Biotechnology - diploma or degree path?

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Biotechnology - diploma or degree path?

Postby Bill Mantor » Wed Apr 22, 2015 8:20 pm

Any comments and advice would be appreciated. I am trying to provide some guidance to my nephew regarding his interest in pursuing education in the field of biotechnology. He is interested in an Ontario, Canada community college biotech technician (2 years) or technologist (3 years) program. My initial research shows that "biotech" is a rather broad field - but any jobs that I could readily find posted using the terms "biotechnology" or "biotech" all had a Bachelors Degree as a min requirement. Now, I'm sure there are plenty of technologist and technicians positions available also, if I do more looking (as we try to get a better idea of what post-education employment opportunities might really be like).

My advice to him so far has been to very seriously think about a university degree program instead. For one more year in school to get a degree as opposed to a diploma (technologist), it just seems to me to make sense. As well, I would think that many of the degree credits could be transferred to other degree programs if he decided after a year or two that it wasn't the field he liked, but would rather be in a different science program. Whereas, I'm not sure what other college program the credits could be transferred to - if any - and there are very tight conditions on what credits from the diploma program can be considered toward a degree, if he subsequently wanted to obtain a degree after completing 3 years at college (I think one university will then allow him to complete a single degree program in 2 additional years).

Well, if you are still reading, perhaps you can give your own insight on the subject. He views the diploma route to be the quick answer, because he has a high school GED, and would not have the required credits to get into university. I still think he would be better off to do some upgrading via correspondence, and apply to university as a mature student (he is now 25).
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Re: Biotechnology - diploma or degree path?

Postby PG » Fri Apr 24, 2015 3:38 am

I am in a similar situation but in a different country. Around here having a diploma opens up a market for applying for positions at for example hospital laboratories that are sometimes difficult to get if you have a degree even if that degree contains all elements of the diploma.

On the other hand as you say there are other positions that are looking for people with degrees rather than diplomas.
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Re: Biotechnology - diploma or degree path?

Postby Dave Walker » Fri Apr 24, 2015 1:37 pm

Hi mentor,

Where is your nephew looking to work? In Canada things may be different than the US. I can tell you about working in the US from my experiences with colleagues there.

In short, you are very much correct. To do biotechnology research a traditional Bachelor's degree from a university/college is far better option. This would be in a classic discipline like Biology, Chemistry, Molecular Biology, Biochemistry, Microbiology, Virology, etc.

I have found that, in the US, degrees with the words "biotechnology" in them can be a red flag. To hire a technician, a manager will want to see fundamental knowledge of the work, not of the "industry," whatever that is. In higher-ed degrees, like an MBA, one can have a concentration in Biotech which can be useful.

Now, if he were considering working in a hospital or clinic in a very functional role -- think phlebotomist, sample handling, administration, analyst -- a diploma can be sufficient, and a very sensible option. But typically biotechnology requires, well, "technical" expertise, and this requires a comparative amount of training.
"The single factor that differentiates Nobel laureates from other scientists is training with another Nobel laureate." -- Sol Snyder
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Re: Biotechnology - diploma or degree path?

Postby John D. D, » Sun May 31, 2015 7:46 am

I think that Universities are:
1) good investments if your son can succeed there because the qualification has a symbolic value to most people when applying
for jobs.
2) from a practical point of view, apart from the diploma, your
son will take away:
a) an assimilation of acquired ways of thinking about things.
b) an abstraction from most things practical (even in engineering
where people HAVE to get the answer right)
c) a network of friends
d) some practice independently meeting the expectations of
deadlines and performance and figuring out what others want.

Congratulations to your son for getting a GED. The fact that
he took an equivalent route may make him a good candidate for
a more independent learning experience, where he learns to
abstract directly from reality, forming and testing his own
ideas about things.

Alternatively, he may be attracted to the biotech field because he wants to help and heal others, in which case experimentation has to be ethically and carefully developed because lives are at stake.

Try to give him some insight into his motivation, and ability
to abstract. If the latter is not there and he has an ability to
accurately and precisely perform reliably in response to a request, then the acquisition of a technical skill (better acquired from a
technical school) would be a better choice, than a university.

One can note that in the right work environment, 2 a)c) and d)
and also technical training can also be acquired with a job. One
disadvantage there, however, is that one becomes a little more
dependent on a successful work history, whereas colleges/technical
schools will allow some exploration of strengths and weaknesses,
and one will leave with a tangible transferable commodity in the
form of a degree.
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