Become a Biophysical Chemist: Step-by-Step Career Guide

Find out how to become a biophysical chemist. Research the education and training requirements, and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in biophysical chemistry.

Do I Want to Be a Biophysical Chemist?

Biophysical chemistry is a relatively new area of biochemistry where chemists analyze the physical properties of biological systems through lab work and office work. Some of this work can be potentially hazardous, since the samples being studied can be poisonous; protective measures may need to be taken. Employers can include engineering, physical and life sciences companies, colleges and universities and pharmaceutical manufacturers. These workers may be part of research and development teams; some research projects may be dependent on grant-funding to stay afloat. Aspiring biophysical chemists can expect a highly competitive job search.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, many employers look for candidates with a doctoral degree (PhD) in biochemistry or a related field. Biophysical chemists can work in research positions for pharmaceutical companies or government agencies, as well as other private and public labs. The following table contains the core requirements of becoming a biophysical chemist.

Career Requirements

Degree Level PhD degree
Degree Field Chemistry, biochemistry or related field
Experience 0 years of experience with degree
Key Skills Teamwork, communications skills, observation skills, computer modeling software skills, technical skills in NMR spectroscopy and EPR spectroscopies
Salary $84,940 per year (Median salary from May, 2014 for all biochemists and biophysicists)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Yale University, Department of Chemistry

Step 1 - Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Students who want to enter the biophysical chemistry profession can start by earning a bachelor's degree in biochemistry or chemistry. Their training will include science courses such as general and organic chemistry, biochemistry, biophysical chemistry, physics and cell biology. Math courses in calculus and analytical geometry are also featured, along with a strong biochemistry lab component for learning about research and how to operate specialized equipment.

Success Tips:

  • Participate in undergraduate research. Gaining research experience is imperative for aspiring biophysical chemists. In addition to lab courses, students can work an internship or take part in formal undergraduate research opportunities.
  • Build teamwork skills. It is likely that biophysical chemists will collaborate with scientists in other fields. Students can develop communication and collaborative skills by choosing to work on team projects, volunteering for team-based community service and joining student clubs.

Step 2 - Earn a PhD

To be considered for many research positions, biophysical chemists need a PhD degree. While there are a few PhD programs in biophysical chemistry, candidates can also opt for a PhD in chemistry and customize their research to focus on their area of interest in biophysical chemistry. Research progress and knowledge may be tested through a series of exams.

Step 3 - Build a Network

Students can build a network by joining professional organizations and attending scientific meetings. By establishing relationships with peers as well and faculty and other researchers, PhD candidates can gain visibility within the profession. Networking may also enhance research opportunities and career advancement.

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