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Working As A Biochemist

  • Analyzing Data or Information
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Getting Information
  • Processing Information
  • Making Decisions and Solving Problems
  • Make Decisions

  • $73,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Biochemist Do

Biochemists and biophysicists study the chemical and physical principles of living things and of biological processes, such as cell development, growth, heredity, and disease.

Duties

Biochemists and biophysicists typically do the following:

  • Plan and conduct complex projects in basic and applied research
  • Manage laboratory teams and monitor the quality of their work
  • Isolate, analyze, and synthesize proteins, fats, DNA, and other molecules
  • Research the effects of substances such as drugs, hormones, and nutrients on tissues and biological processes
  • Keep up with current knowledge by reviewing the findings of other researchers and by attending conferences
  • Prepare technical reports, research papers, and recommendations based on their research findings
  • Present research findings to scientists, engineers, and other colleagues

Biochemists and biophysicists use advanced technologies, such as lasers and fluorescent microscopes, to conduct scientific experiments and analysis. They also use x rays and computer modeling software to determine the three-dimensional structures of proteins and other molecules. Biochemists and biophysicists involved in biotechnology research use chemical enzymes to synthesize recombinant DNA.

Biochemists and biophysicists work in basic and applied research. Basic research is conducted without any immediately known application; the goal is to expand human knowledge. Applied research is directed toward solving a particular problem.

Biochemists involved in basic research may study the molecular mechanisms by which cells feed, divide, and grow. Others study the evolution of plants and animals, to understand how genetic traits are carried through successive generations.

Biophysicists may conduct basic research to learn how nerve cells communicate or how proteins work. Biochemists and biophysicists who conduct basic research typically must submit written grant proposals to colleges and universities, private foundations, and the federal government to get the money they need for their research.

Biochemists and biophysicists who conduct applied research attempt to develop products and processes that improve people’s lives. For example, in medicine, biochemists and biophysicists develop tests used to detect infections, genetic disorders, and other diseases. They also develop new drugs and medications, such as those used to treat cancer or Alzheimer’s disease.

Applied research in biochemistry and biophysics has many uses outside of medicine. In agriculture, biochemists and biophysicists research ways to genetically engineer crops so that they will be resistant to drought, disease, insects, and other afflictions. Biochemists and biophysicists also investigate alternative fuels, such as biofuels—renewable energy sources from plants. In addition, they develop ways to protect the environment and clean up pollution.

Many people with a biochemistry background become professors and teachers. For more information, see the profile on postsecondary teachers.

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How To Become A Biochemist

Biochemists and biophysicists need a Ph.D. to work in independent research and development positions. Most Ph.D. holders begin their careers in temporary postdoctoral research positions. Bachelor’s and master’s degree holders are qualified for some entry-level positions in biochemistry and biophysics. 

Education

Most Ph.D. holders in biochemistry and biophysics have bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry or a related field, such as biology, chemistry, physics, or engineering. High school students can prepare for college by taking classes related to the natural and physical sciences, as well as math and computer science.

Students in bachelor’s degree programs in biochemistry or a related field typically take courses in mathematics, physics, and computer science in addition to courses in the biological and chemical sciences. Courses in mathematics and computer science are important for biochemists and biophysicists, who must be able to do complex data analysis. Most bachelor’s degree programs include required laboratory coursework. Additional laboratory coursework is excellent preparation for graduate school or for getting an entry-level position in industry. Students can gain valuable laboratory experience by working for a university’s laboratories. Occasionally, they can also gain such experience through internships with prospective employers, such as pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturers.

Ph.D. programs typically include advanced coursework in topics such as toxicology, genetics, and proteomics (the study of proteins). Several graduate programs include courses in bioinformatics, which involves using computers to study and analyze large amounts of biological data. Graduate students also spend a lot of time conducting laboratory research. Study at the master’s level is generally considered good preparation for those interested in doing hands-on laboratory work. Ph.D.-level studies provide additional training in the planning and execution of research projects.

Training

Most biochemistry and biophysics Ph.D. holders begin their careers in temporary postdoctoral research positions. During their postdoctoral appointments, they work with experienced scientists as they continue to learn about their specialties or develop a broader understanding of related areas of research.

