Biotechnologist

In South Africa agriculture is a key contributor to the national economy. It contributes around 2.4% to GDP, is a key exporting industry and is critical for local food security. Biotechnology works with living organisms and its derivatives to produce products and investigate processes for higher production yields. It also explores biological crop and plant management, for example in pest control. Biotechnology is also increasing as a career field in the management of invasive alien plants.

Biotechnologists study the anatomy, physiology and characteristics of living organisms and biological molecules and develop new materials for a range of purposes. They examine the chemical, genetic and physicality of cells, tissues and organisms. Some may find ways to improve animal feed or genetically modify crops to make them more pest resistant or to increase productivity. Biotechnologists could also use and research agricultural crops to produce biodegradable plastics or biodiesel.

Biotechnologists can work with farmers, agricultural scientists and engineers and pest management officers in finding the best products for crop growth or plant disease, for example. They mainly work in laboratories, wearing protective clothing as they work with dangerous chemicals and biological specimens.

Skills

Biotechnologists must have a solid knowledge of biology and its associated laboratory techniques and an understanding of chemical properties. They will further benefit from:

  • Complex problem-solving ability
  • Creative and logical analytical ability
  • Strong organisation and attention to detail
  • Excellent written and verbal communication skills

Tasks

Design, implement and monitor research experiments

Collect, study and test cell, tissue, bacteria and living organism samples

Analyse findings and identify practical applications and potential risks

Record and disseminate results in reports and presentations

Studies

B.Sc., B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc. in Biotechnology at SU, UJ, UKZN, UP and UWC

B.Sc., B.Sc. (Hons), M.Sc. in Microbiology at all universities

Diploma, Advanced Diploma, M.Tech in Biotechnology at CPUT, DUT, TUT, UJ and VUT

Employers

Agricultural and crop production companies.

Conservation organisations.

Biotechnology and genetic engineering organisations.

Pharmaceutical and chemical companies.

Research institutions.

Related career paths