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Biophysics Careers: Job Outlook & Requirements

A career in biophysics typically requires a doctoral degree in one of the natural sciences; however, candidates who hold a master's degree in a relevant subject, such as biology, chemistry and physics may also be qualified. Continue reading to learn more about the activities, educational requirements, employment outlook and salary potential for professionals employed in this field of study.

Career Definition for a Biophysics Professional

Biophysics professionals, or biophysicists, research the physical and chemical aspects of biological phenomena, applying their knowledge of physics and chemistry to the study of biological systems. Due to the diverse nature of the field, biophysics professionals employ a broad range of techniques, such as spectroscopy, computational modeling, microscopy, mass spectrometry and electrophysiology, in the course of their research. Typical responsibilities include setting up and conducting experiments, acquiring and analyzing data or writing grant proposals, as well as researching and presenting papers at professional conferences.

Education Master's degree or Ph.D., depending on the position
Job Skills Analytical skill, experimental skill, mathematics, problem solving
Median Salary (2018)* $93,280 (all biochemists and biophysicists)
Job Growth (2016-2026)* 11% (all biochemists and biophysicists)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

A master's degree is usually sufficient for research associate or staff scientist positions in universities or corporate laboratories. However, principal investigators, research directors and senior administrators will need a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in biophysics or a related field, which typically takes five to six years to complete. Coursework is dependent upon the program and area of specialization but may include topics in molecular or computational biology, spectroscopy, biochemistry and statistical mechanics. Most students complete a 1-4-year post-doctoral fellowship after earning their degree.

Skills Required

Biophysics professionals usually have a strong background in both physical and biological sciences. Basic knowledge of mathematical methods and computer programming is also required. Critical-thinking and creative problem-solving abilities are necessary for tackling the challenges of scientific research, especially if one wishes to work as a Ph.D. scientist. Oral and written communication skills are helpful, but not strictly necessary.

Career and Salary Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary of biophysicists and biochemists was $93,280 in May 2018. Opportunities for employment are expected to grow by 11% nationwide, which is faster than average, between 2016 and 2026 (www.bls.gov).

Alternate Career Options

Check out related occupations whose duties involve biological research and development in the fields of epidemiology and microbiology.

Epidemiologists

Epidemiologists work collaboratively with other public health officials to examine trends in infectious diseases and patterns of injury in the human population. Minimum educational requirements include a Master of Public Health or closely related degree; postsecondary educators and research directors usually hold a doctoral degree in epidemiology or medicine. As of May 2017, the median annual salary of an epidemiologist was $69,960; those employed in scientific research and development earned a median of $103,580 per year, as reported by the BLS. Employment opportunities for epidemiologists are projected to grow by an average rate of 9% from 2016-2026 (www.bls.gov).

Microbiologists

Microbiologists research, identify and examine the effects of algae, bacteria, fungi, viruses and other microorganisms on humans and the environment. Candidates with a bachelor's degree in biochemistry, cell biology or microbiology may qualify for an entry-level position; independent research and university work usually requires a Ph.D. in the same or a closely related field of study. The BLS reports that the median annual wage for a microbiologist in May 2017 was $69,960; research and development positions paid $86,830 during the same period. Between 2016 and 2026, microbiologists can expect an 8%, or as-fast-as-average, increase in employment prospects nationwide, also according to the BLS (www.bls.gov).


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