Biochemist: Career Profile & Recommended Education

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a biochemist. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and career outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

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If you're interested in the biological sciences, not only from the viewpoint of a researcher but also as a product developer, you might want to become a biochemist. Though the education requirements can be extensive, the growth rate of the occupation is projected to be steady for the foreseeable future.

Essential Information

Biochemists conduct studies and tests to discover new products, improve existing products and solve problems in areas such as environmental protection and disease prevention. Biochemists may work in many industries including research, education or product development. Generally, a doctorate degree is necessary for this career.

Required Education Doctorate
Projected Job Growth 8% between 2014 and 2024 for biochemists and biophysicists*
Median Salary (2015) $82,150 annually for biochemists and biophysicists*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Profile for Biochemists

Biochemists work with the chemical composition of living organisms and perform studies of the chemical processes involved in all basic life functions. Through research, experimentation and study, these professionals provide us with much of the background knowledge on topics like genetics and heredity. Biochemists also collect data for other researchers and scientists, enabling them to make improvements to existing drugs, systems or products. For example, biochemists in the agricultural industry may help develop new and better pesticides to kill insects without harming humans.

Workplace and Duties

Most biochemists work for government agencies, corporations or university research departments. Work is generally conducted in an office setting or laboratory. Duties include planning and conducting experiments, analyzing products and developing new products. Biochemists may also be responsible for presenting their findings to peers and creating grant proposals to acquire funding.

Job Outlook and Salary Info

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) combines employment data for biochemists with that of biophysicists. The BLS estimated jobs in this field would increase by 8% between 2014 and 2024. Growth will come from increased demand for medical research and development and the increased move towards environmental preservation. The BLS reported median annual wages for this field were $82,150 as of May 2015.

Educational Requirements for Biochemists

Students may earn a bachelor's, master's or doctorate degree in biochemistry to prepare for a career as a biochemist. Individuals holding an undergraduate or master's degree may work in product development, applied research or inspection. A Ph.D. is generally required for most independent research positions and teaching positions at the college level.

Undergraduate courses generally cover topics including bacteriology and inorganic chemistry. Students may also spend significant time in the laboratory to gain a deeper understanding of biological processes. Advanced level programs may take from 2-4 years to complete. Students may be able to design their own course of study based on their interests. For instance, those interested in plant biochemistry may propose research projects, a thesis or dissertation on topics like photosynthesis.

A bachelor's or master's degree in biochemistry may qualify you for an entry-level position in the field or for work in product development or product inspection. To become a full-fledged independent research scientist and/or college professor, however, you'll need a doctorate.

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