What it is

The Biotechnology industry (Biotech for short) uses living systems and organisms to develop products that combat disease, protect the environment, increase food production, and improve health. It harnesses the power of life to improve life. As with other forms of industry, there is a product design cycle that goes from conception to development all the way to the final stages of marketing, manufacturing, and sales. The life cycle can be thought of as two basic phases: R&D and commercialization. R&D is about developing the product; commercialization is about selling it.

Starting points

There are entry-level roles for PhDs in most stages of the product development cycle. Those wishing to stay closer to the bench should look for positions on the R&D side. Those who enjoy communicating or are interested in business have a range of choices on the commercialization side.


One can advance to the director level of one’s functional area, or change areas, or with successful performance and ongoing professional development, move into management.


Life Scientists, Biomedical Engineers, and others who study living organisms have an advantage, but other STEM disciplines can find appropriate niches related to their skill sets.

Personality and outlook

There is a place for everyone in Biotech. Introverts may prefer more technical roles; extroverts may be happier in more communicative roles. In Biotech, as in Industry, the focus is on making things work and making money, and not accumulating knowledge for its own sake. Thus everyone needs to be pragmatic.


Gravitate towards projects that will culminate in a product, process or technique. In the lab, practice thinking in terms of the product life cycle: conception, development, testing, quality assurance and future improvement. Develop teamwork skills. Take classes in statistics, business, process engineering or technical marketing. Conduct informational interviews with people in Biotech; seek out internships. Identify a possible niche within Biotech and blog about it.

Real Life Examples