BIOTECHNOLOGY: Where is it heading?
On one hand, the biotechnology industry is starved of skilled talent pool. On the other hand, there are several universities and colleges, producing number of unemployable graduates. While some of them are struggling due to lack of students. So serious thinking needs to be done urgently to overcome this problem.
Since the inception of biotechnology courses in the late 90s, the situation is still the same stating that the number of job openings and pay packages are both very low when compared with IT and other fields.
There are a number of colleges and universities across India that offer Biotechnology courses either in the form of undergraduate courses such as B.Sc., B.Tech, or post graduate courses such as M.Sc., M.Tech, MBA.
B.Tech degree in Biotechnology covers subjects such as Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Genetics, Cell Biology and engineering subjects like Bioprocess Engineering, Biochemical Engineering, Thermodynamics, Mass Transfer etc. On the other hand, a B.Sc degree focuses on subjects like Biochemistry, Plant and Animal Biotechnology, Microbiology, Molecular Biology and Microbial Genetics etc.
But the students are struggling to get a decent job in hand. A biotech graduate finds it very hard to get a job in QC (quality control) or R & D because most companies have small teams and there isn't much job hopping. What's more, pharmacy graduates are preferred because they can do formulation as well as QC.
A quick look at various job sites would indicate that openings for fresh Biotech graduates are few and far between. An exception to all the above would be the handful who complete a B.Tech from IIT or M.Sc. from IISc. The alternate option after graduation is to do a PhD, either in India or abroad. However, even after a PhD, prospects in India remain limited.
“At Amity, we understand this concern very well. We feel that it is necessary to see how the different players such as the industries, university, society and government concerned with biotechnology can act in unison and in a mutually beneficial way. An integrated approach to the field of biotechnology combining different subject areas is necessary and the courses and approach should reflect this”, shares Dr Surendra Khatodia, Assistant Professor, Amity Institute of Biotechnology, Haryana.
University Business School (UBS), Panjab University, had recently decided to discontinue Master of Business Administration (MBA) in the biotechnology course offered by institute, stating that it was unviable. The course, which started with an intake of 14 students, failed to evolve into what UBS envisioned. While it was initiated with the hope that it would develop into a mainstream field in the country, it found very few takers in companies.
Sharing her experience Piu Banerjee, a biotechnology student from Shiv Nadar University, said, “The laboratories are well equipped and the curriculum is very flexible and student friendly. As far as the future aspect of biotech is concerned, there is minimal scope in India since India lacks research infrastructure. One can opt for academia or sales and marketing as a career option after completing a masters in biotechnology. For pursuing a PhD, going abroad is the best option”.
Career counselors and those engaged in educational guidance are flooded with inquiries about biotechnology courses and their scope. It is observed, on the one hand, that the biotechnology field is starved of talent and, on the other hand, that there are several universities and colleges, producing large numbers of unemployable graduates. Some serious thinking needs to be done urgently to overcome this problem.