Biochemistry Training Programs and Requirements

Learning to handle biological specimens and use specialized lab equipment safely requires a bachelor's degree and possibly graduate work. Both programs emphasize lab work in the curriculum.

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Essential Information

For standard jobs in the field, applicants often need a bachelor's degree; most commonly, a Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry. Some employers request laboratory work experience. A senior biochemist, who designs research projects and supervises other scientists, generally has earned a doctorate.

Prerequisites for the four year bachelor's program are as simple as a high school diploma or GED. Some programs might be available online. For a five year doctorate, students need to have completed a bachelor's with a strong GPA, as well as provide letters of recommendation.


Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry

This program combines complex chemistry coursework with advanced math classes, in addition to general education requirements. Students who want to eventually earn a Ph.D. should seek out undergraduate research opportunities, whether on campus or perhaps at other universities or in the private sector. Core classes may include:

  • Organic chemistry
  • Physical chemistry
  • Calculus
  • Biochemistry lab courses

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Doctoral Degree in Biochemistry

A new doctoral student in biochemistry must choose a research adviser from among the university's faculty. He or she joins this professor's laboratory staff and does research. Many university biochemistry departments arrange a system whereby new students spend short times working in multiple professors' laboratories before selecting their full-time faculty adviser.

Ph.D. programs often require completion of a dissertation that is often based on the research the student completed with his or her adviser. Graduate students may teach courses for undergraduates majoring in biochemistry. Some course topics might include:

  • Techniques in biochemistry
  • Foundations in biomedical sciences modules
  • Biostatistics
  • Cell and molecular biology

Popular Career Options

Biochemistry professors at many universities offer postdoctoral research positions in their laboratories to new graduates from Ph.D. programs. Postdocs perform research, running chemical analysis of biological specimens. They help the professor supervise the lab work of Ph.D. candidates and undergraduate researchers. Postdoctoral research is especially important for those who want to become professors themselves or those who wish to pursue high-level careers in the private sector.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) states that postsecondary teachers, as of May 2015, make an annual median salary of $63,000 per year. The employment for these teachers from 2014 to 2024 is expected to grow 13%, according to the BLS, which is faster than average growth.

Continuing Education Information

To share their discoveries with the scientific community, scientists must write papers describing their work and its results. These articles are submitted for publication in peer-reviewed scientific journals. Publication is often necessary for advancing an academic career. On their websites, journals often provide potential authors with detailed instructions for formatting the paper and submitting it. Journals may have rules about when and how researchers may talk to the media or present at conferences about a paper they submit for publication.

Biochemistry education is commonly found at the bachelor's and doctoral degree levels, preparing students for a number of career and research opportunities in academia and the science fields.

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