Career Guide to JMU Majors: Biotechnology
The Biotechnology major is an interdisciplinary program offered jointly by the College of Science & Mathematics and the College of Integrated Science & Technology.
Admission and Progression Standards:
Visit the Major Snapshots site to learn more about the admission and progression standards of this major.
Description of Major
In cooperation with the Department of Integrated Science and Technology and the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, the Biology department offers a B.S. degree program for a major in biotechnology. Biotechnology majors must complete 47-53 credit hours of science foundation courses, 17 credit hours of biotechnology transition and core courses, and 15 credit hours of elective courses. Students are highly encouraged to include academic credit for research, up to 8 credits of which may be applied to the concentration requirement.
Tell me more about this field of study
Biotechnology is the practice of using plants, animals and micro-organisms such as bacteria, as well as biological processes - to some benefit. For example, in industry, medicine and agriculture, biotechnology is used to produce foods, develop medicines, test for diseases and remove waste. Thus, it is used to solve practical problems and to answer fundamental research questions. Over time, biotechnology has enabled us to learn about people and diseases, and has underpinned the development of medical treatments.
Tell me more about specialization
Students majoring in biotechnology will be prepared to enter the biotechnology workforce, or to pursue graduate education in a wide array of fields including medical, agricultural or industrial biotechnology. Fields of research in biotechnology include applied molecular biology, bioinformatics, and genomics.
Common majors or minors that complement this major
Complimentary majors and minors include: Chemistry, Environmental Management, Geology, Geographic Sciences, Health Sciences, Integrated Science and Technology, Justice Studies, Mathematics, Physics, Pre Medicine, Pre-Veterinary Medicine, Psychology, Pre-Forensic Studies, Pre-Pharmacy, or Writing, Rhetoric and Technical Communication.
Those students who show good motivation to learn in regular classes, who talk with their advisor and choose appropriate course work to develop a meaningful program of study, those who show ability in doing precision work, who work well under pressure, who are naturally curious, and those who devote a portion of their curriculum to serious research. In addition, flexibility appears to be a key trait for anyone entering the job market in the future. While the educational requirements for biotechnology tend toward specialization, the actual jobs developing for the 21st century place a premium on adapting to change, moving into new settings, and combining diverse areas. For instance, a typical research project in the pharmaceutical industry lasts only a few years, after which a scientist might be asked to tackle an entirely different project.
Many graduates choose typical career paths associated with this major. However, some graduates choose nontraditional career paths that utilize skills and experiences developed during their years in college. Keep in mind, that some fields will require graduate study or further training. The listing below offers examples of possible career paths and is not meant to be comprehensive.
Who employs graduates?
Agricultural Industries, Aquariums, Biotechnology Firms, Chemical Companies, Colleges and Universities, Cosmetic Companies, Environment and Pollution Control Agencies, Federal and State Government Laboratories (Department of Agriculture, Fish & Wildlife Service, National Institutes of Health, Department of Energy), Food Companies, Hospitals, Medical Centers, Pharmaceutical Companies, Private Research Firms, Public Health Facilities, and Zoos.
Practicum, internships, and other forms of individual study are available to all students majoring in Biotechnology. Students should contact faculty coordinators in their areas of interest to gain further information.
View our list of internship coordinators for each major.
What are JMU graduates doing with this major?
Biochemists and Biophysicist
VAULT: Log in, Click on Guides and search for over 700 professions and 100 industries.
A broad range of resources on career fields, internships, and job search information is also available in the Career & Academic Planning Resource Center.
A few titles from our Resource Center related to this field include:
© Career & Academic Planning, James Madison University,
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from JMU Career & Academic Planning. Content for each major has been written/reviewed by faculty in the respective department and is revised each year. Requests to update content can be submitted to the Career Guide editor, Barbara Daniel.