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Careers in the Bioeconomy

What might a career in the bioeconomy look like and why should you consider it? Read this to find out more.
A person working in forestry uses a chainsaw to cut down a tree
© University of York/BioYorkshire

There are many reasons why you might want to consider pursuing a career in the bioeconomy.

Perhaps you want to help solve the climate crisis? Or think you might be able to get a well-paid job? Perhaps you’re passionate about science and technology? Or perhaps you’re not a scientist but you think you might have useful skills? The good news is that the bioeconomy offers opportunities for almost everybody, at all stages of their careers.

It’s a sector that’s set to double in growth over the next ten years, with government ambitions to increase the size of the sector from £220bn and 5.2million jobs to £440bn by 2030. It’s an area where there are likely to be lots of job vacancies, with demand for skilled workers outstripping supply.

There is a range of industrial sectors that fall under the definition of the bioeconomy and these include a wide range of businesses working in the following areas: agriculture; forestry and fishing; production and manufacturing; construction; and professional, scientific and technical. In Yorkshire the most significant regional businesses are chemical and the chemical products industry and food and drink manufacturing.

What’s in It for Me?

The bioeconomy has the potential to help solve some of the problems of our age: how to meet the requirements of a growing population, reduce our reliance on fossil fuels, and combat climate change, so you’ll feel like you’re being socially responsible and really making a difference. The bioeconomy also supports the trend of portfolio careers and offers opportunities to work across different disciplines with multidisciplinary skills highly valued and encouraged.

As you might expect STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) skills at all levels can be a way into a job in the bioeconomy, but there are other skills that are in demand by bioeconomy industries like digital skills, legal and regulatory knowledge as well as skills like communication skills, project management, and problem-solving skills.

Here are some examples of bioeconomy careers.

Microbiologist

  • Job description: studying microorganisms (microbes) to solve a range of problems affecting the environment, food and agriculture, our health, and climate.
  • The role could involve: working on fermentation as a source of new products, food safety, diagnosis, and management of infections and disease.
  • Salary: Starting salary of £30,401, rising up to £44,606 depending on employers’ pay scales, experience, and training.
  • Qualifications: An honors degree in a relevant subject such as microbiology, biomedical sciences, or biology.

Energy Engineer

  • Job description: Production of energy from renewable or sustainable sources of energy, such as biofuels.
  • The role could involve: designing, developing, and building renewable energy technologies, carrying out lab experiments and adapting them to large-scale industrial processes, keeping up to date with legislation and environmental standards.
  • Salary: Starting salary £20,000 to £30,000, rising to £35,000 to £60,000 or higher depending on levels of experience.
  • Qualifications: A degree in engineering or a scientific subject.

Anaerobic Digestion Plant Operator

  • Job description: Operating an anaerobic digestion unit, producing biogas from renewable resources.
  • The role could involve: Inspecting and recording the status of plant equipment, monitoring and checking the tanks and feedstocks, loading feedstock into the digesters, maintaining standards of cleanliness and safety.
  • Salary: £18,500 to £24,000.
  • Qualifications: This is an entry-level position that will include the opportunity to gain new qualifications. Candidates must like working outdoors!

Forest/Woodland Manager

  • Job description: Sustainable management of timber production and the preservation and protection of trees and the forest environment.
  • The role could involve: Advising woodland owners on tree species, organising the growing, harvesting, and sale of timber, keeping up to date with legislation and industry developments, and promoting the expansion of new woodland coverage.
  • Salary: £25,000 to £35,000 rising to £60,000 with experience.
  • Qualifications: A forestry HND, degree or postgraduate course or a relevant degree such as geography, ecology or environmental science. Entry without a degree or HND is possible at lower levels.

Chemical Engineer

  • Job description: Development of raw materials into useful products for a range of industries including food and drink and energy and pioneering valuable new materials and techniques.
  • The role could involve: designing plant and equipment configurations, setting up scale-up and scale-down processes, applying new technologies, and researching new products.
  • Salary: New graduates earn a median salary of £28,000, rising to £54,000 with experience.
  • Qualifications: A degree in chemical, process, or biochemical engineering. Some employers may accept candidates with an HND or foundation degree in the physical or applied sciences.

Do any of the careers mentioned above appeal to you? 

Further Reading

Careers advice and guidance

Study at York

Study at Askham Bryan College

Apprenticeships at Fera

© University of York/BioYorkshire
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