In case you haven’t heard by now, biotechnology is no longer one of the best kept secrets of the pharmaceutical industry. Because small molecule blockbuster drugs are few and far between, every major pharmaceutical company in the world has announced plans to increase the percentage of protein-based drugs in their development pipeline.
As strange as this may sound, most people working at pharmaceutical companies have little or no understanding of the science behind the biotechnology industry, its products and the skill sets required to compete in the industry. I learned this while working as a contract writer at a pharmaceutical company that was trying to transition from an emphasis on small molecules to biotechnology drugs. Shortly after management publicly announced its intention, signs began appearing in the building where I worked with messages like “Are you biotech to the core” or “Got biotech.” Not surprisingly, I found myself explaining the different between small molecules and biotechnology products to large numbers of colleagues during group lunches. Their lack of understanding about biotechnology was both surprising and troubling. I mean where have these people been for the past 35 years?
While I thought that this phenomenon was unique to the company where I was working, it turns out —based on many conversations with employees at other companies—that it is pervasive in the pharmaceutical industry! Put simply, there are large numbers of pharmaceutical employees (and aspiring students for that matter) who know little about biotechnology and must quickly learn about an industry that they are being forced to work in so that they can keep their jobs! This presents time and logistical issues for many full time pharmaceutical employees—they simply don’t have the time or where-with-all to learn about biotechnology via traditional bricks and mortar training opportunities, e.g. undergraduate, graduate or certificate programs.
Recognizing a growing need, several academic institutions now offer online biotechnology courses and degree programs for undergraduate and graduate students. While these programs may not enable participants to work as bench scientists at life sciences companies (this requires hands-on wet laboratory training), they certainly provide students with the fundamental scientific and business underpinnings of the biotechnology industry.
Below you will find descriptions of a couple of online degree biotechnology programs and links to online undergraduate and graduate level biotechnology courses.
Online Biotechnology Degree Programs
The Johns Hopkins University – a prestigious brick-and-mortar research university – offers three online degree programs in advanced biotechnology: the M.S. in Bioinformatics, the M.S. in Bioscience Regulatory Affairs, and the M.S. in Biotechnology. (The M.S. in Biotech may involve a limited amount of on-campus instruction in Baltimore.) Students have up to five years to complete their degrees, but those who enroll for full-time study typically finish in two years.
The University of Maryland University College (UMUC) is among America’s largest providers of distance education. UMUC’s Biotechnology Studies Program has been designated a “Professional Science Master’s Degree Program” by the Council of Graduate Schools. The program’s three specialization areas include: bioinformatics, biotechnology management, and biosecurity/biodefense. A dual online degree option is also available: students can earn an MBA in addition to the Master’s in Biotechnology by completing just a few additional courses.
Online Biotechnology Courses
Purdue University’s Department of Continuing Education frequently features online courses in horticulture and related fields that can help students prepare for careers in biotechnology. New choices are offered every semester.
MiraCosta College, a community college in Southern California, offers a number of online courses in biotechnology. The school’s website includes a five-year projection of course offerings.
While the current list of online biotechnology offerings is short, expect the number of online courses and degree programs to continue to grow in the future. If you are aware of or participate in other online biotechnology courses and degree programs, please feel free contact me about them.
Hat tip and thanks to Chesca and her colleagues at OnlineDegreeReviews.org for research and writing of this post!
Until next time,
Good luck and Good learning!