Genetic Engineering Schools and Colleges in the U.S.
Genetic engineering is a broad field with applications in biology, medicine, agriculture and food science. Depending on their specific interests, genetic engineers have a wide range of educational options at the undergraduate and graduate levels.
Genetic Engineering School Selection
Programs for aspiring genetic engineers can be found at 4-year colleges and universities.
Summary of Important Considerations
- Career goals
- Research interests
- School facilities
The level of education required to be a genetic engineer varies. Some industrial applications of genetic engineering technology require a bachelor's degree. Research scientists in genetic engineering typically hold at least a master's degree.
Those who wish to work in medical science research may be trained as physicians as well as research scientists; they often earn a dual M.D./Ph.D. degree. They may choose to be licensed as practicing physicians, though this is not necessary for research. Individuals interested in teaching genetic engineering at the university level typically hold a doctoral degree.
Aspiring genetic engineers should have a good idea of their specific research interests. Genetic engineering programs might focus on agriculture, biotechnology or another specialized field. Students can look for schools with faculty whose research interests match their own.
Genetic engineering is a rapidly growing field. Schools offering state-of-the-art laboratory and research facilities, including computer labs, offer students an advantage. Students can look for specialized facilities and equipment, such as tissue culture labs, greenhouses, ultracentrifuges, automated DNA sequencers and gel electrophoresis equipment.
Genetic Engineering Program Options
Genetic Engineering Bachelor's Degree
Students who intend to go on to master's or doctoral programs in genetic engineering may study any of the life sciences, physical sciences or engineering. A common major is biology; biology programs may offer specializations such as microbiology or genetics. Undergraduate courses in a biology program might include:
- Organic chemistry
- Human physiology
Genetic Engineering Master's Degree
Master's-level students might choose a biomedical engineering program; biomedical engineering is a broad term that covers genetic engineering, molecular medicine and diagnostic imaging. Students in these programs complete a thesis or non-thesis project and may be required to fulfill teaching requirements. Another master's degree option is a professional science master's degree in biotechnology; these programs are geared toward students who want to work in industrial settings. They combine business management courses with biological science training and include a supervised internship. In either type of master's degree program, students might take courses in:
- Cellular biology techniques
- Communication for scientists
Genetic Engineering Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) Degree
Students with science or engineering backgrounds can enter a Ph.D. program in biomedical engineering or molecular biology after earning either an undergraduate or master's degree. Ph.D. students are required to write and defend a dissertation. Core courses might include:
- Biochemical genetics
- Developmental biology
- Cellular biology
Genetic Engineering Dual Degrees
Some aspiring genetic engineers, particularly those interested in medical research, choose a dual degree program that leads to both an M.D. and a Ph.D. Individuals who hold this dual degree are referred to as medical scientists. These programs take a total of eight years to complete. The first two years are typically spent in preclinical medical studies followed by four years of dissertation research. After defending the dissertation, students complete their medical education by completing clinical rotations. In addition to Ph.D. courses, students take medical courses such as:
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