A masters in bioinformatics is an enhanced qualification for those who work in this interdisciplinary subject, using computers to manage biological data. Today, biology has extended into a range of branches such as molecular biology, biotechnology, and genomics. The amount of data being generated is massive. Bioinformatics plays a vital role in clinical research, protein modeling, genome mapping, and evolutionary biology. Therefore, the demand for computational biologists is growing.
Bioinformatics Education and Training
A masters in bioinformatics relates to the career of a computational biologist and combines studies in the biomedical sciences with computer and information technology. Because bioinformatics is still a developing field, the eligibility to study for the degree is varies from program to program. Those who undertake the program must, however, have a bachelors degree in biology or another related subject such as microbiology, life sciences, or biochemistry.
Computational biology is the application and development of mathematical modeling, theoretical and data-analytical methods, and computational techniques. It is used to study social, behavioral, and biological systems. The field is broadly defined and includes fundamentals in visualization, neuroscience, anatomy, evolution, ecology, genetics, molecular biology, biophysics, chemistry, biochemistry, statistics, applied mathematics, and computer science.
The coursework is based on the principles of several subjects. These are computer science, chemistry, medicine, statistics, mathematics, engineering, and biology.
There are only a few learning institutions that offer specific Bachelors Degrees in bioinformatics. Therefore, students need to pursue graduate degrees to have careers in this field. In any case, a masters in bioinformatics degree program is more flexible than either a Bachelors or Associate degree. A student can develop his or her own course of study while dedicating time to research. Students work closely with professors who play the part of mentors. Most programs require students to present a thesis before graduation.
A great deal of time is spent in laboratories. Typically, students have to earn 32 credits before being eligible for their Masters degree. Subjects covered include cell biology, drug design, molecular genetics, applied bioinformatics, molecular physiology, artificial intelligence, and software development.
On successful completion of a masters in bioinformatics degree, students are equipped with a number of key skills. These include computer programming, statistical analysis, and the ability to undertake advanced research. They are able to take on top positions in the pharmaceutical industry. However, with this field developing at such a rapid rate, a host of additional employment opportunities are becoming available in other industries.
Apart from computational biologist, other job titles include biostatistician, structural analyst, and pharmacogenetician. MBI specialists can also be absorbed in fields like agriculture, forensics, evolutionary biology, and environmental science. As such, there is no shortage of job opportunities for those who hold a MBI.
Estimated Income and Projected Job Outlook
In the US, salaries for the above-mentioned positions, for people with a Masters in Bioinformatics, vary from US$50,000 up to $100,000 annually. Specialists who work in academia are earning around US$65,000 a year, while those in industries are taking home an average of US$103,000 a year. As mentioned, this is a relatively new field so it is not possible to give precise salary statistics. Nevertheless, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the pharmaceutical industry will enjoy an excellent growth rate of 24 percent over the next decade. This means that there will be a corresponding demand for MBI specialists.
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