Biological Chemistry Major Requirements and Career Information

Sep 27, 2019

Individuals with degrees in biological chemistry can work in biochemical research at several levels. Some jobs require graduate studies, while others, such as lab technician, are accessible with a bachelor's degree.

Essential Information

Students majoring in biological chemistry, or biochemistry, study the chemical foundations of living organisms. Entry-level jobs may be found with a bachelor's degree in biochemistry, which generally takes 4 years to complete. Higher level jobs in research, education, or biotechnology administration may require more advanced degrees which take an additional 2-4 or more years.

Career Titles Biochemistry Lab Technologist Biochemist
Education Requirements Bachelor's degree Doctoral degree
Projected Job Growth (2018-2028)* 11% for all clinical laboratory technologists and technicians 6% for all biochemists and biophysicists
Median Salary (2018)* $52,330 for all clinical laboratory technologists and technicians $93,280 for all biochemists and biophysicists

Career Options

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), biological chemistry majors may choose to pursue careers in either applied research or basic science. Applied researchers generally work for corporations and are involved in product development. It is common for biological chemists to be employed in the biotechnology industry, where they may develop new drugs, medical technologies or agricultural products.

Basic scientists are usually employed in academia, or by government agencies or private companies. Rather than creating marketable products and technology solutions, biochemists who conduct basic research publish results that serve as the foundation for future research and applied science in biotechnology and agriculture. Since this type of research usually has little commercial value, basic research scientists generally have to secure funding from public institutions or private research organizations.

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Major Requirements for Biological Chemistry

Undergraduate biological chemistry majors and concentrations are typically offered through university chemistry departments, or jointly through chemistry and biology departments. Students who major in biological chemistry are generally required to complete the same liberal arts requirements as their peers, but they must also enroll in a broad spectrum of math and science courses. These include calculus, physics, organic chemistry and cell biology. Other classes that are typically required for biological chemistry majors include physical chemistry, molecular biology and biochemical analysis. Biochemistry majors may also participate in independent study and enroll in electives that examine topics like these:

  • Genetics
  • Neuroscience
  • Embryology
  • Developmental biology

Education Requirements

In order to gain a position as an independent researcher, either in basic science or applied research, one must typically earn a doctoral degree, according to the BLS. Such a degree is also a common requirement for advancement to administrative roles in the biotechnology industry or academia. However, some positions in applied biotechnology research may be open to graduates who hold either bachelor's or master's degrees in the life sciences.

Salary and Career Outlook

The BLS reports that the mean annual wage for biochemists and biophysicists as of May 2018 was $105,940. Research and development services employed the largest number of scientists in these fields.

The overall number of biochemist and biophysicist jobs was projected to grow as fast as the average between 2018 and 2028, and the BLS explains that much of this growth would likely be fueled by the biotech industry. Applicants for positions in academia generally face stiffer competition than applicants for applied research jobs in the private sector, but competition for these jobs may increase if a mismatch emerges between the numbers of qualified biological scientists and academic jobs.

Although job growth in biochemistry is expected to be fairly constant, finding steady employment at a postsecondary research facility may be challenging. Funding for research may also depend on government budgets. Hands-on experience and a master's degree may help an applicant compete for a good job.

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