Should I Become an Analytical Biochemist?
Analytical biochemists study the chemical makeup and processes of living organisms. Such biochemists will design and conduct experiments with organisms, manage laboratory techs and oversee progress of projects, the compilation of data, and the integrity of research, as well as prepare summaries and reports of their subsequent findings. Some may choose to apply such work towards the development of new pharmacological treatments for humans.
|Degree Field||Biochemistry or related field|
|Key Skills||Analytical and observational skills, mathematical skills, teamwork, communications skills, ability to operate lab equipment such as electron microscopes and lasers|
|Salary (2014)||$84,940 (median for biochemists and biophysicists)|
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics
Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree in Biochemistry
Aspiring chemists can find bachelor's degree programs in biochemistry or a related field. In these degree programs, students take science courses that include chemistry, biology, physics and math. They also take advanced courses in genetics and cell biology. Students take lab courses to learn how to properly use the equipment.
- Pursue additional research opportunities. Students will likely have an opportunity to participate in undergraduate research opportunities, either through internships or undergraduate research programs. By taking on additional research, students can improve their critical thinking skills and build a rapport with senior researchers and faculty.
- Develop teamwork skills. Students will have to work on research teams as they advance throughout their careers. In addition to working on team class projects, undergraduates can join student clubs or participate in team-based volunteer projects.
Step 2: Earn a Ph.D.
Scientists may choose to earn a Ph.D. to expand their career opportunities. According to the BLS, scientists leading research tend to have a doctoral degree. Ph.D. candidates take advanced courses in biochemistry, and doctoral programs focus primarily on research. Students work with faculty advisors to develop a thesis and execute research based on that thesis. Throughout the 4-6 year program, candidates take a series of exams to assess their knowledge of biochemistry based on their coursework and research.
- Work on multiple research projects. It is advisable for candidates to be involved in a few different research projects, since this gives students an opportunity to gain as much experience as possible as well as advance their own research. In addition, more research increases the opportunity that scientists will find publishable results.
- Build relationships with peers, staff and faculty. Building connections helps students find faculty mentors, learn about research projects and establish a reputation for themselves. Students can attend scientific meetings, join clubs and network with faculty to build connections.
Step 3: Consider Applying for Post-Doctoral Research Opportunities
A post-doc completed after earning the Ph.D. can help researchers advance their careers. For example, those interested in working at research universities can use this opportunity to perform research that may lead to additional published articles. In comparison, those who want to work in private industry may use a post-doctoral position to scout out likely employers and make contacts with hiring managers.
Step 4: Seek Employment and Advancement Opportunities
Analytical biochemists typically work in academia or private industry. Doctors of biochemistry seeking work in academia typically start out as assistant professors in research or teaching positions. After a set probationary period - typically six years - assistant professors may apply for tenure, at which point they are usually promoted to associate professors. Associate professors may then advance to full professor status. Analytical biochemists can also find work in private industries, such pharmaceutical manufacturing or environmental safety. These analytical biochemists typically start out working in research and development and then may seek opportunities to advance to management or sales positions.