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Become A Research Biochemist

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Working As A Research Biochemist

  • Getting Information
  • Analyzing Data or Information
  • Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events
  • Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge
  • Documenting/Recording Information
  • Mostly Sitting

  • $82,000

    Average Salary

What Does A Research Biochemist Do

Medical scientists conduct research aimed at improving overall human health. They often use clinical trials and other investigative methods to reach their findings.

Duties

Medical scientists typically do the following:

  • Design and conduct studies that investigate both human diseases and methods to prevent and treat them
  • Prepare and analyze medical samples and data to investigate causes and treatment of toxicity, pathogens, or chronic diseases
  • Standardize drug potency, doses, and methods to allow for the mass manufacturing and distribution of drugs and medicinal compounds
  • Create and test medical devices
  • Develop programs that improve health outcomes, in partnership with health departments, industry personnel, and physicians
  • Write research grant proposals and apply for funding from government agencies and private funding sources
  • Follow procedures to avoid contamination and maintain safety

Many medical scientists form hypotheses and develop experiments, with little supervision. They often lead teams of technicians, and sometimes students, who perform support tasks. For example, a medical scientist working in a university laboratory may have undergraduate assistants take measurements and make observations for the scientist’s research.

Medical scientists study the causes of diseases and other health problems. For example, a medical scientist who does cancer research might put together a combination of drugs that could slow the cancer’s progress. A clinical trial may be done to test the drugs. A medical scientist may work with licensed physicians to test the new combination on patients who are willing to participate in the study.

In a clinical trial, patients agree to help determine if a particular drug, a combination of drugs, or some other medical intervention works. Without knowing which group they are in, patients in a drug-related clinical trial receive either the trial drug or a placebo—a pill or injection that looks like the trial drug but does not actually contain the drug.

Medical scientists analyze the data from all the patients in the clinical trial, to see how the trial drug performed. They compare the results with those obtained from the control group that took the placebo, and they analyze the attributes of the participants. After they complete their analysis, medical scientists may write about and publish their findings.

Medical scientists do research both to develop new treatments and to try to prevent health problems. For example, they may study the link between smoking and lung cancer or between diet and diabetes.

Medical scientists who work in private industry usually have to research the topics that benefit their company the most, rather than investigate their own interests. Although they may not have the pressure of writing grant proposals to get money for their research, they may have to explain their research plans to nonscientist managers or executives.

Medical scientists usually specialize in an area of research. The following are examples of types of medical scientists:

Cancer researchers research the causes of cancers, as well as ways to prevent and cure cancers. They may specialize in one or more types of cancer.

Clinical and medical informaticians develop new ways to use large datasets. They look for explanations of health outcomes through the statistical analysis of data.

Clinical pharmacologists research, develop, and test current and new drugs. They investigate the full effects that drugs have on human health. Their interests may range from understanding specific molecules to the effects that drugs have on large populations.

Gerontologists study the changes that people go through as they get older. Medical scientists who specialize in this field seek to understand the biology of aging and investigate ways to improve the quality of our later years. 

Immunochemists investigate the reactions and effects that various chemicals and drugs have on the human immune system.

Neuroscientists study the brain and nervous system.

Research histologists have a specific skill set that is used to study human tissue. They investigate how tissue grows, heals, and dies, and may investigate grafting techniques that can help people who have experienced serious injury.  

Serologists research fluids found in the human body, such as blood and saliva. Applied serologists often work in forensic science. For more information on forensic science, see the profile on forensic science technicians.

Toxicologists research the harmful effects of drugs, household chemicals, and other potentially poisonous substances. They seek to ensure the safety of drugs, radiation, and other treatments by investigating safe dosage limits.

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How To Become A Research Biochemist

Medical scientists typically have a Ph.D., usually in biology or a related life science. Some medical scientists get a medical degree instead of a Ph.D., but prefer doing research to practicing as a physician.

Education

Students planning careers as medical scientists typically pursue a bachelor’s degree in biology, chemistry, or a related field. Undergraduate students benefit from taking a broad range of classes, including life sciences, physical sciences, and math. Students also typically take courses that develop communication and writing skills, because they must learn to write grants effectively and publish research findings.

