Green Jobs: what does a Bioengineer do?

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4 min read
AUTHOR: Jack Simpson

In the food and drinks sector, being a bioengineer involves using your knowledge of biological science to find new, and more sustainable ways of producing food for the future.

Some tasks that bioengineers can get involved with include creating genetically modified foods using specific laboratory procedures. Ingredients and foods that come under the definition of bioengineered (BE) food must include a disclosure on the package or label. Common examples of bioengineered foods include canola, corn, papaya, potato, soybean and squash.

What are the job responsibilities? 

  • Assisting or leading in the carrying out of research on Genetically Modified Organisms (GMOs), creating new food alternatives for the future including cell-based meats
  • Monitoring the food safety of Genetically Modified foods, ensuring no harmful bacteria exists within the food product
  • Helping to design food processing machinery
  • Writing up scientific reports in journals on findings with regards to what food products have been made successfully

Who might your employers be?

There are a wide range of employers looking to hire bioengineers in both the public and private sector. Your employers can be university research departments, business start-ups, computing and information technology businesses and ingredient companies. There are opportunities to work for the NHS to help improve human health by creating bioengineered foods. The Government is another potential employer if you want to follow a career path of policy and law surrounding bioengineering.

What qualifications do you need?

To become a bioengineer, a degree in a relevant subject such as biomedical engineering, bioengineering, mechanical engineering, electrical engineering or physics is needed. Postgraduate qualifications can also be useful especially if you didn’t complete an engineering undergraduate degree, and may be necessary to enter some roles.

What is the salary like?

The average salary of a bioengineer in the UK is £34,668. The starting salary for a bioengineer typically starts at around £23,000 but can rise to as much as £80,000 with significant experience. For highly experienced bioengineers, working as a consulting engineer can take a salary to upwards of £80,000.

Where will you be working?

The workplace can be in an office, laboratory, workshop, clinic or all these settings combined.

Jobs are available across the UK so you may need to be flexible in terms of geographical location, both when you start an initial training post and when searching to move to a higher level position.

Travel to meetings, conferences or exhibitions both in the UK and abroad can be part of the job. Some jobs in the private sector may involve regular travel to introduce products and clinical trials to hospitals.

As a bioengineer in the public sector, you might not travel abroad as much as private sector or research staff, who will work more often with people internationally.

What’s the career progression like?

There are three main areas that a bioengineer may work in:

  • Industry
  • The NHS
  • Research

If you choose to go into research, your career path will typically involve a PhD in bioengineering, followed by a role at a university or academic institute as a lecturer or researcher.

If you wish to work in this industry, you can move into a job after your degree and start to work your way up. Senior posts may offer roles in:

  • Management
  • Marketing
  • Production
  • Quality assurance
  • Research
  • Technical advice

In terms of progression to more senior roles, you could expect to manage a department with responsibility for equipment and technical staff across a regional area. Working as a consultant or a contractor for either the Government or for large food ingredient manufacturers can often be a popular career destination for highly experienced bioengineers.

Is there a demand for this job?

Biomedical engineers will likely see employment growth because of increasing possibilities brought by new technologies and increasing pressures surrounding health, wellbeing, and the food we consume. As companies look for more sustainable methods of food production and demand for plant-based alternatives continues to grow, bioengineers have more opportunities to contribute to a more sustainable future.

Find out more about green careers in the food and drinks industry at Food Matters Careers.

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