Is a PhD in Biochemistry Worth It?

Jul 23, 2018

With a PhD in Biochemistry, students will develop the skills necessary to become competent researchers with the ability to conduct their own independent research. They will take courses in experimental design and measurement, biomedical product development, and applied statistics in biomedical sciences, making them prime candidates for jobs within the medical field. We'll look at five jobs with strong job growth and salary potential that graduates of doctoral biochemistry programs can pursue.

Salary Potential for PhD in Biochemistry Graduates

Job Title Median Salary (2017)* Job Growth (2016-2026)*
Biochemists and Biophysicists $91,190 11%
Medical Scientists $82,090 13%
Toxicologists $80,021 (2018)** NA
Environmental Scientists and Specialist $69,400 11%
Microbiologist $69,960 8%

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **

PhD in Biochemistry Jobs


Microbiologists observe and perform research on parasites, viruses and other microorganisms. They oversee biological technicians and prepare reports and articles for publication regarding their research. Microbiologists can specialize in various areas, such as industrial or environmental microbiology, mycology or virology. These professionals often work in teams and may research new medical treatments and drugs in order to help treat or prevent diseases and illnesses.

Medical Scientist

Medical scientists aid in the development of new testing procedures, medications, vaccines, and surgical procedures. They sometimes work with dangerous chemical and biological samples and create procedures to ensure that no contamination takes place. Additionally, they meet with government and public officials to educate them on the proper procedures related to diseases. In some cases, individuals within this profession don't have the liberty of choosing what they would like to research as their employers often task them with developing new products that will then be sold for company profit.


Toxicologists work to isolate and measure toxic substances or radiation and determine their effects on animals, ecosystems, humans, and plants. They advise others on the safe handling and transportation of substances and radiation in the event of an accident involving them. These same individuals analyze and evaluate statistical data and present their findings to others. Those with a PhD will have the communication skills necessary to adequately convey critical information.

Environmental Scientist and Specialist

Environmental scientists and specialists perform research and studies to determine environmental threats and problems. These professionals identify the best method to collect data and then use collected data for scientific analysis and research. Samples may include soil, air, or water. Environmental scientists formulate prevention and control methods and offer solutions to environmental problems. They may relay their findings to government officials and make the public aware of health concerns and environmental hazards.

Biochemist and Biophysicist

Biochemists and biophysicists focus on the physical principles and chemical composition of living organisms and cells. In addition, they research complex chemical reactions related to growth and heredity, reproduction, and metabolism. These professionals actively work with laboratory personnel and monitor their work to make certain that quality control standards are being adhered to. Much like in their PhD program, individuals within this profession will conduct research and present their findings to their employers and fellow scientists.

PhD in Biochemistry Program Information

To gain entrance into the majority of graduate programs, prospective students must have maintained a 3.0 GPA or better in biology, chemistry, chemical engineering, or a related scientific undergraduate degree program. In addition, they must take a GRE exam in either biology or a related field of study and have completed all required prerequisite courses. PhD programs in biochemistry can be expensive and often require an extensive amount of time, 4-5 years, to complete, but many schools offer PhD students some form of financial aid that can offset those high costs. For example, some schools may offer a five year tuition coverage package that gives them access to healthcare and pays for their tuition through stipends, fellowships, and teaching/research assistantships.

Students must maintain a 3.0 GPA or better in all of their graduate coursework to earn a degree within their respective graduate program. Additionally, they must attend regular seminars on subjects in biochemistry and spend at least one semester teaching courses. Students will typically spend their first year or two doing coursework in areas such as biomedical research, biostatistics, cell biology, essentials of genetics and genomics, gene expression, advanced topics in biochemistry, fundamentals in biomedical sciences, and principles of biochemistry.

Students will then have to take and pass a qualifying exam related to that coursework in order to continue within the program. Students will spend the rest of their time conducting research and presenting research papers, as well as, engaging in work within a laboratory. They will learn how to better manage both people and resources within the lab and have a better understanding of handling protocols as it relates to various chemical substances, allowing them to prevent contamination and ensure the safety of others.

A PhD in Biochemistry gives students the ability to cover a wide range of subjects within their coursework and gives them the hand-on experience within a laboratory, making them ideal candidates for higher end jobs within the field of research and medicine. They gain the ability to not only manage a team, but to train fellow employees, which can be a desirable skill for those interested in management jobs in science or medical fields.

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