Biochemistry programs incorporate some form of practical work and provide students with career opportunities in health research, medicine or higher education. Academic degrees are available at the undergraduate, graduate and post-graduate levels.
High school graduates who score well on standardized college entrance exams can begin their biochemistry career with a bachelor's degree program. Here they'll receive a fundamental education in math and science, along with core classes in genetics and physiology.
Students who earn a bachelor's degree can then move on to graduate school, provided they meet minimum GPA and GRE requirements, submit their undergraduate transcripts and have letters of recommendation. In the master's degree program, students are exposed to advanced science and math courses, and they also learn molecular biology and biotechnology. Doctoral students focus much of their time on personal research projects in the field. Admission to a doctoral program also requires a bachelor's degree, good GRE test scores and letters of recommendation.
These programs also may require students to complete most, if not all of the following: lab work, research projects, internships, publications, assistantships and dissertations/thesis.
Bachelor's Degrees in Biochemistry
Bachelor degree programs in biochemistry provide students with a foundation in biology, chemistry, math and physics. This qualifies individuals for entry-level work with genes, DNA, proteins and amino acids using technologies such as molecular spectroscopy and nuclear magnetic resonance. In addition to labs and coursework, these degree programs offer opportunities for research and internships.
Generally, applicants should have an interest in biology, chemistry, laboratory procedures, English, mathematics and social studies. Some schools may have a foreign language requirement.
Comprised of lectures and lab activity, these programs provide instruction in different types of chemistry, research methods and equipment operation. Courses may include:
Master's Degrees in Biochemistry
Individuals may pursue a Master of Arts or a Master of Science degree in biochemistry. The difference between the two is that Master of Arts programs may have less emphasis on research and are available to students who don't need to have a strong research experience. Master of Science programs place a heavy emphasis on research and may lead to pursuit of a doctorate degree. Some schools do not have an official graduate program in biochemistry but may provide the necessary coursework that leads directly to a Ph.D.
Graduate students must have a bachelor's degree in a relevant area. Acceptable undergraduate degrees include biochemistry, biology or chemistry.
While graduate programs are generally tailored to meet each student's interest, areas covered in these graduate programs usually include modern biochemistry, cell biology, molecular biology and biotechnology. Topics may include:
- Molecular genetics
- Protein engineering
- Advanced biochemistry
- Molecular cell biology
- Biological photochemistry
- Metabolic engineering
Ph.D. in Biochemistry
Earning a Ph.D. in Biochemistry prepares students for recognized expertise in research, including research design, ethics and proposal writing. The research completed during a doctoral program often requires writing a paper suitable for a peer-reviewed journal.
Programs leading to a doctorate in biochemistry require students to have at least a bachelor's degree and a record of strong performance in the physical sciences, biological sciences and chemistry.
Taking five years or less to complete, the doctoral program in biochemistry consists of advanced courses, a teaching assistantships and a dissertation or research project. The majority of time is spent working with a selected faculty member on the development of the dissertation. Coursework may include:
- Biochemical research
- Molecular biophysics
- Molecular genetics
- Molecular interactions
Popular Career Options
Graduates with a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry may work as technicians and research assistants in basic, applied and medical research at industrial, government and university labs. This type of work can be found at:
- Pharmaceutical companies
- National Institutes of Health
- Public health departments
These graduates may also seek business, administrative and professional opportunities as scientific journalists, technical writers, marketers or managers. Opportunities are found with a variety of areas including:
- Regulatory agencies
- Pharmaceutical companies
Employment Outlook and Salary Info
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for biochemists should increase 8% between 2014 and 2024 (www.bls.gov). Individuals with a doctorate in biochemistry have the best opportunities for research and advancement. The median annual salary for biochemists of all degree levels was $82,150 in May 2015, according to the BLS.
Continuing Education Information
Biochemistry graduates desiring teaching credentials can pursue a regular teacher certificate and a higher education certificate. Additional coursework is usually offered through interdepartmental programs with a university's education department.
The teacher certificate enables holders to teach in a wide range of educational levels, starting with elementary education. The higher education certificate provides substantive educational experience for those seeking faculty positions at universities.
Students with an interest in biology and chemistry may should consider looking into applying to a biochemistry degree programs. These programs are offered at the bachelor's, master's and doctorate level and prepare students for jobs pharmacology, medical research, or academics.