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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?
Biochem is an exciting field that continues to rapidly evolve as technology and industry research push the bounds of what is known. Becoming a biochemist will take students through a series of steps to build academic knowledge and exposure to key job duties. Variation to this process will occur by state so do your research in advance. Biochemistry majors and future students will need to perform the following tasks:
Step 1 – Research Top Biochem Schools
Initially, you will need to research top biochem colleges to fit your academic objectives. The best biochemistry degree will depend on what you are looking for in a degree. Some students may emphasize the speed of completion or cost while others focus on campus life or the ability to earn a biochem degree online. As you narrow your options through trustworthy college matching sources, remember your personal priorities are uniquely yours.
Step 2 – Apply to College
Next phase is to find the best biochemistry schools for you and apply to each. If you are unable to utilize the Common Application, you will need to complete an additional step for that college. Make sure to carefully read all instructions on the application for admissions. Be meticulous and stay organized as completing several applications can be confusing to some students.
Step 3 – Attend School
After being accepted to your top college choice, you will prepare for the transition to college. Meeting with your counselor and attending orientation are the initial steps to the transition after buttoning up your financial aid awards. After registering for classes, you will begin work on a biochem degree by taking general education classes and core science courses. Graduates with a Bachelor's of Science or a Master's of Science can find gainful employment as a biochemist after graduation. However, a recent survey by the U.S. Department of Labor indicates biochemists hold a PhD degree or post-doctoral training at a rate of 74% as the demands increase with pay.
Step 4 – Graduation, Work, Grow
After graduating from an accredited 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.
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.
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Employment Information for Biochemists
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.
What Does a Biochemist Do?
In a recent survey administered by the U.S. Department of Labor, active biochemists provided information on their daily activities and job responsibilities. To help prospective students understand what you can do with a biochemistry degree, we have gathered popular duties from a variety of industry publications. The top biochemist job duties listed by those professionals surveyed 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
The most biochemistry major jobs can vary by industry and sector. Likewise, the jobs with a biochemistry degree may have different titles and responsibilities by organization size and type. We have assembled a list popular job titles for a biochemist to help students understand the vernacular 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 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 per the BLS latest survey. 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.
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 state-based information for future biochemists to help you more acutely understand a range of possible incomes as you think about your upcoming career in biochemistry.
Top Paying States for Biochemists
- New Jersey $117,930
- Ohio $145,650
- Indiana $110,630
- California $107,760
- Connecticut $107,090
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