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Learn biotechnology with online courses and programs

Leveraging science and technology, biotechnology is used to solve problems related to the environment, food, energy, and health. Learn about this rapidly evolving field with online courses delivered through edX.

What is biotechnology?

Biotechnology is used to manipulate living organisms for various applications across medicine, public health, agriculture and food production, energy production, and even the industrial sector. It merges biomolecular processes with emerging technologies to optimize innovation.Footnote 1 Biotechnology has become an essential field of research due to its potential to improve the quality of human life, as well as global sustainability.

Examples of biotechnology can be found in everyday life. Similar to biomedical engineering, biotechnology is used in the production of drugs, vaccines, and other transformational medical treatments. It plays an important role in scientists’ understanding of genetics. In the field of agriculture, biotechnology makes it possible to create new breeds of plants and animals, improve crop yields, and increase the nutritional value of food.

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Biotechnology course curriculum

A course in biotechnology typically covers a breadth of topics related to bioprocesses, which describes the use and modification of living organisms in the development of products and technologies. Areas of study may include genetic engineering, tissue engineering, DNA sequencing, cellular and molecular biology; plant and animal biotechnology; biochemistry, bioinformatics, biomaterials and bioprocess engineering; biomedical engineering, immunology, and industrial microbiology. 

Grounded in empathy and compliance, bioethics is an integral part of the biotechnology field. It is concerned with the ethical implications of biological and medical research, applications, and technologies. Bioethics provides a framework for addressing complex ethical issues in which human life and wellbeing; animal welfare, or environmental conservation may be at stake. In developing an understanding of the social ramifications and legal risks associated with the technology used in the field, learners build analytical reasoning and critical thinking skills.  

Individuals planning to enter the field of biotechnology may consider pursuing a biotechnology degree.  Courses in related disciplines like physical sciences, biomedical science, natural resource management, and bioengineering are equally viable study options.  

Explore the expansive field of science and technology with online courses delivered through edX. Learn specialized skills in an accelerated boot camp. Alternatively, enroll in a comprehensive program and work toward a bachelor’s degree or, for more experienced learners, a master’s degree.

Explore biotechnology jobs 

Biotechnology careers range from research and development, to product engineering, to clinical and regulatory affairs. Practitioners may also focus on such areas as quality control and manufacturing, or bioinformatics and data analysis. 

Examples of roles within the field are:

  • Biochemist: Biochemists study the chemical processes and substances that occur in living organisms. Using the tools of chemistry and their knowledge of the molecular structures, they discover new drugs and treatments for various diseases. Common responsibilities in this role include analyzing data, conducting research, and performing experiments.Footnote 2

  • Biomedical engineer: Biomedical engineers use engineering principles and design methods to solve biomedical and health-related problems. Similar to biochemists, they are responsible for designing, developing, and testing medical equipment and devices that diagnose and treat illnesses. They may collaborate with medical professionals to ensure the safety and efficacy of their medical devices. Daily responsibilities in this role include conducting research and troubleshooting existing medical systems.Footnote 3

  • Biophysicist: Biophysicists look at the physical and chemical properties of biological systems. Common responsibilities include studying the structure and function of the body, using mathematical and physical models to explain biological phenomena, and designing experiments to explore the behavior of living organisms.Footnote 4

  • Bioinformatics scientist: Bioinformatics scientists use computer programming and algorithms to analyze and interpret biological information. They then use that information to design and develop new therapies, medicines, and diagnostics. Primary responsibilities in this role include designing and coding software programs, and creating models and simulations.Footnote 5

  • Genetic engineer: Genetic engineers use biotechnology to modify or create organisms with desired characteristics, such as pest-resistant crops or disease-resistant livestock. Key responsibilities in this role include designing experiments and ensuring the safety of an organism through new technologies.Footnote 6

Enroll in a biotechnology program to gain a comprehensive understanding of the underlying principles of science and technology. This can help create bridges in research between subfields and foster collaboration, allowing those with a background in one area to better interact with those with a background in another. 

How to become a biotechnologist online

Biotechnologists, sometimes called biotechnology technicians, are well versed in multiple disciplines. They work for major biotechnology companies, pharmaceutical and medical equipment manufacturing facilities, universities, and research firms. 

While useful, a biotechnology master’s degree is not your only education option if you have your sights set on the field. Foundational knowledge in biological sciences, chemistry, physics, mechanical engineering, environmental engineering, technology, or other related fields may fulfill specific job qualifications.   

Online courses can get you started on your learning journey. With edX, you can earn a bachelor’s degree in computer science or you can pursue a master’s degree in data science. The pursuit of knowledge can be what you want it to be.  

Explore flexible learning options with online biotechnology courses delivered through edX.