hired. New Biotechnology jobs added daily.

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    Biotechnology jobs, 14 urgent job vacancies! Find your new job at the best companies now hiring in the UK. Apply today! ... PhD Research Scientist - Biotechnology. CK Group-London. Job Description: ... General Counsel Biotechnology Firm London, UK ...

  19. 6 biotechnology universities in the UK producing future talent

    The U.K. has a selection of world-class universities offering biotechnology courses, whether students are looking for undergraduate or graduate programs. The country is also home to the 'golden triangle', encompassing the biotech hubs of Oxford, Cambridge, and London, all of which boast some of the world's best universities for biotechnology.