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Should You Go Into Biotech Or Computer Science?

Author: Michael Harris

Perhaps you're technically minded with an interest in understanding living things and have already considered embarking on a career in the field of biotechnology. While basing your career choice on innate abilities and interests is a good starting point there are a number of other things worth considering as well. You should also think about whether there will be jobs in your field in the future and other life goals that may depend on the size of your paycheck. Unless you're planning on earning a doctorate or professional degree to become a biochemist or biophysicist, professions that earned a median annual wage of $81,480 in 2012 and have an anticipated job growth of 18.6%t between 2012 and 2022, you may want to rethink that biotechnology career and refocus your innate technical abilities on a career in computer science. Here's why.

Biotechnology Career Outlook

The field of biotechnology utilizes both cellular and biomolecular processes in developing technology aimed at improving quality of life and creating a safer, healthier planet. As such, a career in biotechnology will require a degree with coursework in biochemistry, biosystems, bio-engineering, tissue-engineering, and both cellular and molecular biology. With this core focus there may be a number of specific occupations open to you upon completing your bachelor's degree, including biomedical engineer, food scientist, soil and plant scientist, forensic science technician, or medical and clinical laboratory technologist. (For more, see: Post-Grad Degrees That Pay The Highest.)

There are 13 biotech-related occupations available to those with a minimum of a bachelor's degree and either less than five years or no work experience. Statistics from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) on the median annual wage, job openings due to growth and replacements needs, and total percentage change in employment show how these 13 occupations stack up. Here they are:

Median Annual Wage (2012):

  • mean = $65,961
  • median = $61,100

Employment Change (2012-2022):

  • mean = 9.4%

Job Openings due to Growth and Replacement Needs (2012-2022)

  • sum total = 198,400

The pay may sound attractive considering that the median annual wage for all occupations in 2012 was only $34,750. However, this includes all occupations, even those with no minimum university or college degree required for employment. Further, the employment change for all occupations over the 2012-2022 period is 10.8% which puts biotechnology-related careers just under the average for all occupations. Perhaps it is at least worth considering a computer science career path. Don't worry, it's all outlined below.

Computer Science Career Outlook

A bachelor's degree in computer science could easily set one up for a number of possible careers, including a computer systems or information security analyst, computer programmer, software developer, or an operations research analyst. Using ten computer science related occupations, we collected the same statistics as we did for the biotech related careers. Here they are:

Median Annual Wage (2012):

  • mean = $83,299
  • median = $80,410

Employment Change (2012-2022):

  • mean = 17.2%

Job Openings due to Growth and Replacement Needs (2012-2022)

  • sum total = 961,200

The Bottom Line

The numbers say it all, and while you may be willing to sacrifice the extra pay for working at a career that more closely aligns with your interests, the fact that there will be 762,800 more job openings in computer science-related careers over the ten year period should at least cause some serious reflection.

Working in a field that aligns with your interests is ideal but if there aren't jobs in your field it won't matter what your interests are. However, there may be some hope in the new emerging field of bioinformatics, which uses computers to acquire, store, and analyze biological data offering exciting new ways of looking at living organisms and the life process. Shifting technical inclinations towards pursuing a major in computer science and satisfying your interest in studying living things by minoring in biology may allow you to land a fulfilling career with growth potential and a rewarding salary to pursue other life goals.

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