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Study Biotechnology Abroad - the Definitive Guide

The Indian biotech industry is poised to grow at an average growth rate of around 30% a year and reach US$ 100 billion by the year 2025.

Mahesh Ramani

As a student of Biotechnology, you can choose to work in industries as varied as pharmaceuticals, food-processing, cosmetics and agriculture.

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Subject modules & entry requirements

Biotechnology, also known as “biotech” is the study of the use of living organisms and systems for the development of products that improve the quality of human and animal life. Every year, a number of students from India travel to the USA and the UK to enrol in a postgraduate programme in Biotechnology.

This subject guide will introduce you to the popular universities offering Biotechnology courses abroad. Information on programme options, their duration, course modules, admissions and entry requirements, average costs, subject specialisations and the career options available for biotechnologists will also be covered.

Postgraduate programme options

The primary postgraduate degrees in Biotechnology are the MSc in Biotechnology and the MS in Biotechnology. View a comprehensive list of popular postgraduate Biotechnology programmes.

How long will you study?

In most countries, the postgraduate degree in Biotechnology is offered as a full-time one-year programme. Some universities also incorporate projects as part of the programme. The project may require students to spend some additional time as a student/intern before they receive their degree.

What will you study?

Biotechnology as a subject blends elements of Biology, Chemistry, Computing, Engineering and Informatics and offers students a unique learning experience. The core areas of study that make up most Biotechnology programmes are:

  • Biotechnology and Molecular Biology
  • Genetic Engineering
  • Pharmacology and Drug Development
  • Food Biotechnology
  • Environmental Biotechnology
  • Biomedical Diagnostics
  • Clinical Trials and Regulations
  • Professional and Research Skills in Biotechnology

Based on the area of specialisation, core modules will vary and cover areas like Bioinformatics, Medical Device Design, DNA Technology and Industrial Biotechnology. Read this expert interview with Dr. Yusuf Deeni who teaches MSc Biotechnology at University of Abertay, Dundee to get an understanding of what a postgraduate degree in Biotechnology entails.

Typical entry requirements

Prospective applicants should have a relevant undergraduate degree in Biotechnology, Biology, Microbiology or Biochemistry with a good academic score. GRE scores are required by most universities. GRE scores of at least 147 verbal and 295 combined are preferred. Applicants are advised to verify with the university where they plan to study about the exact GRE scores needed.   

English language proficiency

A score of 6.5 on the IELTS or 79 on the TOEFL is usually considered to be fair enough for admission into a postgraduate Biotechnology programme. Some institutions may require a higher score of 7.0 on the IELTS.


The average cost of completing a postgraduate degree in Biotechnology varies from INR 12 lakhs to INR 20 lakhs. This is the cost of a regular one-year programme. Students would have to earmark another 8 lakhs for accommodation and living costs. The costs will vary dependent on the university and country of study. Prospective students are advised to explore all options regarding scholarships when they apply.

Subject specialisations

Some of the top-ranked universities around the world to study Biotechnology are – Harvard University, Stanford University, Purdue University, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge, Imperial College London, Queensland University of Technology, Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology – RMIT and the University of Sydney. The most popular subject specialisations that are offered as a part of postgraduate Biotechnology programmes are listed below.

Cellular and Molecular Biotechnology

The secrets to a long, secure and healthy life are there in the cells of molecular organisms. This fascinating field of study is designed for biotechnologists who aim to study the cell structures of organisms and unlock their secrets.

View postgraduate programmes in cellular and Molecular Biotechnology.


From Gregor Mendel’s experiments with the green pea to the cloning of Dolly the sheep; modern genetics has come a long way. Genetics remains one of the most popular subject specialisations in biotechnology and students can also choose to further focus on plant, animal or human genetics.

View postgraduate programmes in Genetics.

Animal Pathology

This specialisation focuses on research in veterinary medicine and is useful for those who wish to make a career in the formulation of veterinary medicines and cures for diseases plaguing animals.

View postgraduate programmes in Animal Pathology.


Biometry is defined as the application of statistical analytic models to biological data, which can be used to improve performance. This finds use in a variety of areas as diverse as banking security, daily attendance monitoring and forensics.

View postgraduate programmes in Biometry.