Postdoctoral positions frequently offer the opportunity to publish research findings. A solid record of published research is essential to getting a permanent college or university faculty position.

Important Qualities

Analytical skills. Biochemists and biophysicists must be able to conduct scientific experiments and analyses with accuracy and precision.

Communication skills. Biochemists and biophysicists have to write and publish reports and research papers, give presentations of their findings, and communicate with team members.

Critical-thinking skills. Biochemists and biophysicists draw conclusions from experimental results through sound reasoning and judgment.

Interpersonal skills. Biochemists and biophysicists typically work on interdisciplinary research teams and need to work well with others toward a common goal. Many serve as team leaders and must be able to motivate and direct other team members.

Math skills. Biochemists and biophysicists use complex equations and formulas regularly in their work; they also need a broad understanding of mathematics, including calculus and statistics.

Perseverance. Biochemists and biophysicists need to be thorough in their research and in their approach to problems. Scientific research involves substantial trial and error, and biochemists and biophysicists must not become discouraged in their work.

Problem-solving skills. Biochemists and biophysicists use scientific experiments and analysis to find solutions to complex scientific problems.

Time-management skills. Biochemists and biophysicists usually need to meet deadlines when conducting research. They must be able to manage time and prioritize tasks efficiently while maintaining their quality of work.

Advancement

Some biochemists and biophysicists become natural sciences managers. Those who pursue management careers spend much of their time on administrative tasks, such as preparing budgets and schedules.

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Do you work as a Biochemist?

Average Yearly Salary
$73,000
Show Salaries
$48,000
Min 10%
$73,000
Median 50%
$73,000
Median 50%
$73,000
Median 50%
$73,000
Median 50%
$73,000
Median 50%
$73,000
Median 50%
$73,000
Median 50%
$112,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Cedars-Sinai Medical Center
Highest Paying City
Newark, NJ
Highest Paying State
New Jersey
Avg Experience Level
2.8 years
How much does a Biochemist make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Biochemist in the United States is $74,038 per year or $36 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $48,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $112,000.

The largest raises come from changing jobs.

See what's out there.

Real Biochemist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Biochemists and Biophysicists Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Inc. Jan 30, 2013 $130,029
Biochemists and Biophysicists Twist Bioscience Corporation Apr 28, 2014 $130,000
Biochemists and Biophysicists Novartis Institutes for Biomedical Research, Inc. Feb 22, 2013 $129,000
Biochemists and Biophysicists Genentech Feb 05, 2013 $128,000
Biochemist, Molecular/Cellular Pfizer Inc. Aug 31, 2013 $126,300
Biochemist Scientist Zymergen, Inc. Sep 28, 2016 $123,000
Biochemist Scientist Zymergen, Inc. Aug 07, 2016 $123,000
Biochemists and Biophysicists Millennium Pharmaceuticals, Inc. Sep 16, 2013 $121,451
Biochemist Life Cycle Associates Aug 25, 2014 $120,640
Biochemist Life Cycle Associates Sep 05, 2013 $120,640
Biochemists and Biophysicists Sigma-Aldrich Corporation Jan 28, 2013 $120,603
Biochemists and Biophysicists Amyris, Inc. May 09, 2014 $120,000
Biochemists and Biophysicists Medimmune, LLC May 19, 2014 $119,351
Biochemists and Biophysicists Gilead Sciences, Inc. Aug 19, 2014 $118,630
Biochemists and Biophysicists Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center Jun 13, 2014 $81,578
Biochemists and Biophysicists Pfizer Inc. Sep 20, 2013 $81,200
Analytical Biochemist Dow Agrosciences, LLC Aug 27, 2013 $81,162 -
$121,452
Biochemists and Biophysicists Simulations Plus, Inc. Apr 07, 2014 $81,000 -
$101,000
Biochemist Kelly Services, Inc. Jun 10, 2013 $80,475
Biochemists and Biophysicists Allergan Sales, LLC (Subsidiary of Allergan, Inc.) Sep 23, 2013 $80,213
Biochemists and Biophysicists Sunrise Pharmaceutical Inc. Jan 27, 2014 $64,000
Biochemists and Biophysicists Abbott Laboratories May 16, 2013 $64,000 -
$90,000
Biochemist 1 Siemens Healthcare Diagnostics Inc. Mar 17, 2016 $64,000
Biochemist Proteogenomics Research Institute for Systems Medicine Jan 07, 2016 $64,000
Biochemists and Biophysicists Allergan Sales, LLC (Subsidiary of Allergan, Inc.) Apr 05, 2013 $63,963
Biochemists and Biophysicists Medimmune, LLC Jul 21, 2014 $63,763
Biochemists and Biophysicists Medimmune, LLC Jun 18, 2013 $63,763
Biochemists and Biophysicists QPS, LLC Jun 11, 2014 $63,648

