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Biotechnologist

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Summary of occupation

Biotechnologists use biological organisms to create and improve products and processes in fields such as agriculture, environmental conservation and medicine. They study the genetic, chemical and physical attributes of cells, tissues and organisms, and identify industrial uses for this knowledge. The applications of biotechnology are widespread and include developing new medicines and vaccinations, cross-breeding plants and animals to encourage beneficial characteristics, and using bacteria and enzymes in areas such as food production and waste treatment. Some biotechnologists may also work with cutting edge and potentially controversial technologies such as genetic modification and stem cell research.

ANZSCO description: Studies the anatomy, physiology and characteristics of living organisms and isolated biological molecules, and develops new materials for applying to a range of purposes.
Alternative names:
Specialisations: Cell Geneticist, Molecular Biologist, Molecular Geneticist
Job prospects: Limited
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Knowledge, skills and attributes

A biotechnologist needs:

  • the ability to think logically and analytically
  • good communication skills
  • a methodical approach to work
  • to understand the ethics of scientific research
  • the ability to think creatively and have good problem-solving skills.
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Working conditions

Biotechnologists work in laboratories and offices, usually located in universities, research institutes or processing and/or manufacturing plants in the Perth metropolitan region. They often work with hazardous chemicals and biological matter, which will require them to wear protective clothing. Those based in manufacturing or processing plants may also work around machinery which can be noisy and potentially dangerous. Most biotechnologists will work regular business hours, however, evening and weekend work may occasionally be required to complete experiments or compile reports.

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Salary details

On average, biotechnologists, classified under life scientists, can expect to earn between $1 500 and $1 999 per week ($78 000 and $103 999 per year), depending on the organisation they work for, and their level of experience. As a biotechnologist develops their skills, their earning potential will generally increase.

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Tools and technologies

Biotechnologists use a range of standard and highly-specialised laboratory equipment. The more standard equipment includes microscopes, filters, pumps, evaporators and centrifuges. Many of their experiments are carried out with the aid of computerised machines which are able to perform highly-complex and specialised tests in a relatively short space of time. Some chemicals may release noxious fumes and require workers to wear masks and carry out experiments in specially-designed fume cupboards.

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Education and training/entrance requirements

To become a biotechnologist, you usually need to study science with a major in biotechnology or biomedical science at university, usually to postgraduate level.

Most universities in Western Australia offer relevant courses. Contact the universities you are interested in for more information.

Related courses

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Apprenticeships and traineeships

As an apprentice or trainee, you enter into a formal training contract with an employer. You spend most of your time working and learning practical skills on the job and you spend some time undertaking structured training with a registered training provider of your choice. They will assess your skills and when you are competent in all areas, you will be awarded a nationally recognised qualification.

If you are still at school you can access an apprenticeship through your school. You generally start your school based apprenticeship by attending school three days a week, spending one day at a registered training organisation and one day at work. Talk to your school's VET Co-ordinator to start your training now through VET in Schools. If you get a full-time apprenticeship you can apply to leave school before reaching the school leaving age.

If you are no longer at school you can apply for an apprenticeship or traineeship and get paid while you learn and work.

Related apprenticeships

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Recognition of prior learning

If you think you already have some of the skills or competencies, obtained either through non-formal or informal learning, you may be able to gain credit through recognition of prior learning.

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