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Careers in Protein Chemistry: Job Options and Requirements

Protein chemistry is generally studied at the graduate level. Continue reading for an overview of the educational requirements as well as employment and salary info related to some career options for graduates.

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If you have an interest in the study of proteins and a strong background in physical and life sciences, you could look into one of several jobs in the area of protein chemistry. Professors and research scientists are often required to hold a Ph.D. in biochemistry or chemistry. Depending on the job, these professionals may teach, conduct independent research, or develop new projects. Job growth in this field as a whole should be at least as fast as average from 2012-2014.

Essential Information

Protein chemistry is an interdisciplinary field that focuses on analyzing the structure, function and interactions of proteins. Jobs in this field include postsecondary teaching and scientific research. A Ph.D. is usually required to conduct research or to teach at the collegiate level.

Career Titles College Professor Research Biochemists
Education Requirements Ph.D. in biochemistry or chemistry A Ph.D. in chemistry or biochemistry for research and development jobs, some entry-level jobs may only require a bachelor's or master's degree
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024)* 13% for all postsecondary teachers 8% for all biochemists and biophysicists
Median Annual Salary (2015)* $75,320 for postsecondary biological science teachers;
$75,060 for postsecondary chemistry teachers
$82,150 for all biochemists and biophysicists

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Career Options

Protein chemistry is often concerned with areas of research having to do with generating and analyzing proteins that will have therapeutic effects on the body. Because of this, careers can be at the forefront of the chemistry of modern medicine. Job options include professors and research biochemists.

Professor

Professors, or postsecondary teachers, often have both teaching and research components to their jobs. Especially at large research-focused universities, this research plays a key role in the hiring and promotion process. Because of the large amounts of funding available for medical research, protein chemists may be found teaching at these universities. In addition to covering general chemistry and biology topics, these professors may provide instruction on protein structure, enzyme design and computer modeling.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual salary for postsecondary chemistry teachers was $75,060 as of 2015. Postsecondary biological science teachers, including those who teach biochemistry, had a median salary of $75,320 the same year. Overall job growth for postsecondary educators was expected to be 13% from 2014-2024, which is faster than the average for all professions (www.bls.gov).

Research Biochemist

Researchers can work for pharmaceutical and drug development companies or research institutes. They place all of their effort into developing and understanding new products. Protein chemists may act as part of a team contributing to research and development efforts, or they may be leaders of research projects. Depending on the position, these professionals could develop and verify methodologies used in protein chemistry research, present findings to company executives, submit research for publication and collaborate with industry experts and academic researchers.

The BLS reported that the annual median salary for biochemists and biophysicists was $82,150 as of 2015. Positions for biochemists and biophysicists were expected to grow at a rate of 8% during the 2014-2024 decade.

Requirements

Completion of a Ph.D. program is almost always necessary to conduct research and teach at a postsecondary institution. Similarly, for higher-level positions in the protein chemistry field, a Ph.D. may be required. Entry-level and non-management research positions may be filled by those who do not have doctoral degrees. Some positions may, however, require at least a master's degree.

To recap, professors often have both teaching and research duties, while research biochemists might work to develop or test their company's new products or methodologies. For either career option, a Ph.D. in chemistry or biochemistry is often necessary, but a master's degree may be sufficient. Other duties for protein chemistry professionals could include applying for funding, reporting on progress, and hiring project staff.

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