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Top Skills for A Biochemist

  1. Assay Development
  2. Protein
  3. Lab Equipment
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Acted as Project Manager to develop monoclonal antibodies for various Diagnostic assay developmental teams.
  • Adapted and optimized over 20 protein purification procedures in the research phase to functional production procedures meeting quality and yield specifications.
  • Collaborated with Automation and IT to develop, maintain and improve over 10 custom- designed lab equipment modules.
  • Designed, executed and analyzed experimental data; managed and maintained cell culture facility.
  • Developed indirect competitive ELISA method and trained other scientists.

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Top 10 Best States for Biochemists

  1. New Jersey
  2. Rhode Island
  3. Delaware
  4. Connecticut
  5. Massachusetts
  6. New Hampshire
  7. Nevada
  8. Maryland
  9. Virginia
  10. West Virginia
  • (68 jobs)
  • (5 jobs)
  • (10 jobs)
  • (23 jobs)
  • (260 jobs)
  • (5 jobs)
  • (4 jobs)
  • (121 jobs)
  • (41 jobs)
  • (8 jobs)

Biochemist Demographics

Gender

Male

47.7%

Female

42.1%

Unknown

10.2%
Ethnicity

White

49.4%

Asian

22.6%

Hispanic or Latino

13.9%

Black or African American

8.7%

Unknown

5.4%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

23.7%

Mandarin

13.2%

Chinese

10.5%

Russian

10.5%

Japanese

5.3%

Armenian

5.3%

Polish

5.3%

Swedish

2.6%

Uyghur

2.6%

Turkish

2.6%

Greek

2.6%

French

2.6%

Tagalog

2.6%

Cantonese

2.6%

Thai

2.6%

Ukrainian

2.6%

Italian

2.6%
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Biochemist Education

Schools

University of Delaware

9.1%

Colorado State University

9.1%

University of the Sciences

7.6%

University of California - San Diego

7.6%

University of California - Los Angeles

6.1%

Drexel University

6.1%

Pennsylvania State University

6.1%

Texas Tech University

4.5%

San Diego State University

4.5%

Northeastern University

4.5%

Purdue University

4.5%

New Jersey Institute of Technology

4.5%

Indiana University South Bend

4.5%

University of Connecticut

3.0%

University of Florida

3.0%

Point Loma Nazarene University

3.0%

Washington University in Saint Louis

3.0%

Kalamazoo Valley Community College

3.0%

Illinois State University

3.0%

Arizona State University

3.0%
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Majors

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

34.9%

Biology

17.3%

Chemistry

11.5%

Biotechnology

4.7%

Microbiology

3.2%

Business

2.9%

Cell Biology And Anatomical Science

2.9%

Physiology And Anatomy

2.5%

Pharmacy

2.5%

Medicine

2.2%

Biomedical Engineering

2.2%

Pharmacology

2.2%

Management

1.8%

Clinical/Medical Laboratory Science

1.8%

Medical Technician

1.4%

Biomedical Sciences

1.4%

Nursing

1.4%

Genetics

1.1%

Ecology, Population Biology, And Epidemiology

1.1%

Economics

1.1%
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Degrees

Bachelors

45.4%

Masters

34.3%

Doctorate

13.4%

Certificate

4.2%

Associate

2.3%

Diploma

0.3%
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