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Become a Biochemist



A biochemist is a scientist who studies the chemical composition and processes of living organisms at the molecular and cellular levels. In this profession, your work can encompass reproduction, metabolism, growth and death. In addition to breaking organisms down to their constituent chemistry, you might examine the effects of nutrients, hormones, drugs and other substances on life processes. Possible duties might include examining the configuration and function of proteins, cell membranes and organelles, developing new tests and techniques to study cells and testing new pharmaceutical candidates. You could also manage and monitor a lab team, write research reports and submit reports for publication.

Career Requirements

Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Many careers in the biological sciences, especially in research or academia, require a doctoral degree, so a bachelor's degree in a relevant science major is a necessary foundation for an aspiring biochemist. Schools offer concentrations in biochemistry, molecular biology, chemistry and biology. Biochemistry majors may take course topics that include organic chemistry, genetics and cells. In addition to having a strong science background, students need to develop skills in computer science, engineering and math.

Pursue a Graduate Degree

A PhD is typically required to work in this field, particularly in research or academia; however, some entry-level positions require only a bachelor's or master's degree. Colleges and universities have Master of Science in Biochemistry programs, and some master's degree programs provide students with a dual concentration, such as biochemistry and biophysics. Curricula usually require graduate students to conduct individual research. Students then use this research to develop their thesis, which many schools require for graduation.

While a master's degree may also be enough to work as a research technician, advanced research and academic faculty positions typically require applicants to hold a doctoral degree. Graduate students can find Doctor of Philosophy in Biochemistry programs. All doctoral candidates must complete a dissertation based on their original research. They may also take advanced courses that discuss metabolism, molecular biology and cell biology. PhD holders commonly begin their careers with postdoctoral research positions lasting 2-3 years.

Gain Experience

Once earning a PhD or master's degree, biochemists will begin to see their earning potential increase as they accrue more experience in their chosen field. Some biochemists may choose to specialize in a specific niche of their discipline. Alternatively, the advanced education required makes biochemists strong candidates for managerial or upper-tier administrative roles at their respective universities or companies.