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Biotechnologists use engineering and science to create new products from biologically based raw materials such as vaccines or pharmaceuticals. They also develop factory processes that reduce pollution or treat waste products.
Biotechnologists are also known as: Bioprocess Engineers; Biochemical Engineers; Research Engineers; Process Engineers; and Fermentation Scientists / Technologists.

Biotechnologists study and examine micro-organisms such as bacteria, fungi, yeast, and their enzymes. They operate and maintain equipment used to process biological materials such as whey, foods and pharmaceuticals.

They develop and test methods of making new products on both small and large scales, which may involve genetic modification of organisms to make new products. They may be required to monitor production trends and data and work out budgets and production costs.

Biotechnologists have to deal with problems when processing biologically based materials and products. They may study the effect of waste materials on the environment; develop new waste treatment processes; and actually treat waste for safe disposal.

Biotechnologists need to have mechanical, laboratory and technical skills to perform experiments and tests. Biotechnologists need to know about biochemistry, microbiology, physics and mathematics, as well as mechanics, engineering and industrial processes. They also need budgeting and business management knowledge and skills.

They need to keep up to date with the environmental matters, technology and computer applications used in their industry. They may travel overseas to conferences and to meet clients.

Equipment that biotechnologists use includes fermenters to make new substances from bacteria; centrifuges and other processing equipment to separate liquids and solids and to modify them chemically and physically; and other laboratory equipment such as microscopes, filters, pumps, and evaporators. They usually wear protective clothing, such as lab coats, safety glasses and gloves, as they may work in dirty, messy and noisy conditions and in some cases with hazardous chemicals.

Satisfying Aspects
- finding new products and processes
- variety of work
- the challenges of dealing with waste products constructively

Demanding aspects
- working in unpleasant conditions and sometimes with hazardous chemicals, such as waste products

- patient and persistent
- creative and enquiring
- organized, accurate and observant
- skill in analysing and interpreting information
- planning and problem-solving skills
- research skills
- communication and people skills
- mechanical, laboratory and computer skills

School Subjects
National Senior Certificate meeting degree requirements for a degree course

Each institution will have its own minimum entry requirements.

Compulsory Subjects: Mathematics, Physical Sciences
Recommended Subjects: Life Sciences

Degree: BSc majoring in Biotechnology or Microbiology - UWC, UKZN, UCT, UFS, US, or courses offered at CPUT, DUT, TUT and VUT.

Post-graduate training: a doctorate majoring in biotechnology is the preferred qualification - UCT, UKZN, UFS, UWC,UZ and TUT.

Skills are gained on the job, and employers may provide short courses and training at tertiary institutions.

- factories
- water treatment plants
- dairy, food, and meat processing plants
- pharmaceutical companies
- agricultural companies
- regional councils
- leather manufacturers
- pulp and paper processing industries
- breweries
- universities

The Society of Medical Laboratory Technologists of South Africa
P O Box 6014
Roggebaai, 8012
Tel. (021) 419-4857