The Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences

Master of Biotechnology Degree Requirements and Curriculum

Curriculum insures common core knowledge with flexibility to cater to student's specific interest and career goals

Plan of study

A minimum of 30 credits is required in the Master of Biotechnology degree, including the capstone research project. 

A typical plan of study designed for completion in 1.5 years:

Year 1 - Fall semester

Molecular Biology (2 courses), 5 credits

Colloquium, 2 credits

Required online CITI-RCR (Collaborative Institutional Training Initiative-Responsible Conduct of Research) training, 0 credit

Required Career Development Workshops and Career Preparation Assessment, 0 credit

Electives,  6-7 credits

Year 1 - Spring Semester

Methods in Biofermentation/Bioprocessing, 3 credits

Biotechnology Industry Lecture Series, 2 credits

Ethics in the Life Sciences, 1 credit

Electives, 7-8 credits

Year 1 - Summer

Internship or Co-op, 0-1 credits

Year 2 - Fall Semester

Internship or Co-op, cont'd, 2-5 credits

Required core courses span science, biotechnology industry and professional development

  • Molecular biology:  intensive lecture and laboratory courses in dedicated graduate molecular biology training laboratory to give students thorough understanding of the core concepts, principles and research techniques in molecular biology
  • Bioprocessing/biofermentation:  intensive lecture and laboratory course on bioprocessing principles and development in dedicated biofermentation/bioprocess development teaching laboratory
  • Colloquium:  features invited scientists world-wide at the forefront of research in the life sciences; students learn critical analysis of related scientific publications and technologies and develop oral presentation skills in science
  • Research ethics in the life sciences:  students learn and deliberate on the broad ethical and legal issues in life sciences research and its many applications
  • Biotechnology industry lectures:  invited industry speakers and experts educate students on the state-of-the-art research in biotechnology, the business, intellectual property, regulatory, legal, social and ethical aspects of biotechnology as well as advise students on professional development strategies for successful careers in the industry
  • Career development workshops: career workshops and career assessments are non-credit requirements for students in the Master of Biotechnology program; these happen both in the Fall and Spring semesters especially prior to on-campus Career Fairs and internship/co-op application period and prior to graduation from the program
  • Research project:  a minimum 6-month full-time research internship or co-op culminating in a research paper constitutes the capstone requirement for the degree; these co-ops or internships are usually done off-campus in industry, government, or other academic and non-profit institutions


Elective courses allow students to focus on specific areas of interest in biotechnology

Beyond the core required courses, students take advantage of diverse course offerings in various colleges and departments on campus according to their specific areas of interest and career goals; some students choose to concentrate on either agricultural biotechnology or biomedical applications, while some choose to pursue a broader and more diversified program of study.  Agricultural biotechnology, bioengineering, business, cell and molecular biology, entrepreneurship, genomics and bioinformatics, immunology, infectious diseases, project management, statistics, toxicology, food science, health and human development, regenerative medicine, animal cell culture and cancer biology, exemplify some of the areas students choose their elective courses from.  Individual studies in a research faculty’s laboratory on campus is a strongly recommended elective to further strengthen the research and technical preparation of students.

Capstone requirement

A research project in industry, government, nonprofit, or academic laboratory during the internship/co-op period constitutes the capstone requirement for the degree.  The research project must be conducted full-time for a minimum of six months; a research paper is required at the culmination of the project.  Student's grade is based on the quality of the research paper assessed by the academic adviser or faculty in-charge and on the performance evaluation by the research supervisor.

Career services are integral to preparing students for internships/co-ops and entry-level job placements

Access to dedicated Career Services on campus helps students with internship and job applications, networking, resume writing, phone and on-site interviews, and other career-related issues.  The Career Services office facilitates the Fall and Spring Career Fairs on-campus where hundreds of potential employers come to campus for student recruitment.  The Master of Biotechnology program also works closely with the Office of Science Engagement in the Eberly College of Science to help with students' internship/co-op placements. Career assessment for graduate students supported by the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences is another career preparation activity that students in the program participate in to help students recognize areas for improvement and strengths that can be leveraged in employment.

Networking opportunities are embodied in the program activities

In addition to the network via career development-related offices on-campus, invited industry speakers and internship/co-op hosts, Master of Biotechnology students, program alumni, and Biotechnology Advisory Board members form part of an exclusive online network, the Penn State Master of Biotechnology group, to address questions and share information on a wide array of topics in biotechnology, including internships/co-ops, resume writing and interview preparations/tips, entry-level careers, networking skills, career success, on-the-job experience, job opportunities, mobility in the industry and others.

Post-degree careers are diverse

Master of Biotechnology graduates are engaged in diverse careers in industry: discovery research, research and development, biomanufacturing, clinical research, global consulting work, business analysis and business development, procurement, intellectual property and regulatory work; others are in applied research, regulatory and intellectual property work in government, non-profit or academic setting.  Some have also gone on to combine their Master of Biotechnology degree with MBA, JD, MD, or PhD with practically 100% admission rate when they apply to these degree programs.