For some, simply earning a good salary and enjoying strong job stability isn’t enough to satisfy. Working in a field that allows them to have a major impact on the future of our species is something that is just as important as a paycheck. If this sounds like you, one option you may want to consider for your career is to become a genetic engineer.
While it isn’t specifically a health oriented career like nursing would be, genetic engineering will have a big impact on the health and wellbeing of the planet. As such, the process to become one of these highly trained specialists involves hard work and dedication. It’s not a perfect job for everyone, but for many it could be a dream career. Keep reading to learn more about the job and what it involves.
What Is a Genetic Engineer?
Genetic engineers are highly trained experts who use a variety of molecular tools and technologies to rearrange fragments of DNA. The overall goal in doing so is to add or remove an organism’s genetic makeup for the better, or to transfer DNA code from one species into the other. The overall goal of this is to enhance organisms so that they are better able to thrive in certain environments. An example is when a plant is modified to thrive better in drought conditions or when a bacteria is adapted in such a way that it helps improve drug treatment.
Common job duties include:
- Using tools to examine current DNA structures of organisms
- Modifying those organisms in a laboratory setting
- Maintaining a strong knowledge of all the latest genetic engineering news and breakthrough
- Designing and executing experiments
- Writing and publishing journalistic papers
- Attending conferences related to a specific genetic engineering field
The job involves a lot of things, and usually you will specialize in a very niche area of genetic science so that your attention is solely focused on that area throughout your career.
As with any other job, possessing a few personal skills will have a big impact on your ability to excel in the position. Here are some of the areas you’ll need to be strong in.
- Creativity – Being able to imagine and create a solution in your mind and then pursue it is a key part of the work
- Moral – While some in the world are against genetic engineering, a good genetic engineer will have strong morals and use their abilities for the greater good
- Teamwork – No genetic engineer works in a vacuum, and you’ll likely work with a team of others. Good teamwork is important.
- Strong Intellect – Simply put, you need to have a powerful mind in order to thrive in the position.
Nature of the Work
Genetic engineers rarely work outside a laboratory setting. The vast majority of the work is done in a lab, while some minor office work such as drafting reports and writing papers for publication may be handled at times.
Usually, genetic engineers work for private companies. Pharmaceutical companies, research organizations, and even some hospitals or universities will often hire these professionals. Some government level jobs exist as well, and those who enter this field of work will usually have options when deciding where to focus their skills.
Education and Training
To become a genetic engineer, the bare minimum education requirement will be a bachelor’s degree in biochemistry, biophysics, molecular biology, or molecular genetics. However, in most cases it will be much more beneficial to have a master’s or doctorate level degree in molecular genetics or molecular biology instead. Undergraduate degrees may provide an initial entry point into the field, but holding a PhD is the primary path used to enter the field and conduct your own work.
Additionally, experience of at least 3 years in the field under the direct guidance of a supervisor will also be used to help gain employment. Obviously, different employers will have their own specific requirements but the points above make a good example of what you’ll need to enter the field.
Salaries vary greatly, and generally run from $45,000 up to about $140,000. The average salary is about $82,800 annually. Again, your experience, your specific employer, and a variety of other things will have a big influence on your overall pay.