How to Choose a Masters in Bioinformatics Degree + Online Option

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This article describes what is a masters in bioinformatics degree program, some of the subjects and courses that it covers, and why you may want to consider it as a good career move. It will also present an online masters in bioinformatics degree that you may want to consider.

What Is a Masters in Bioinformatics?

The field of bioinformatics effectively combines biology and information technology. It is one of the newest, but also fastest elements of the biological sciences. More specifically, it involves using computers in order to gather, organize, and understand biological data. Genetic engineering and biotechnology, for instance, both rely on this. DNA sequencing efforts, and particularly the Human Genome Project, are two elements that have driven the discipline forward.

A masters in bioinformatics program will introduce you to molecular computer modeling techniques, and how these can be applied to general molecular biology, genomics, and genetics. Furthermore, you will be equipped with the necessary skills to develop, implement, and maintain bioinformatics and computational biology applications, have strong quantitative skills, and understand computational programming. Graduates are in high demand for their theoretical, practical, and strategic skills needed to collect, manage, analyze, and understand bioinformatics data.

Some of the key elements of a masters in bioinformatics are:

  • Computational methods of molecular biology
  • Functional genomics
  • Macromolecular structure
  • Molecular genetics

Why Earn a Masters in Bioinformatics?

By earning a masters in bioinformatics degree, you will be able to work within biological and medical sciences, helping to develop applications and processes within the health care industry. You will be involved in developing new tools and processes, implementing them, training others on them, maintaining them, and more. You will also conduct extensive research on how computational processes can be improved. Based on that, you will have write reports and present them to others within the industry.

Mainly, you will be involved in the health care industry, helping to improve its technical applications and associated procedures. You will have a strong coordinating role, bringing together living organisms and technology in a way that is easy to understand. Furthermore, you will have a strong emphasis on quality assurance, which is vital in the health care industry.

As a graduate, your expertise will be in both engineering and biology. However, you will likely have to develop computer software and work with complex medical machines such as x-ray machines. You may also be involved in the development of new drug therapies, or you may focus on statistics and mathematics, developing systems to measure and understand biological systems.

Some of the key areas you could focus on after graduation are:

  • Bioinstrumentation
  • Biomaterials
  • Biomechanics
  • Clinical engineering
  • Rehabilitation engineering
  • Systems physiology

You may also want to consider continuing your education by getting into a doctoral program, so you will be able to play a more instrumental role in research, or teach the next generation of bioinformaticians.

This degree can lead to a career in the pharmaceutical industry, biotechnology, genetics, and more. You should be able to have better job security, as well as increase your personal satisfaction by taking a leadership role. Furthermore, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that a biomedical engineer earned a median salary of $85,620 per year as of May 2016. However, this is at bachelor’s degree level. Those with a master’s degree are more likely to be in the top 10% of earners, whose salary is $134,620 per year or more. You are likely to find employment in research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences; navigational, measuring, electromedical, and control instruments manufacturing; pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing; medical equipment and supplies manufacturing; or in private, local, or state hospitals.

Online Option for Masters in Bioinformatics

Johns Hopkins University

One highly respected online program leading to a masters in bioinformatics is offered by the Krieger School of Arts and Sciences of Johns Hopkins University. You will learn about microarray analysis, microarrays, genomic analysis, genomic sequencing, proteomics, structural biology, systems biology, molecular biology, applied methods of computational modeling, and more. The degree will provide you with the foundational skills and knowledge to understand complex biological data, analyze sequence data through bioinformatics software, and develop and program new software.

There is a strong focus on the theoretical side of bioinformatics, but the practice side is equally important. Faculty members are themselves strongly involved in the development of new technologies. The degree can be completed 100% online, or in combination with campus classes, which would also enable you to take advantage of the state of the art, world-renowned laboratory that the university offers.

The following core courses are included in the degree:

  • Bio-organic Chemistry
  • Foundations in Bioscience
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Advanced Cell Biology

Furthermore, students must choose a number of enterprise and regulatory affairs courses, such as biotechnology, marketing aspects of biotechnology, bioethics, food and drug law, marketing in a regulated environment, emerging issues in biotechnology, social entrepreneurship in bioscience, medical device regulation, food safety audits and surveillance, and regulatory strategies in biopharmaceuticals.

Students must also complete science elective courses in areas such as vaccinology, virology, clinical trial management, parasitology, marine biotechnology, gene therapy, radiation biology, cancer biology, biology of HIV & AIDS, agricultural biotechnology, biostatistics, protein bioinformatics, biology of stress, stem cell biology, and applied molecular biology.

The field of bioinformatics is a relatively new discipline. However, growth is tremendous, as there is an increased demand for specialists who can combine the biological with the informational. Positions exist in a range of private industries, and also in public research, university research, hospitals, government agencies, and so on. IT companies, public institutions, pharmaceutical companies, biotech organizations, and more all have vacancies for graduates. This is because, as an emerging field, demand exists mainly for those who have advanced skills and knowledge and who can drive development in this important field. There is, at present, a huge shortage in graduates who have both computing skills and life science skills, which are the very people required to work in the industries in which bioinformatics play an important role. Some of the careers that you could opt for are:

  • Database administrator
  • Computer and information research scientist
  • Microbiologist
  • Biomedical engineer
  • Bioinformatics consultant

Summary

As you can see, completing a masters in bioinformatics is an excellent way to advance and accelerate your career. There is a substantial shortage in people who have these skills at the graduate degree level, so you will be almost guaranteed to find employment. Your skills are needed in a wealth of different industries, as you will be respected for your advanced knowledge in providing leadership and research in this field.

References

Sady Brown
Written by Sady Brown
Sady Brown is Editorial Strategist for Nogre.com