Biotechnology Research Assistants
Education and Training Requirements
Requirements for becoming a biotechnology research assistant vary, but make sure to take classes in biology and chemistry in high school. Also, a wide variety of college preparatory courses, including English, history, and mathematics, can be helpful as can knowledge of at least one foreign language. Since writing and presenting research are important aspects of the research assistant’s work, you should take classes that strengthen these skills, such as public speaking, journalism, and statistics. Knowledge of computers, the Internet, and databases, as well as excellent library skills, are absolutely vital to this profession, and laboratory skills are essential.
You will need at least an associate’s degree to work as a biotechnology research assistant, but a bachelor's degree or higher will open more opportunities. Many employers require a bachelor’s degree. When you are in college, begin thinking about a specific biotechnology field you are interested in and take courses in that field. For example, if you are interested in working for a biopharmaceutical company, you should take classes in biotechnology, genetics, biology, and other science fields. Some positions require degrees beyond a bachelor’s degree so identify your ultimate career goal when planning your graduate education.
Other Education or Training
Continuing education opportunities in science and biotechnology are provided by the following organizations: American Society for Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics, American Society of Human Genetics, Biotechnology Industry Organization, and the Genetics Society of America. Contact these organizations for more information.
Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements
Certification or Licensing
There are currently no certification or licensing requirements for biotechnology research assistants.
Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits
Any experience conducting research—especially for a biotechnology company—will be useful.
In order to succeed as a biotechnology research assistant, you must have scientific aptitude, be curious, and enjoy doing research, finding and organizing facts, working with other people, and handling a variety of tasks. You should also be self-motivated, take instruction well, and be resourceful. A good biotechnology research assistant must be able to take an assignment, immediately ask any questions necessary to clarify the task, and then begin retrieving the requested information.
Most assignments require that biotechnology research assistants do their work on their own, with little direct supervision. Biotechnology research assistants need to be very self-motivated in order to get the work done since they often do not have someone readily available to support them. It is important for research assistants who leave their offices for work to remember that they are representatives of their company or employer and to act and dress according to the employer’s standards.