Biochemist: Salary and Career Facts

Explore the career requirements for biochemists. Get the facts about education requirements, job duties, salary and employment outlook 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?

Biochemists study living organisms to learn about their biological, chemical and physical processes. They investigate in areas such as medical advancement, biofuels, agriculture or environmental sustainability. Biochemists conduct complex experiments that may involve proteins, DNA, fats and more. To do this they use advanced technology and often oversee the work of laboratory teams. The findings of their experiments are reported in research papers and presented to other scientists, engineers and other interested parties. Biochemists must stay updated on current technology, techniques and research in the field. A career in biochemistry may involve research, teaching and/or consulting.

Degree Required PhD
Education Field of Study Biochemistry, molecular biology
Postdoctoral Training Temporary research positions typically provide training
Key Responsibilities Analysis, critical thinking, performing math, interpersonal communication
Job Growth (2018-2028) 6% growth*
Average Salary (2018) $105,940*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Education Do I Need to Become a Biochemist?

Biochemists must have a PhD to do independent research. You can start with a bachelor's degree program in biochemistry or molecular biology. Programs in biochemistry tend to be very research heavy and involve a lot of hands-on work and faculty involvement. Courses in a bachelor's degree program in biochemistry include medical biochemistry, viruses, structural biology and plant biochemistry. Upon graduation, entry-level positions may be available; however, many students choose to continue their biochemistry education at the graduate school level.

A master's degree may also provide qualifications for an entry-level position. Programs cover advanced topics in biochemistry, such as oxygen toxicity, lipid hormones, antibody production, and bioinformatics and molecular modeling.

PhD programs provide the opportunity for advanced coursework and extensive laboratory practice. Most biochemists also obtain temporary postdoctoral research work that serves as a lead-in to their career.

What Will I Learn?

Biochemistry is a field very closely associated with molecular biology, which studies the microscopic structure of all living organisms. During a program, you'll learn about the chemical make-up and processes of living things. Because biochemistry is essential when it comes to understanding and working with life on Earth, it is a major factor in all areas of the life sciences, from medicine to botany. This is why you can expect many career options as a professional biochemist.

What Career Options Are There?

Professional biochemists, with their understanding of the biochemical structure of life, can find careers in the private, government and non-profit sectors. To enter academia, it is necessary to gain a PhD in biochemistry. Many positions, both academic and administrative, are available in scientific publishing, pharmaceuticals and biotechnology. There are also jobs available within the government that focus on the administration and monitoring of biochemistry across a number of governmental departments.

Others professionals, including attorneys, doctors, veterinarians, geologists and chemical engineers must consult with biochemists. Biochemists are consulted on matters involving vaccine research, virology, immunology, horticulture, nutritional analysis and hormone production.

What is the Job Market Like?

Biochemistry is integral to many different areas of research and practical application so biochemists are in high demand. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects that during the 2018-2028 decade, the number of jobs available for biochemists and biophysicists will increase by 6% ( The BLS also notes that as of May 2018, the average annual wage of biochemists and biophysicists was $105,940. During that month, more than half of these workers were employed in the scientific research and development industry.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Here we discuss a few related careers that require a doctoral or professional degree. Physicists and astronomers are scientists who study matter and energy interactions through complex experiments. Medical scientists may work with similar samples as biochemists, but usually during clinical trials they conduct to help improve overall human health. Physicians and surgeons are additional options. Physicians diagnose and treat a variety of human injuries and illnesses, while surgeons specialize in different kinds of surgical procedures.

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