Students interested in the field of biophysics can earn a bachelor's, master's or doctoral degree. At all levels, programs stress strong research skills and analytical thinking, paired with a creative and experimental attitude for fostering groundbreaking, innovative research. Some online programs are available.
Biophysics career options are available at the undergraduate degree level in positions such as technical writer and research assistant. However, graduate degrees offer much more latitude in career fields.
Bachelor's Degree Program in Biophysics
One could earn either a Bachelor of Science or a Bachelor of Arts in Biophysics. While both degree tracks give students comprehensive fundamental knowledge and research training in biophysics, a Bachelor of Arts degree program is typically less demanding and intended for students more apt to enter business, law, medicine or consulting, as opposed to fields of scientific research. Programs foster students' critical and analytical thinking abilities and give them exposure to laboratory experimentation and administration. Either degree track takes an interdisciplinary approach to the study of physics, biology, chemistry and mathematics. Applicants must have a high school diploma or the equivalent.
Along with general educational requirements outlined by the individual college or university, students take introductory and advanced courses in the main disciplines of chemistry, biology, math and physics. Programs emphasize practical application of the theories and principles through laboratory experimentation and course lectures, which cover essential topics such as:
- General physics
- Organic chemistry
- Introduction to biology
- Electricity and magnetism
- Introduction to modern physics
Master of Science in Biophysics Program
A Master of Science in Biophysics is the most common degree track for students interested in advanced study of biophysics. Degree programs stress the understanding of the function and interaction of elements of the natural universe from a biological and physical standpoint. Students use scientific principles and theories of physics to answer biologically-based questions. A bachelor's degree is the bare minimum requirement for application to a master's degree program. Students may have some applicable professional experience.
A master's program curriculum allows for intensive study exclusively in the area of biophysics. Students should expect to devote around two years to a master's degree program; in some programs, students may be required to complete a thesis. Students strengthen laboratory research and analysis skills while obtaining advanced knowledge in essential topics of biophysics, such as:
- Function of the enzyme
- Structure of enzymes
- Nucleic acids and proteins
- Molecular genetics
- Biophysics and marcomolocules
- Advanced cell biology
Doctor of Philosophy in Biophysics Program
Students can earn a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in Biophysics. Programs look at cells in conjunction with properties of physics from a biological, molecular and structural standpoint. Students focus on advanced study and research in various areas of biophysics, such as genetics, DNA structure, thermodynamics and ethical issues in biophysics laboratory research. Programs stress critical and analytical thinking in a research and testing environment. The goal of a doctoral degree program is to prepare students for professional careers in biophysics, whether it as researchers, professors or other related careers. Applicants must have a master's degree. Doctoral program candidates often have some previous professional experience.
Doctoral candidates engage in independent research in biophysics, under the guidance of faculty and advisers. Students conduct academic research in preparation for the writing of a dissertation to be presented as a condition of graduation. Students have the opportunity to engage in networking conferences and professional organizations, and to attend seminars on the following topics:
- Gene structure, expression and regulation
- Ethical issues in research
- DNA protein sequences and computer analysis
- Thermodynamics and kinetics
- Advanced protein crystallography
Popular Career Options
Graduates of a bachelor's degree program in biophysics often gravitate towards careers in education or research. Some popular professional options include:
- Assistant research technician
- Technical writer
Graduates of a doctoral program often gravitate towards careers in research, academia or education. Some popular career fields include:
- Technical writer
- Independent researcher
Employment Possibilities and Salary Information
According to a report by the U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment for biochemists and biophysicists was projected to grow by 8% from 2014-2024 (www.bls.gov). The BLS reported the 2015 median annual wage of biochemists and biophysicists as $82,150. Although job competition is often keen, constant technological and scientific advancement should keep job opportunities steady for some time. In 2015, about half of the 30,800 biochemists and biophysicists worked in scientific research and development; the next largest group, about 4,480 scientists, worked in the pharmaceutical industry.
Graduates of a bachelor's can apply to a master's degree program in biophysics. Although not absolutely necessary for some employment options, a graduate degree is an increasingly desirable qualification and often offers more job opportunities in a broader variety of fields.
Students looking for further education can apply to a doctoral degree program. Doctoral degrees often provide the best employment opportunities and allow job candidates to negotiate potentially higher starting salaries.
Bachelor's degree programs in biophysics focus on subjects in physics, chemistry, calculus, biology and magnetism and prepare students for careers normally related to education. Graduate students focus on more advanced topics, such as thermodynamics and protein crystallography, and can pursue work as professors or independent researchers.