Everyone wants to enter a field which is 'hot'. One such field is biotech. You would have read innumerable articles on the scope of bitechnology. The jobs opening up in the sector. And of course the poster pin up company Biocon.
As a report in the Hindu notes: Career counsellors and those engaged in educational guidance... are flooded with inquiries about biotechnology courses and their scope. Biotechnology today looks like what information technology was in the 1990s.
But are prospects really that bright? Today, an engineer from an average college can easily land an IT job. What about the biotech graduate?
First of all, there is this huge debate over whether biotech should be offered at all the undergrad level. M. Radhakrishna Pillai, Director of Rajiv Gandhi Centre for Biotechnology, Thiruvananthapuram, stated to the Hindu: "Biotechnology cannot exist at the B.Sc. level, where one should learn the basic science. B.Sc. Biotechnology courses have created a confused lot in Kerala, defeating the very purpose of the subject."
The same holds true of other states. A number of colleges and universities, especially the private and deemed variety are offering 'BSc Biotech'. Students who were trying for medical but failed to get through would rather opt for a biotech course than a regular BSc. At least kisi ko kehne mein to better lagta hai.
For the colleges also, it's a happy thing. Fees for an undergraduate biotech course are far higher than a BSc. One assumes this is because the college will provide better facilities, more qualified teachers etc but... sadly this is generally not the case. In most cases, Biotech students actually use the same labs as the students doing Microbiology/ Life Science!
What about PG?
At the post graduate level, JNU is the most reputed college, the toughest to get into. The combined entrance exam held by JNU can also get you into 32 other colleges offering biotech at MSc/ MTech level. BHU, Goa University, Anna University and Pune
University are some of the next best choices.
Now this is the case in every profession. Everyone can't get into the best college. However, in biotech there are certain unique problems.
JNU has a tie up with DBT (Dept of Biotechnology) which makes it easy for their students to work on live projects during the course of the MSc. Others do not have it so easy. When it comes to industrial training, you may actually have to pay for it.
For example, students of PTU (Punjab Technical University), Indore who went to IIT Delhi last year for 2 months training paid Rs 15,000 (boarding and lodging extra). This money goes towards facilities (eg kits, labs, equipment etc) and the students get to work on a live experiment.
There is the option of doing a project with a company also - some give you a stipend while others don't pay but don't charge you either. However having an IIT Delhi project on your resume will help when you go out for a job - so students don't mind paying. And for IIT, this is a way to get some additional funding for projects.
So it's a win-win for both. But still, it's a little strange...
And what about the job?
OK, so now you graduate and start looking for a job. If there is such a 'boom' happening, it must be pretty easy, right?
Unfortunately not the case.
Shweta Agrawal, an MSc Biotech, has been looking out for a job for last 6 months. "I have given 15-20 interviews. The problem is there are very few real 'biotech' jobs," she says. The company may be 'biotech' but the job expected of an MSc is database management - not experimental. "It's very hard for a fresher 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 tell you that openings for fresh MSc Biotech are few and far between. BSc Biotech ki to baat hi chhodiye.
Actually from the job point of view, even MSc Chemistry may be better for you!
An exception to all the above would be the handful who complete a BTech from IIT (KGP, Delhi and Bombay) or a Masters in biology from IISc.
"If I don't get a job of my choice soon I will start preparing for MBA," says Shweta. "The fact is, by now, an MBA from even the most unknown university would have got a job for Rs 10-15,000 p.m," she sighs.
The alternate option of course is to do a Phd - either in India or abroad. However even after a PhD, prospects in India remain limited. You would most likely join a government laboratory (that's where much of the challenging work is being done). At age 28, armed with a Phd, you would earn Rs 8-10,000 as starting salary.
So if you are planning to do Biotech - keep all this in mind before making your decision. Don't be lured by the idea of a boom and the fact that it sounds cool.
Take up Biotech only if you have a deep love for the subject and wish to get into research. For which you must be open to doing a PhD.
Otherwise, MBA aapke liye theek rahega. And oh, there is an MBA (Biotech) being offered as well... One last bit of advice. Don't fall for it, go for a more general degree!