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For those eager to pursue careers at the intersection of science and life-improving technology, a master’s in biotechnology might be your next big step. This degree prepares students for many different roles, including agricultural engineers, biochemists, and biomedical engineers — the latter provides a median salary of $100,730 and a job growth projection of 5% over the next decade. Graduates develop skills in genetic engineering, bioprocessing, and regulatory compliance, all essential for thriving in their future careers.

This degree typically requires two years to complete, with the average tuition cost being $19,749 for the 2020-2021 academic year.

How to Choose a Master’s in Biotechnology Degree Program

Choose your area of study

If you consider biotechnology a relatively niche field already — you’re right; it is. However, many students benefit from taking their interest in this field further and choosing a specialization to align their degree with their career goals.

Options may include genetic engineering, ideal for those interested in research and development roles in agriculture or medicine; pharmaceutical biotechnology, best for students planning for careers in drug development and regulatory affairs; and industrial biotechnology, suitable for those looking to work in biofuels, sustainability, or manufacturing sectors.

Research schools and programs

Now that you’ve chosen an intended specialization, you can begin researching schools for your master’s in biotechnology. Consider using the following questions to guide your research:

  • What are the core and elective courses offered, and how do they align with my specialization?
  • Who are the faculty, and what are their research interests?
  • How does the program integrate real-world applications?
  • What are the facilities and resources like?
  • Does a recognized accrediting body accredit the program?

You can explore program websites, speak directly with an admissions counselor, or attend information sessions to find this information.

Prepare for tests and applications

While application requirements may vary depending on the institution, virtually all schools require transcripts, letters of recommendation, and a personal statement. Be sure to seek these out early, as they can take time to gather. Additionally, dedicate plenty of time to writing your personal statement, focusing on illustrating your goals and readiness for graduate-level study.

Many master’s in biotechnology degree programs require GRE scores. This requirement can seem daunting, but you can simplify the preparation process by enrolling in a test prep program  — which provides structured learning and is proven to improve scores.

Select your program

Once acceptance letters arrive, you can select your program by revisiting your initial research criteria and focusing on what matters most — curriculum relevance, the faculty you’ll learn from, or real-world learning opportunities. This is also the ideal time to carefully evaluate each program’s total cost of attendance and compare it with any financial aid offers.

Determine how you’ll pay for your degree

Financing your degree without accruing substantial debt might seem impossible, but, fortunately, this isn’t the case. With solid financial planning, you can earn your education while reducing any financial burdens.

This may involve seeking scholarships and grants specific to biotechnology or researching available assistantships that provide a tuition waiver or stipend in return for research or teaching duties. If you’re currently employed in a related field, ask your employer about tuition support programs that could offset costs. Lastly, federal loans should be considered to bridge any remaining financial gaps, as they often have lower interest rates and flexible repayment options than private loans.

Best 50 Accredited Master’s in Biotechnology Programs

Best Master's in Biotechnology Degree Programs_2024 badge

Johns Hopkins University

University of Pennsylvania

Harvard Extension School

Brown University

Northwestern University

Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center

Georgetown University

North Carolina State University

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

University of Southern California

Columbia University

CSU Channel Islands

Northeastern University College of Science

University of Wisconsin–Madison

University of San Francisco

NYU Tandon School of Engineering

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How we rank schools

This list focuses on graduate programs in biotechnology that award master’s degrees. The most common degree awarded by graduate programs in biotechnology is a Master of Science. Some programs award a Master of Biotechnology. We reviewed programs that are offered in online, in-person, and hybrid formats.

All of the institutions featured in this guide are regionally accredited schools. Accreditation means the institution is regularly assessed by an independent agency on the quality of the education it provides. Those who attend a school that isn’t regionally accredited may be unable to access financial aid or transfer credits to another institution if needed.

We evaluated each program on the basis of flexibility, faculty, course strength, cost, and reputation. Then, we calculated the Intelligent Score for each program on a scale from 0 to 100. For a more extensive explanation, check out Our Ranking Methodology.

What Can You Expect From a Master’s in Biotechnology Program?

The curriculum for this degree typically covers genetic engineering, bioprocessing, and regulatory affairs, providing a thorough understanding of both the science and business of biotechnology. You’ll learn through traditional lectures, lab work, and often case studies, gaining practical skills in biotechnological techniques and problem-solving.

Programs usually offer two tracks: a thesis option, which involves conducting original research, and a non-thesis option, which may include additional coursework or a capstone project. Choosing between these tracks allows you to tailor your education to your career goals — whether you’re aiming for a career in research, industry, or entrepreneurship.

Most programs can be completed in two years, but accelerated options may allow completion in as little as one year, while part-time students might take up to four years.

Potential courses you’ll take in a master’s in biotechnology program

  • Biotechnology Techniques: Frequently considered a core requirement, this course is designed to build practical skills in manipulating biological systems, which is pivotal for both academic and industrial research in biotechnology. Students gain hands-on experience with essential tools and methodologies like PCR, sequencing, and cell culture.
  • Bioinformatics: Another standard core course, this class introduces the computational methods used to manage and analyze biological data. Participants learn how to use algorithms and databases to interpret genetic data, an indispensable skill in the era of big data and genomics.
  • Regulatory Affairs in Biotechnology: While some programs consider this class part of the core curriculum, many deem it an elective. Regardless of its placement, this course is essential as it explores the regulatory policies governing biotechnological products and processes — ensuring compliance and facilitating the successful translation of innovations from lab to market.
  • Entrepreneurship in Biotechnology: Centered around the business side of biotechnology, this course teaches students how to start and manage biotech ventures. It covers business planning, venture financing, and market analysis, key competencies for those looking to launch startups or take leadership roles in biotechnology companies.

Master’s in Biotechnology Degree Frequently Asked Questions

How do I apply to a master's in biotechnology degree program?

To apply for these programs, you’ll need to provide:

  • Official transcripts from all previously attended institutions
  • Letters of recommendation
  • A statement of purpose
  • GRE scores, if required

These requirements can vary by institution, making it essential to review specific program criteria before applying. Don’t hesitate to contact an admissions counselor, as they can help with this and ensure your application is as strong as possible before submitting it.

How much does a master's in biotechnology degree cost?

For the 2020-2021 academic year, the average tuition for a graduate degree in biotechnology was $19,749 — but this figure can fluctuate depending on the institution’s reputation, your residency status, and whether you plan to attend a private or public school. You’ll also want to budget for additional expenses not covered by tuition — including housing, commuting costs, textbooks, and course materials. Depending on the location and your lifestyle, these costs can considerably increase the cost of your education.

How long does it take to earn a master's in biotechnology degree?

Earning this degree usually takes about two years for full-time students, while those who opt for part-time enrollment may take three to four years to graduate. Regardless of the enrollment type you’re considering, the total number of required credits can significantly affect completion timelines — making this essential to consider. Requirements generally range from 30 to 36 credits, but some programs may require more, potentially extending the duration.

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