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How to Become a Clinical Biochemist: Education and Career Info

Research the requirements to become a clinical biochemist. Learn about the job description and read the step-by-step process to start a career in clinical biochemistry.

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Should I Become a Clinical Biochemist?

Biochemists commonly work in research capacities, studying biological systems and organisms. This can include the study of living tissue, molecules, and genetic patterns. Typically, these professionals work in laboratories conducting experiments in order to analyze the results. They should also be comfortable working in teams with other scientists or taking direction from biotech companies. Sometimes, biochemists must put in long hours to finish a particular project.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's or master's degree accepted with experience; Ph.D. is typically required
Degree Field Biochemistry
Experience 1 to 8 years, depending on education level
Certification Some jobs require clinical biochemists to become certified
Key Skills Excellent communication, organization and analytical skills, ability to work independently, leadership skills, knowledge of IHC and ISH assays, cell morphology, colorimetric cell staining procedures, CLIA, GLP, ISO and FDA regulations, JMP, SAS, and SIGMA Stat/Plot
Salary (2014) $84,940 yearly (median salary for biochemists and biophysicists)

Source: Job postings from multiple employers (Dec. 2012), U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

A bachelor's degree program in biochemistry can help students prepare for higher education in the biochemistry field. These programs can include laboratory work and courses in biology, chemistry, math, physics and computer science. Some schools offer internships to provide students with hands-on experience in a laboratory at a pharmaceutical or medicinal manufacturing company. A bachelor's degree program generally takes 4 years to complete.

Step 2: Earn a Graduate Degree

A master's degree program in biochemistry provides advanced coursework in biochemistry, physical chemistry, biology and lab experience. Some schools provide two graduation options, one based on completion of a thesis project and the other on an examination. Most master's degree programs typically take 2 years to complete.

Students may pursue a Ph.D. in biochemistry, which is ideal for individuals seeking an academic or research position. Coursework generally includes advanced graduate-level biochemistry and physics classes, independent projects, working as a teaching assistant and completing an exam and dissertation.

Step 3: Gain Work Experience

An entry-level position in biochemistry can help potential clinical biochemists gain valuable experience. Candidates can seek employment at hospitals or pharmaceutical companies. Job duties generally include working in a lab performing tests, analyzing samples, evaluating data and writing reports. Some jobs may be performed under supervision or with a team.

Most high-level clinical biochemist positions require candidates to have between 2 and 8 years of lab and research experience. Job duties can include development and design of protocols and experiments, reporting results, performing lab analyses and developing regulations while creating products.

Step 4: Get Certified

While it's not a requirement for all jobs, some employers prefer board certified candidates because certification demonstrates competency in the field. It can also help a clinical biochemist advance in their career. The American Board of Clinical Chemistry (ABCC) offers a certification exam and applicants must have a Ph.D. or doctoral degree and at least 2 years of professional experience, but requirements vary. Approved continuing education is necessary every two years to maintain the certification.

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