How To Become A Biochemist
Career Video: Biochemist
Do you have a profound interest and talent to discover solutions to life’s complications? Are you dedicated to improving the lives of humans and other living organisms? Do your curiosities about life’s building blocks and biological processes drive you to research, experiment, and question? Do you have a natural understanding of science and mathematics? If you want to pursue a career that uses the principles of biology, chemistry, and applied research, then a career as a biochemist could be right for you.
Why Become A Biochemist
Biochemists conduct research and experiments regarding biological processes and chemical properties of living organisms. Their work is concerned with all aspects of biology and chemistry, including cell development, growth, and death, as well as disease, reproduction, metabolism, and heredity. The objective of their work is to use applied research to introduce new information, fortify current knowledge, and improve the life of many living organisms, especially humans.
The duties of a biochemist include many aspects of research, application, and education. They are responsible for developing and managing laboratory experiments; identifying how various biological and chemical components (hormones, drugs, environment, and nutrients) affect cellular processes; and communicating their findings via written reports, lectures, and classroom instruction. To ensure scientific efficacy, biochemists work in highly controlled and secure environments, using the latest technologies, such as microscopes, lasers, computers, and imaging equipment.
The information ascertained by biochemists must be credible and add value to human knowledge and quality of life. Therefore, biochemists must have impeccable qualities and skills:
- Communication skills
- Critical thinking
- Scientific aptitude
- Technologically savvy
- Practical and logical
- Independent and team player
- Sound judgment
- Concerned for safety guidelines and precautions
- Active learning and curiosity
Biochemist Work Environment
Biochemists can be found in laboratories and offices. Some may work with dangerous materials and organisms, so this job may be hazardous. Biochemists should be able to work independently, but many times, they work in teams with other professionals in related fields in order to solve a problem. These professionals may include chemists, biologists, engineers, computer scientists, and physicists, but they also work with a variety of individuals that help them to mine data for comparison purposes.
About half of biochemists work in research and development, regarding life, physical, and engineering sciences. Others may work for colleges and universities, pharmaceutical manufacturing, sales, and various chemical manufacturing industries.
Biochemists typically work normal business hours on a fulltime schedule; however, the nature of their experiments’ materials and project deadlines may require overtime. Additionally, those who work in sales may need to travel for their jobs.
In May of 2014, the median annual salary for a biochemist was $84,940. The salary for this occupation ranges from $44,220 to $149,130. Those in management of organizations are apt to make the most money, followed by research and development, pharmaceutical manufacturing, basic chemical manufacturing, and education, respectively.
Biochemist Career Outlook
Although the career outlook for biochemists is average, the future need for biochemical advancements will keep this occupation in demand. It may be possible that budget constraints can negatively affect the role of a biochemist; however, the future of biochemical research is promising and necessary. The aging population will look for ways to improve their quality of life and combat age-related diseases. Many industries look to biochemists to solve genetic, medicinal, reproductive, and infectious problems.
The best job prospects for researchers are for small pharmaceutical companies. Other industries that will likely see growth are agriculture and livestock, alternative energy and fuel, and environmental protections.
Biochemists who work in a research capacity must have a Ph.D. Many entry-level positions exist for individuals with a bachelor’s or master’s degree; however, the majority of work for this occupation depends upon training produced through doctoral study.
Step 1: Obtain a bachelor’s degree. Individuals who wish to work as biochemists should pursue an undergraduate degree in biochemistry or a related program. To prepare, students should make sure to take courses in mathematics, computer science, and other sciences, such as physics, chemistry, and biology. In addition to this coursework, students should be sure to obtain plenty of laboratory experience, not only for a future career but as preparation for a graduate degree.
Entry-level employment can be procured with a bachelor’s degree, such as laboratory work at educational institutions or internships with pharmaceutical and medical companies.
Step 2: Obtain a graduate degree. A master’s degree in biochemistry or biophysics can aid individuals in practical applications. It is in these level courses that students learn to be practitioners. It is possible to obtain entry-level employment as a laboratory technician with a master’s degree; although, most research positions require a Ph.D.
In a Ph.D. program, students will learn more about research and bioinformatics. This training helps individuals conduct empirical studies and compare data with other valid research. It is through this academic training that students learn the importance of credibility, reliability, and validity. In addition to this training, students will also learn about toxicology, genetics, proteomics, and other biological processes.
Step 3: Obtain work experience and training. Upon completion of a Ph.D. program, candidates will continue to learn via postdoctoral laboratory work, typically under the supervision of more experienced scientists. Once an individual has published a few research documents, he or she may obtain fulltime and permanent employment.