Biotechnology, as an industry, unofficially started with the launch of Genentech in 1972. During the final quarter of the last century, the industry was booming. The number of jobs doubled during the 90's alone. Then, with the new century, the dot.com bust and 9/11, the bubble in biotech burst too. Sort of. Companies folded; others were acquired. But biotechnology did not go away. It may be a bit leaner now, a bit more competitive; but the jobs are still there and the industry is not going to go away any time soon. Gene therapy; products from stem cells; personalized healthcare; optimizing agriculture; and harnessing bacteria in recycling efforts are just some of the areas that biotechnology is involved in, and chances are these are going to get big.
To start a career in biotechnology requires a degree. A Bachelors in some area of life science is going to be a minimum requirement for virtually every area of biotechnology, assuming you are going to enter via the "science" portal. Some universities offer undergraduate and post graduate course specifically targeted towards a career in biotechnology, and would be worth looking onto if you are just embarking on higher education. For those already at school in a biology or biochemistry course, adding electives or a minor in business might not be a bad idea. An undergraduate degree might be enough to get you in the door at most companies, but for real career progression a Masters if not a Doctorate will be required.
Technology transfer is another possible career path in this exciting industry, as universities and companies trade reagents, licenses, patents and other intellectual property. There are various ways into this field: one can start out as a scientist and then obtain an MBA or similar; or one can enter from a legal position. A further area that requires specialized expertise is in assisting companies work there way through often bewildering morasses of regulatory requirements.
For be aware that you are heading into industry, you will not simply be doing science. Young, dynamic companies may expect you to be able to market your ideas as well as study the science. In many companies you will move away from the bench as you progress up the career ladder. You will be expected to be a jack-of-all-trades and to have mastered them.
Biotechnology it is not without its risks. Small companies, with all their eggs riding in the basket of a single technology, are at particular risk. The technology might fail; early promises might not be upheld; or the technology might simply become unavailable due to patent disputes. Gene transfer and stem cell sciences are particularly fraught with legal, as well as ethical, considerations. Regulation is tight in these areas, and one contaminated batch of vector, or an adverse legal ruling, could destroy the company. But, with great risk comes the chance of great reward! Biotechnology is the way forward.
For further career advice, consult http://sciencecareers.sciencemag.org/ and http://www.nature.com/naturejobs/index.html