How to Become a Biochemist


If you want to become a biochemist, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for you. If the following description sounds like you, then you're likely well-suited for this field:


Those who become biochemists are strong in academics and are emotionally stable, as this is required to complete short and long-term tasks. They must be interested in the biological processes in micro-organisms, plants, and animals, and have an aptitude in a variety of sciences, such as biology, chemistry and physics.


Biochemists must also be manually dexterous in order to utilize specialized equipment and conduct experiments. They must be comfortable working in a laboratory setting, and communicating their findings and opinions to others.


Below we've outlined what you'll need to qualify for work in this field, and succeed when you get there. We've also included helpful information for this career, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, a list of possible employers and much more!



Educational Requirements

You'll likely need to begin by completing a Bachelor of Science (B.Sc.) degree in biochemistry or a related science such as chemistry, biology, physics or microbiology. A bachelor’s degree in an area related to biochemistry not only serves as an excellent way to prepare for an advanced degree in biochemistry, it also opens the door to entry-level careers in biochemistry, such as laboratory assistant.


If you want to work as a consultant in sectors such as environmental, pharmaceutical, legal, agriculture and others, you will need a Master’s degree in Biochemistry. To work in research and university teaching positions a PhD in Biochemistry is needed. Many biochemists also choose to continue their training as post-doctoral fellows after receiving their Ph.Ds.


Success Tip: If you wish to move into a management position later in your career, may find that courses in economics and management can be beneficial to take.





General Job Description

In general, biochemists are responsible for gathering and analyzing data in order to study the biological processes in micro-organisms, plants, and animals. Biochemists often work in interdisciplinary teams and may work in a variety of areas, including research, teaching, product development and patent law.


Some biochemists are responsible for studying how living organisms function at the subcellular and molecular levels, while others apply knowledge of these principles and processes to a number of industries, including agriculture, medicine, energy, and manufacturing. 



Typical Job Duties

• Study chemical processes of living organisms

• Conduct research to identify actions of foods, drugs, hormones, and other substances on tissues and the vital processes of living organisms

• Determine the effect that hormones, vitamins, allergens, minerals, and enzymes have on bodily functions

• Conduct research into the chemistry of cells and blood corpuscles

• Examine chemical aspects of formation of antibodies

• Study the chemistry of living processes, such as mechanisms of development of normal and abnormal cells, breathing and digestion

• Study living energy changes, such as growth, aging, and death

• May liaise with chemists to prepare pharmaceutical compounds



Who Employs Biochemists?

Biochemists can be employed by two types of organizations; those that are involved with the study of the chemical reactions that regulate life and the composition of living organisms at the molecular level; and those that apply the principles of biochemistry for the development of medicine, commercial products, and other purposes. Organizations that hire biochemists may include:


• Universities, including medical schools

• Provincial/state and federal government departments

• Biotechnology companies

• Pharmaceutical companies

• Agrochemical companies

• Forensic labs

• Food and beverage producing and packaging companies

• Conservation and other non-profit organizations

• Cosmetic companies

• Oil, natural gas and mining companies 



How Much Do They Earn?

The salary level of biochemists can vary depending on factors such as their level of experience, their level of education, their specific job responsibilities, where they work, and many others.


Biochemist Salary Canada (Alberta figures only): According to the 2016 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey (the latest figures available at the time of writing - June 14'19), Albertans working as part of the Chemists occupational group earn an average salary of $79,450 per year. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories. 


Biochemist Salary United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median salary level of workers in the Biochemists and Biophysicists occupational group is $79,390 per year. 





Getting Valuable Work Experience as a Student

As many jobs in biochemistry are highly competitive, it is extremely important to acquire practical experience during your undergraduate and graduate years.


Most university departments offer a number of summer job opportunities for research assistants. There may also be similar openings for summer students in government agencies and private industry. Be sure to ask your school’s career resources counselor to give you information about any such opportunities.


These opportunities not only provide you with valuable work experience, they allow you to network and get your foot in the door with an employer. This will be extremely useful when you apply for graduate school or a permanent job.



Work Environment in This Profession

The work settings, conditions and duties of biochemists can vary greatly from one job or employer to the next. Below are examples of the primary types of settings for biochemist careers:


Classroom: Biochemists working in classrooms typically conduct lectures, grade papers and advise students. They have working hours that can fluctuate from very few hours a week to a very heavy workload. They may work normal weekday working hours with extra hours put in for preparing lesson plans, grading papers and performing other duties during evenings and weekends. Some biochemists teaching in universities and colleges may teach classes exclusively, or they may be involved in research as well.


Laboratory: Biochemists that work in laboratories spend the majority of their time conducting, documenting and analyzing research. Working in a laboratory typically involves working with hazardous organic materials and inorganic chemicals. These biochemists usually work during normal weekday hours.


Industrial/Field: Biochemists that develop commercial or medicinal products in an industrial or field setting must adhere to health and safety precautions when working with contaminants such as chemicals, viruses or other biohazards. Thee biochemists typically work normal weekday working hours. Those that work in the field may be required to commute long distances to and from work, or may be required to be away from home for days, weeks or months at a time.



Job Postings - Current Opportunities

Our job board below has biochemist postings in your area of Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom or Australia, when available:




Similar Career Profiles in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to biochemist, as they may involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


• Bio-Analyst

• Biologist

• Biophysicist

• Chemist

• Organic Chemist



References for This Career Guide

Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career in this field.


Occupations in Alberta:Biochemist.” (March 31, 2019). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved October 27, 2019.

Life, Physical, and Social Science:Biochemists and Biophysicists.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved October 27, 2019.

Career Profiles:Biochemist.” (n.d.). ECO Canada website. Retrieved October 27, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Biochemist

Scholarships listed for majors that are relevant to becoming a biochemist can be found on our Biochemistry Scholarships page.


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Relevant Fields of Study

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for getting started in this field. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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