Career Guide to JMU Majors Logo

Overview 

The Biotechnology major is an interdisciplinary program offered jointly by the departments of Biology and Chemistry from the College of Science & Mathematics and the Department of Integrated Science and Technology (ISAT) from the College of Integrated Science & Engineering.

Admission and Progression Standards

Visit the Major Snapshots site to learn more about the admission and progression standards of this major.

Description of Major

The Biotechnology Degree Program at JMU leverages the strengths of three founding departments and two colleges to provide a unique program with both scientific/technical depth and cross-disciplinary breadth. Students undertake a rigorous curriculum, rich with hands-on laboratory experiences, critical analyses of both the “how” and the “why” of biotechnological solutions, and the development of transferable skills to keep up in a rapidly changing field.

More About the Field 

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.

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.

Complementary Majors and Minors 

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.

Characteristics of Successful Students

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.

Careers

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.

  • Biochemist
  • Bioenergy Scientist
  • Bioinformatician
  • Biomedical Engineer
  • Biostatistician
  • Biotechnical Scientist
  • Clinical Scientist
  • Compliance Investigator
  • Consultant
  • Criminologist
  • DNA and Genetics Technician
  • Environmental Health & Safety Technician
  • Food Scientist
  • Forensic Scientist
  • Industry Researcher
  • Information Resources Specialist
  • Lab Manager
  • Microbiologist
  • Molecular Biologist
  • Pharmaceutical Formulator
  • Pharmaceutical Salesperson
  • Pharmacology Research Associate
  • Pharmacy Technician
  • Plant/Crop Scientist
  • Product Developer
  • Professor
  • Quality Control Analyst
  • Regulatory Affairs
  • Research Associate
  • Scientific Sales Representative
  • Technical Writer
  • Toxicologist

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.

Internships and Experiential Opportunities 

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.

Career Profiles 

Biochemists and Biophysicists
Bioinformatics Scientists
Biotechnology

Additional Resources to Research Careers
  • Handshake: view new internships and jobs that employers are looking to hire JMU students from your major 
  • Career Outcomes: see where alumni worked or studied right after graduating.
  • GoinGlobal: learn more about employment opportunities overseas as well as H1B visa information for international Dukes pursuing jobs in the U.S.
  • O*NET: browse occupational profiles to learn about thousands of different careers, pulling data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics 
  • CareerOneStop: explore thousands of different careers by looking at career profiles 
  • Utilize the LinkedIn Alumni tool to see what others have done with their majors and what their career paths look like. Reach out to alumni via LinkedIn and conduct an informational interview.
Copyright

© University Career Center, James Madison University

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form without permission from the JMU University Career Center. 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 career@jmu.edu

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