Frequently Asked Questions

students working with lab equipment

Frequently Asked Questions about Biotechnology

NOVA offers different curricula to its students. The Associate of Science (A.S.) degree is usually preferred by biology students who want to transfer to a four-year university. On the other hand, the Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) degree is designed to equip students with job-specific skills, particularly for roles such as biology and biotech lab technicians. Despite the program's vocational focus, many of the courses in the A.A.S. in Biotechnology program are transferable to other institutions, such as George Mason University and George Washington University.

If you already have a college degree and want to take biotechnology classes, NOVA offers a one-year Career Studies Certificate for Biotechnology Lab Technicians. This program is designed specifically for students with existing college degrees.

At present, students can enroll in the Biotech curricula either during their initial application to NOVA or by consulting a counselor at any campus. However, we highly recommend that students speak with one of the Biotech Faculty members, such as Dr. Xin Zhou ( or Vijaya Gandreti (, before enrolling.

Our A.A.S. in Biotechnology includes the following: a core set of introductory science courses including 1) general biology, chemistry I/II, cell biology and microbiology, 2) a set of specialized biotech courses including an introductory lecture and lab courses, a bioinformatics course, a Careers in Biotechnology course, a course in Nucleic Acids or Protein research, a course in quality control, and a Capstone Seminar in Biotechnology, 3) an internship or research project, and 4) some general education courses. Students pursuing the Career Certificate will take the specialized biotech courses, the internship, and some basic science courses.

The specialized biotech courses are currently offered at the Manassas Campus.

Please note that all students who complete either the A.A.S. in Biotechnology or the Career Studies Certificate for Biotech Lab Technicians program are required to complete an internal or external internship. However, getting an internship is not guaranteed and it is subject to certain eligibility criteria. 

To qualify for an internship, students must have successfully completed BIO250 and BIO253 with a grade of "B" or better. Moreover, they must have demonstrated professional behavior by being punctual, completing work promptly and working well with others. Lastly, they must be in the last semester of their program.

If a student meets these requirements, the Biotech faculty will assist them in securing an internship. However, we strongly encourage students to be proactive in finding an internship. It is worth noting that, as part of the NOBLE project, internships may be paid.

The Washington D.C. metro area is one of the most significant bioscience clusters in the world, with federal agencies (i.e., NIH), research institutions and universities (HHMI, GMU, Johns Hopkins), and bioscience companies located within this region. At such places, our graduates will likely hold entry-level positions, such as lab technicians. Additional opportunities exist for students with a Bachelor’s degree and/or extensive lab experience.