After students have completed their undergraduate studies, they typically enter Ph.D. programs. Dual-degree programs are available that pair a Ph.D. with a range of specialized medical degrees. A few degree programs that are commonly paired with Ph.D. studies are Medical Doctor (M.D.), Doctor of Dental Surgery (D.D.S.), Doctor of Dental Medicine (D.M.D.), and Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (D.O.). Whereas Ph.D. studies focus on research methods, such as project design and data interpretation, students in dual-degree programs learn both the clinical skills needed to be a physician and the research skills needed to be a scientist.

Graduate programs emphasize both laboratory work and original research. These programs offer prospective medical scientists the opportunity to develop their experiments and, sometimes, to supervise undergraduates. Ph.D. programs culminate in a thesis that the candidate presents before a committee of professors. Students may specialize in a particular field, such as gerontology, neurology, or cancer.

Those who go to medical school spend most of the first 2 years in labs and classrooms, taking courses such as anatomy, biochemistry, physiology, pharmacology, psychology, microbiology, pathology, medical ethics, and medical law. They also learn how to record medical histories, examine patients, and diagnose illnesses. They may be required to participate in residency programs, meeting the same requirements that physicians and surgeons have to fulfill.

Medical scientists often continue their education with postdoctoral work. Postdoctoral work provides additional and more independent lab experience, including experience in specific processes and techniques such as gene splicing, which is transferable to other research projects.

Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations

Medical scientists primarily conduct research and typically do not need licenses or certifications. However, those who administer drugs, gene therapy, or otherwise practice medicine on patients in clinical trials or a private practice need a license to practice as a physician.

Important Qualities

Communication skills. Communication is critical, because medical scientists must be able to explain their conclusions. In addition, medical scientists write grant proposals, because grants often are required to fund their research.

Critical-thinking skills. Medical scientists must use their expertise to determine the best method for solving a specific research question.

Data-analysis skills. Medical scientists use statistical techniques, so that they can properly quantify and analyze health research questions.

Decisionmaking skills. Medical scientists must determine what research questions to ask, how best to investigate the questions, and what data will best answer the questions.

Observation skills. Medical scientists conduct experiments that require precise observation of samples and other health data. Any mistake could lead to inconclusive or misleading results.

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Average Length of Employment
Research Biologist 4.1 years
Research Scientist 3.8 years
Biochemist 2.8 years
Research Associate 2.6 years
Research Fellow 2.4 years
Top Careers Before Research Biochemist
Biochemist 13.1%
Scientist 5.1%
Chemist 3.7%
Researcher 2.8%
Top Careers After Research Biochemist
Scientist 6.6%
Director 6.2%
Manager 3.5%
Principal 2.4%
Associate 2.1%
Chemist 2.1%

Do you work as a Research Biochemist?

Average Yearly Salary
$82,000
View Detailed Salary Report
$51,000
Min 10%
$82,000
Median 50%
$82,000
Median 50%
$82,000
Median 50%
$82,000
Median 50%
$82,000
Median 50%
$82,000
Median 50%
$82,000
Median 50%
$133,000
Max 90%
Best Paying Company
Merck & Co.
Highest Paying City
San Francisco, CA
Highest Paying State
Connecticut
Avg Experience Level
5.1 years
How much does a Research Biochemist make at top companies?
The national average salary for a Research Biochemist in the United States is $82,722 per year or $40 per hour. Those in the bottom 10 percent make under $51,000 a year, and the top 10 percent make over $133,000.

