Clinical Chemistry Training and Degree Program Information

Oct 09, 2019

While degrees in clinical chemistry aren't typically available, postdoctoral students can find fellowships. These programs are usually undertaken after completion of a medical residency program.

Essential Information

Clinical chemistry fellowship programs are generally open only to licensed professionals who already hold a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) in biology, chemistry, or biochemistry or a Doctor of Medicine (M.D.) degree. Fellowship programs might last one to three years, and research or fieldwork is typically required to graduate.

Postdoctoral fellowships in clinical chemistry focus on developing laboratory research and administration competencies, as well as teaching skills. Students attend advanced topical seminars and work closely with teachers and peers in clinical laboratory and professional environments. They make rounds with attending physicians and work with advanced medical technologies that are used for research and diagnostic testing. Some programs offer specialized opportunities in subjects like molecular toxicology and pharmacogenomics. A clinical chemist board certification can be earned by individuals who meet educational and experience requirements and receive a passing score on a qualifying examination.

Postdoctoral Fellowship in Clinical Chemistry

Graduates of Ph.D. programs will also have typically already completed a 4-year bachelor's degree and possibly a 2-year master's degree in the same or related field. Graduates of M.D. programs will have already completed a 4-year bachelor's degree, majoring in biology, chemistry, or a related field, followed by a 4-year medical school program. Upon completion, a 2-6 year residency program is common, depending on the chosen area of specialty. The final step is passage of the United States Medical Licensing Examination.

Regardless of the degree held, most postdoctoral fellowship programs in clinical chemistry require applicants to have previously completed a minimum amount of graduate-level coursework in biochemistry or chemistry. Admission committees also look at letters of recommendation and evidence of previous academic achievement. Because of the low number of fellowships available, competition is often very high.

In lieu of a set schedule of courses, students participate in lectures, seminars, and clinical lab work. Depending on the clinical chemistry labs present at the fellowship site, rotations can include medical and surgical cases in hospital labs, community care centers, and children's hospitals. Fellows may also perform on-call work and give presentations.

Possible Career Options

Fellowship students are often qualified to pursue careers in clinical medicine, academic research, or the medical industry. Some popular career paths are:

  • Pathologist
  • Biochemist
  • Pharmaceutical engineer
  • University professor

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities for biochemists and biophysicists were expected to increase 6% between 2018 and 2028, which is notably faster compared to other career fields. These professionals earned median annual wages of $93,280 as of May 2018.

Continuing Education and Certification Information

A fellowship is considered the last step of formal education in clinical chemistry. Licensed physicians who are pursuing postdoctoral fellowships may be required to take continuing education classes periodically. Subsequent continuing education for working clinical chemistry professionals may also be required as technology and accepted practices evolve.

Individuals can obtain certification as a clinical chemist through the American Board of Clinical Chemistry or the National Registry of Certified Chemists. Applicants must have achieved a minimum level of formal education, professional experience and pass a comprehensive written examination. Though not absolutely essential for employment, those aspiring to more advanced job titles with great responsibility may find certification a valuable professional asset.

Postdoctoral fellowships in clinical chemistry build upon the skills learned in Ph.D. and M.D. degree programs, teaching students the skills needed to effectively work in pharmaceuticals, academia, research, and more. Although not required, professional certification might be of interest to clinical chemists since it could help enhance job prospects for higher-level positions.

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