Is a Master’s in Biotechnology Worth It?

Industry Advice Science & Mathematics

Jared Auclair, director of biotechnology and bioinformatics at Northeastern, often reminds his students that humanity has never cured a disease. While scientists have developed vaccines for polio and treatments for AIDS, we’ve yet to find a true cure—and Auclair is betting on biotech to change that. 

“One of the most exciting things about biotechnology, especially in the molecular biotechnology and cell biotechnology sphere, is the movement of the field towards cell and gene-based therapies,” Auclair says. “Those therapies, for the first time, will be our opportunity as a species to actually cure diseases.” 

These therapies are one of the many ways that biotechnology is expanding into new applications. While the field generally revolves around protein-based therapeutics, other areas—like small-molecule drug development, agricultural biotech, biodefense, and drug regulation—have all become more popular, and new careers that pay upwards of $70,000 annually have developed as a result. 

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If you’d like to advance your career in this rapidly evolving field, a master’s degree in biotechnology is worth the investment. 

“A master’s degree is a real sweet spot because it opens you up to many more opportunities,” Auclair says. “It requires less of a time commitment from students than a PhD, but you can still get real experience through our mandatory co-ops [at Northeastern] and advance to management levels with it.” 

As demand for new treatments rises, here are some of the jobs you’ll be qualified for with a master’s in biotech. 

High-Paying Jobs in Biotechnology 

Biotechnology is all about making life better for patients, Auclair says, and most working within this field will take on that mission through science-focused careers. 

“The beauty of biotech is that every day, you go to work and might do something new or learn something new,” Auclair says. “You might get to learn new techniques from the team next to you, or learn about the business side” 

The business side of biotech represents an often-overlooked chance for those who are interested in science, but not necessarily in the research and development of drugs, to find fulfilling careers. 

“On the business side, we’re asking how we can take the science that we’re going to learn with biotechnology and have that inform business decisions so that the patient is always at the forefront,” Auclair says. 

Within each role, whether science- or business-focused, comes an opportunity to specialize in a particular facet of biotechnology. From agricultural-focused roles that pertain to genetically modified foods to specializations in particular diseases and treatments, biotechnology offers the ability to develop an area of expertise and explore a range of interests. 

With high salaries and strong potential for growth, the following roles make a master’s in biotechnology worth it for graduates. 

Research Scientist

Average Salary: $84,810 

Research scientists are responsible for conducting tests and other research that help them develop new medicines or improve existing drugs. For example, a scientific team may work to collect data that will inform the development of insulin that can be taken orally, rather than by injection. 

Regulatory Science Professional

Average Salary: $150,422 

Drugs must be safe for human use and compliant with all regulations and laws surrounding them. To ensure that these conditions are met, regulatory science professionals must stay up to date on the latest regulations and liaise between scientists, manufacturing companies, and government organizations. 

Formulation Scientist

Average Salary: $100,878 

Formulation scientists oversee the development of final drug products and create their manufacturing processes. These roles, therefore, require an understanding of manufacturing best practices in addition to an extensive scientific background. 

Data Analyst

Average Salary: $97,500

Nearly all industries have roles for data analysts, who interpret data and use it to support business decisions. Auclair notes that in the biotechnology industry, analysts who understand scientific data and how to hand it are essential to successful operations. 

Learn More | 10 In-Demand Biotechnology Careers Shaping Our Future

Biotechnology Career Outlook 

Once you’ve found your dream role, there’s a good chance you’ll find a wide variety of job openings for it. 

“In general, the job market for biotech has been really good over the last 10 to 15 years,” Auclair says. “[Northeastern’s main campus] is also in Boston, which is the hub of biotech. I think the pandemic we’re experiencing is also going to increase the interest and need for skills in this industry.” 

About 95 percent of Northeastern’s biotech graduates find work within six months of completing their degrees, with average starting salaries of $72,000, according to Auclair. 

Though Northeastern’s masters in biotechnology is not a terminal degree, Auclair considers it to be similar. “The idea is that our graduates are prepared to go straight into the industry, and they are—they have that competitive advantage over other master’s students,” he says.  

This ability to immediately enter and succeed in the field makes a master’s in biotechnology and attractive option for those seeking to make a difference in the world while enjoying consistent professional development. 

Learn More | So, You Have a Biotech Degree—Now What?

Preparing for Your Biotechnology Career 

A master’s degree in biotechnology should incorporate strong experiential opportunities to ensure that you have the skills needed to advance your career. At Northeastern, students participate in mandatory co-ops, which allow them to gain six months of real-world experience at biotech firms around the world. They also use data from real companies in Experiential Network projects that help them solve actual business problems before graduation. 

“Every scientist is a problem solver and a critical thinker,” Auclair says. “With those two skills, you can address any problem, even something that you have no knowledge about. We try to excite our students about the science that they’re learning and how they can apply it to things that I can’t even dream up right now, things that might be happening in 10 years.”

Highly experienced faculty—approximately 90 percent of whom still work within the industry and bring their work to the classroom with them—guide students through their educational experience. Auclair, for example, regularly holds trainings for the Food and Drug Administration and other global entities and also serves as the director of the Biopharmaceutical Analysis Training Lab in Burlington, MA. He ensures that whatever he shares with these groups is also taught to students, giving them a global perspective and keeping them up-to-date on the latest trends and discoveries in biotech. 

These experiences, combined with classes in science, business, regulatory processes, data, provide students with a well-rounded education that prepares them to take on advanced jobs in the biotech space—and use them to make a difference in healthcare all over the world. 

Learn more about Northeastern’s master’s in biotechnology program and how it can help you invest in your career.


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