Real Research Biochemist Salaries

Job Title Company Location Start Date Salary
Managing Biochemist Proteomics and Special R&D Pro Immunexpress Inc. Seattle, WA May 22, 2014 $160,000
Senior Research Biochemist Merck & Co., Inc. Point, PA Dec 31, 2010 $106,226 -
$122,020
Senior Research Biochemist Abbott Laboratories Park City, IL May 16, 2011 $101,149
Managing Biochemist Protemics and Special R&D Proj Immunexpress Inc. Seattle, WA May 23, 2012 $94,598
Senior Research Biochemist Abbott Laboratories Park City, IL May 16, 2010 $90,880
Senior Research Biochemist Merck & Co., Inc. Rahway, NJ Jul 15, 2012 $80,870 -
$122,020
Senior Research Biochemist Merck & Co., Inc. Point, PA Sep 26, 2010 $79,581 -
$122,020
Senior Research Biochemist Merck & Co., Inc. Summit, NJ Oct 01, 2011 $78,125
Research Biochemist Akrivis Technologies Cambridge, MA Sep 22, 2011 $75,000
Analytical Research Biochemist Environmental Micro Analysis, Inc. Woodland, CA Aug 08, 2016 $74,152
Assistant Research Biochemist University of California, San Francisco San Francisco, CA Dec 01, 2011 $65,400
Assistant Research Biochemist University of California, San Francisco San Francisco, CA Jan 01, 2012 $63,600
Assistant Research Biochemist University of California, San Francisco San Francisco, CA Apr 01, 2012 $63,600
Research Biochemist Biovolutions Inc. Medford, MA Aug 01, 2010 $62,902
Research Biochemist Sepax Technologies, Inc. Newark, DE Oct 01, 2015 $57,121
Associate Research Biochemist Southern Research Institute (SRI) Birmingham, AL Oct 15, 2010 $52,020
Research Biochemist Kamtek, Inc. Gaithersburg, MD Sep 18, 2011 $52,000
Research Biochemist Aptinyx Inc. Evanston, IL Jan 09, 2016 $50,000

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Top Skills for A Research Biochemist

  1. Assay Development
  2. Protein
  3. Hplc
You can check out examples of real life uses of top skills on resumes here:
  • Produced proteins in large scale for structure determination, HTS screens and in-vitro assay developments.
  • Designed and developed a novel cell pure filter aid for large scale protein purification and production for pharmaceutical and industrial applications.
  • Designed HPLC protein purification procedure to produce high purity protein to identify new chemical entities in a critical assay.
  • Developed and validated method and process for preparation of water-soluble self-assembly DNA-CNT hybrid.
  • Performed RT-PCR assay development and validation.

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Average Salary:

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Top 10 Best States for Research Biochemists

  1. New Jersey
  2. Delaware
  3. Connecticut
  4. North Carolina
  5. Pennsylvania
  6. Maryland
  7. California
  8. Massachusetts
  9. Arizona
  10. Rhode Island
  • (339 jobs)
  • (29 jobs)
  • (81 jobs)
  • (479 jobs)
  • (268 jobs)
  • (195 jobs)
  • (1,411 jobs)
  • (798 jobs)
  • (277 jobs)
  • (22 jobs)

Research Biochemist Demographics

Gender

Male

47.1%

Female

38.0%

Unknown

15.0%
Ethnicity

White

54.9%

Asian

19.8%

Hispanic or Latino

12.1%

Black or African American

10.0%

Unknown

3.2%
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Foreign Languages Spoken

Spanish

40.0%

French

26.7%

German

13.3%

Japanese

6.7%

Korean

6.7%

Italian

6.7%
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Research Biochemist Education

Schools

Lehigh University

12.7%

Pennsylvania State University

9.5%

New York University

6.3%

Johns Hopkins University

6.3%

Cornell University

6.3%

University of Illinois University Administration

6.3%

Temple University

4.8%

University of California - San Diego

4.8%

San Francisco State University

4.8%

Oklahoma State University

4.8%

Rowan University

4.8%

University of Kentucky

3.2%

Boston University

3.2%

Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey

3.2%

University of California - Santa Barbara

3.2%

Western Michigan University

3.2%

Michigan State University

3.2%

University of Utah

3.2%

Purdue University

3.2%

University of Georgia

3.2%
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Majors

Biochemistry, Biophysics, Molecular Biology

34.1%

Biology

15.9%

Chemistry

12.6%

Business

6.6%

Physiology And Anatomy

4.4%

Microbiology

3.3%

Medicine

2.7%

Pharmacy

2.2%

Pharmacology

2.2%

Biomedical Sciences

2.2%

Cell Biology And Anatomical Science

2.2%

Medical Technician

1.6%

Marketing

1.6%

Botany

1.6%

Public Health

1.1%

General Education, Specific Areas

1.1%

Law

1.1%

Ecology, Population Biology, And Epidemiology

1.1%

Biotechnology

1.1%

Project Management

1.1%
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Degrees

Masters

37.2%

Doctorate

24.7%

Bachelors

23.3%

Other

9.8%

Certificate

3.7%

Associate

1.4%
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