Computational Biology

Computational Biology is a fascinating subject that explores the application of Computer Science, Statistics, and Mathematics to solve problems in Biology. This subject is also known as Bioinformatics.

View postgraduate programmes in Computational Biology.


Toxicology is one of the most ancient sciences that had avid practitioners across civilisations. Many ancient texts have been found that look at the impact of chemicals extracted from plants and animals that can be used as poisons. Modern toxicology studies continue this study and also look at the development of antidotes for toxins and are useful in forensics and solving crimes related to poisoning as well. 

View postgraduate programmes in Toxicology.

Medical Biotechnology

As the name suggests this specialisation merges Human medicine and Biotechnology and offers students the chance to explore the various possibilities of improving the quality of human life through innovations in Biotechnology.

Environmental Biotechnology

Principles of biotechnology are used to protect the ecological balance of a geographical location by the safe and sustainable disposal and treatment of industrial and domestic waste. Environmental biotechnology explores these safe disposal techniques in a systematic manner.

Marine Biotechnology

Oil spills in the oceans and sewage and industrial wastage being dumped in the ocean have made the earth’s oceans a massive dump-yard. Marine biotechnology is the study of the plant and animal life in the oceans and the application of conservation techniques to keep the oceans clean and sustainable for aquatic life to survive.

Environmental Management

This subject specialisation explores the various methods by which an organisation can limit the pollution and damage it can cause to the local environment. With mines, factories and manufacturing hubs coming up in ecologically sensitive areas the study of Environmental management is gaining prominence.

Read this article on some of the top universities in the UK which offer the MSc in Biotechnology

Career prospects

Biotechnology is one of the fastest growing industries in India with various states creating special economic zones to woo companies to set up their manufacturing hubs. From roles in pharmaceuticals, medical research, environmental safety, genetics, agriculture, chemicals and cosmetics; biotechnologists can choose from a wide variety of industries. In India, the growth potential for biotechnologists is immense.  The Indian biotechnology sector is divided into five major sectors— bio-pharma, bio-services, bio-agri, bio-industrial and bio-informatics.

With the core focus on herbal, organic and Ayurvedic products, and companies like Himalaya, Biocon, Dabur and Patanjali Medicals promoting their products aggressively the cosmetics/pharmaceutical sector will emerge as the single largest employer of biotechnologists.

The following infographics sourced from Payscale indicate the average annual salaries for individuals with an MS in Biotechnology degree in India and the USA.


Median Salary by Years Experience


Median Salary by Years Experience

Biotechnology as a subject is evolving at a rapid pace and the research output that is coming out is mind-boggling. If you are keen to create a career for yourself as a biotechnologist then an international degree and a job abroad is your best bet.   

Famous biotechnologists

The Indian Biotechnology industry looks up to one person as a mentor. A lady who believed in herself and crafted a wonderful success story. Kiran Mazumdar Shaw heads Biocon, India’s largest and most trusted biotechnology firm. She studied Biology and Zoology at college in India and then went on to complete a course in Malting and Brewing in Australia. From being a master brewer, she went on to start a small firm in her garage that extracted enzymes to setting up a state-of-the-art biotechnology facility that sets the standards for similar firms across the country.  Kiran has been awarded a number of honorary doctorates and is also associated with various philanthropic projects across rural India.

When CK Ranganathan started a shampoo called Chik in 1983 he never imagined the extent to which his firm would grow. An entrepreneur from a small coastal town in South India, CK Ranganathan now heads one of India’s biggest private conglomerates – CavinKare. The company has products in health and beauty care, milk and other dairy products and beverages and snacks. CK Ranganathan is known to have ushered in the ‘sachet revolution’ in India with his first product ‘Chik’ shampoo. Though not a formally trained biotechnologist, his contributions to the industry and his commitment to excellence ensure that he finds a place here.   

Professional associations


Biotechnology Industry Organization’ – BIO is based out of Washington DC and the largest trade association of its kind that brings together students, companies, employees and academicians in the Biotechnology industry together.


In India, the Association of Biotechnology Led Enterprises – ABLE is a major professional body dedicated to those employed in the Biotechnology sector. ABLE was started in 2003 and is a catalyst in the growth of the Biotechnology industry in India.

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