Biochemist: Career Profile, Occupational Outlook, and Education Prerequisites

Explore the career requirements for biochemists. Get the facts about degree requirements, job outlook, salary and job duties to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Biology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Biochemist?

Biochemistry is the branch of science that explores the chemical structures, processes and reactions of substances in living organisms. A graduate degree is needed to work as a biochemist researcher, but individuals can find entry-level positions with a bachelor's degree. Biochemists will develop and execute complex research experiments that work with things like DNA, hormones, proteins and more. They may look at how different kinds of drugs affect biological processes or synthesize various kinds of molecules.

Biochemists must stay updated on current research and techniques and present their findings in research papers and technical reports to other scientists and colleagues. These professionals may be responsible for overseeing the work of other laboratory staff. Continue reading for more information about this career.

Degree Required Bachelor's or master's degree for entry-level work; doctoral degree for research and development roles
Education Field of Study Biochemistry
Key Responsibilities Plan and conduct various research projects, examine the physical and chemical composition of living organisms, present research findings to colleagues
Job Growth (2014-2024) 8% (for all biochemists and biophysicists)*
Median Salary (2015) $82,150 (for all biochemists and biophysicists)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Would I Do as a Biochemist?

Biochemistry encompasses various science disciplines, including neurochemistry, molecular biology, biophysical chemistry, pharmacology, immunochemistry and physiology. For this reason, your responsibilities as a biochemist vary. However, regardless of industry, most positions involve research and development.

For example, if you work in the food science sector, you may research and develop new ways of extracting nutrients from unconventional food sources. In the medical industry, you may conduct research on specific diseases or develop new drug treatments. If you work in agriculture, you may study the effects of certain pesticides on plants or develop new herbicides. You may also serve as a professor at an educational institution.

What Is the Job Outlook?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for biochemists was projected to increase as fast as average at 8% during 2014-2024. This is due, in part, to the expansion of the biotechnology field. Biochemists work for employers such as scientific research and development organizations, colleges and universities and pharmaceutical companies. The BLS reported that biochemists and biophysicists earned an annual median salary of $82,150 in 2015 (www.bls.gov).

What Are the Educational Requirements?

Many entry-level jobs require a bachelor's degree, but some may require a graduate degree. Bachelor's degree programs related the profession include biochemistry, chemistry and microbiology. Lab training may be a part of your standard degree coursework or may possibly offered through a specialized 1-year lab training program conducted after graduation from a bachelor's degree program. Special training in laboratory protocols may cover specific subject matters such as in vitro cell culture, genetic engineering and DNA sequencing.

Advanced training in the field is provided through master's and doctorate degree programs in biochemistry and other related disciplines. Job opportunities such as directing research studies, generally require a graduate degree, most times a doctorate.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

A similar career that requires a bachelor's degree is that of a microbiologist. Microbiologists study different types of microorganisms, like bacteria or parasites, to learn about their life cycle and how they interact with their environment. Another related career is an epidemiologist. Epidemiologists need at least a master's degree and try to reduce the risk of disease and illness by studying the causes and patterns of the diseases. Medical scientists are also similar, but they require a doctoral or professional degree. These professionals try to improve human health through clinical trials and research.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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