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Overview of Biochemistry
Biochemistry, also known biological chemistry, is the study of the chemical reactions and compositions as found within a living organisms. Individuals in this field work to understand how the various chemical functions and compositions work to keep a given organism going. Most positions in this field are research related with the intention of better understanding the living world.
What is Biochemistry?
The overarching goal of a biochemist is to improve the quality of life through science. Biochemists analyze the chemical properties, transformation, and processes in living organisms. The properties studied by a biochemist may include an organism’s DNA, genetic composition, cellular makeup, and proteins. It is the responsibility of a biochemist to understand both the why and how of an organism or chemical reaction. In other words, they are charged to understand why things appear a certain way or why reactions happen in a certain manner along with the reasons behind how reactions take place. Data collection, experimentation, and research must be precisely documented and effectively communicated to all relevant stakeholders.
How Do You Become a Biochemist?
To become a biochemist, you will need to follow a series of steps we have detailed below. The process is critical to follow as variations can exist from state to state which makes research and detail orientation critical to the process. The steps to become a biochemist include the following:
Step 1 – Research Schools
The first step in your journey to becoming a biochemist is to research top accredited colleges and universities that fit your professional goals and objectives. To prudently research programs and schools, you can leverage the information found on this resource page or leverage our proprietary matching portal after reading our book The Complete Guide to the College Admissions Process. After digesting these resources and creating your unique priority list, simply find programs that interest you and request information from the school to determine what they offer and specific requirements of each program.
Step 2 – Apply to College
The next step in the process is to arrive at a manageable list of top college programs in biochemistry. Invest time early in the process to understand the curricular approach, time involved in each program, financial aid packages, and online learning options. The burgeoning online learning model has quickly become the fastest growing segment within higher education for a reason. The benefits of earning a biochemistry degree online include: flexibility, cost savings, access, accreditation, pace, and quality curricular design. As you think about your college application, take the time to specifically highlight all relevant work experience and extracurricular activities to illuminate who you are as a unique being to help you stand out from other applicants in a highly competitive pool qualified of students.
Step 3 – Attend School
After gaining admissions to the school of your choice, you will attend an accredited college or university to begin your studies as a biochemistry major. Classes will begin shortly after you complete your school orientation and register for classes. A bachelor’s degree will typically take students 4 years of full time work to complete while master’s degrees will take an additional 2-3 years and PhD programs take an additional 5-6 years of matriculation including a dissertation. A PhD is typically required to work as a biochemist as nearly 75% of surveyed biochemists have doctorate degree or post-doctoral training. During your undergraduate work, take the time to focus on building relevant skills and invest substantive time in valuable research projects.
Step 4 – Graduation, Work, Grow
Upon graduating from an accredited college or university with your degree in biochemistry, you will be eligible apply for jobs in the field as a research technician, academic faculty member, analytic director, or similar positions in the field. During the initial phases of your employment, focus on lifelong learning and growing in your field by taking additional classes and continuing education courses to keep growing and advancing.
Education and Schools
A student may pursue degrees at the bachelor, master and doctoral level, with each providing a better understanding and increased specialization in the field. A program will provide education in various sciences, as well as educating individuals in the methods , techniques and equipment used to perform, monitor and log experiments. Higher levels of education may also allow for more specialized research and even teaching opportunities.
A curriculum may include:
- Research Methodologies
- Laboratory Science
Any student wishing to enroll in a biochemistry program should find a school that has a current laboratory and facilities in order to be able to effectively learn the needed education and skills prior to entering the workforce. Schools that have active research programs in place and offer internship or research positions as part of their program are generally more effective in their educational output than those that do not. Once the list is narrowed, students should contact departments to see what opportunities are specifically available prior to making their final choice.
The American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology is a nonprofit organization established to promote the interests of biochemists and molecular biologists. In particular the organization promotes education through the publication and dissemination of research and information related to the field.
Schools Other Students Requested Information From:
Biochemistry as a career is typically pursued through public or private research programs either conducted by schools, public agencies or private companies with an interest in research and development. Biochemists are expected to experience a large percentage of growth over the next decade, though the overall job creation will be small due to the minimal size of the field. As such positions should be readily available for willing individuals, particularly as the need for new medications results in job opening at pharmaceutical companies.
Common Job Duties of a Biochemist
In a recent survey administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, active biochemists provided information on their daily activities and job responsibilities. The top job duties listed by biochemists include the following:
- Teaching and advising undergraduate or graduate college students along with providing supervisory activities for research projects
- Studying physical principles of living cells or organisms and their electrical or mechanical energy in order to apply various methods of mathematics, physics, chemistry, or biology
- Managing laboratory teams and the quality of a team's work
- Sharing research findings by writing scientific articles and presentations at scientific conferences
- Preparing reports or recommendations based upon research outcomes and data collection
Top Jobs Titles of a Biochemist
The most popular job titles for a biochemist will help students and graduates understand the span of job titles and vernacular used to describe professions in the field. The top job titles of a biochemist include the following:
- Analytical Research Chemist
- Chief Scientific Officer
- Biochemistry Specialist
- Director of the Biophysics Facility
- Laboratory Director
- Professor of Physics/Researcher in Biophysics
- Research Assistant
- Research Associate
- Research Scientist
How Much Money Do Biochemists Make?
The amount of money you will make as a biochemist will depend on your work experience, type of college degree obtained, job demand, job duties, geographic location, organization type, and hours worked. We have aggregated information for future biochemists to help you more acutely understand a range of possible incomes as you think about your upcoming career in biochemistry. The median annual income of a biochemist is $82,180 which translates to $39.51 per hour. The top 10% of biochemists make $158,410 and the bottom ten percent make $45,000 on an annual basis. The U.S. Department of Labor estimates there will be 11,900 job openings in biochemistry in the coming decade creating opportunities for growth and job mobility in the years to come.
Top Employers of Biochemists
- Research and Development Firms
- Pharmaceutical & Medicine Manufacturing
- Colleges & Universities
- Scientific and Technical Consulting Firms
- Wholesale Drug Companies
States with the Highest Employment of Biochemists
- New Jersey
- New York
Top Paying States for Biochemists
- New Jersey $117,930
- Ohio $145,650
- Indiana $110,630
- California $107,760
- Connecticut $107,090