Biophysicist: Career Information and Education Requirements

Biophysicists require extensive formal education up to the doctorate level. Learn about the degrees and job duties to see if this is the right career for you.

Essential Information

Biophysicists study the relationship between physics and living organisms, aiming to identify predictable patterns in biological processes. They conduct research for the government, universities and private institutes, often on topics such as DNA and proteins. The research is often supported by grant money. They may also work as professors. Getting into this field requires at least a bachelor's degree, but graduate education is also common.

Required Education Bachelor's, master's or Ph.D. in biology, physics, chemistry, or mathematics
Other Requirements Experience working in laboratories
Projected Job Growth (2012-2022)* 19%
Average Salary (2013)* $91,640 per year

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Career Information for Biophysicists

Biophysicists combine the disciplines of biology and physics to better understand organisms. They analyze living cells and are responsible for major advancements in science and medicine, including discoveries in DNA.

Due to their broad training in the sciences, biophysicists enjoy a variety of career opportunities. They may work as researchers for government agencies, private research institutes or various industries. They may be employed as staff or faculty at a university or college. In medical settings, they help to create vaccines and treatments for diseases, as well as develop instruments for identifying and diagnosing disease.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that most biologists, including biophysicists, work in laboratories, where they conduct research and interpret the results (www.bls.gov). Their work is often supported by grant money, which is a motivation to produce results. Consequently, grant and proposal writing is also a vital component of their work

Education Requirements

Most biophysicists have an undergraduate degree in physics, chemistry, mathematics or biology. With an undergraduate degree and relative experience in a laboratory, graduates can find employment as technicians or teach at the elementary or secondary levels. With a master's degree, they may work in applied research, product development or inspection, according to the BLS.

To work as an independent scientist, a candidate needs a Ph.D. or even a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) combined with a Ph.D. Graduate students gain hands-on experience working in laboratories and by completing their thesis research. According to CareerOneStop, an emphasis in engineering, technology or production and processing provides valuable training for biophysicists (www.careerinfonet.org). Understanding the principles of teaching will also be needed for individuals considering a career in biophysics education.

Job Outlook and Salary Info

The BLS projected that employment of biophysicists and biochemists would grow 19% from 2012-2022. During this time, job opportunities should be fueled by heightened environmental initiatives and biomedical research. As of 2013, biophysicists and biochemists earned a median of $91,640 per year.

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