Science Specialty Seeks to Understand What We're Made Of
When you look at your child, you're probably not seeing a mass made up primarily of oxygen, carbon, hydrogen and nitrogen. If you're a biochemist, though, you're interested in the components of the living things in our world.
What Is Biochemistry?
Biochemistry is a branch of science that unites biology and chemistry. It is the study of what happens at the molecular level of living organisms. The field includes a range of subdisciplines such as genetics, microbiology, forensics, plant science and medicine. Research in biochemistry benefits a number of industries, from food and agriculture to cosmetics and pharmaceuticals.
Earning a Degree in Biochemistry
To earn a bachelor's degree in biochemistry, students typically complete core coursework in the first two years in biology, inorganic and organic chemistry and mathematics. As upper-division students, biochemistry majors choose electives according to their interests and to prepare for the job market or graduate school. Electives can include developmental biology, immunology, advanced organic chemistry, virology, plant and animal biochemistry and toxicology. Coursework includes lecture and laboratory classes. Successful students will develop a deeper understanding of biochemical processes, become proficient in laboratory techniques, be able to read and evaluate biochemistry literature and demonstrate the ability to present scientific data clearly through written and verbal means.
A bachelor's degree in biochemistry qualifies you for a position as a laboratory assistant or research assistant. The degree is also excellent preparation for admission to a professional school in a healthcare field, such as medicine, dentistry, veterinary medicine and pharmacy. With additional coursework in education, individuals with bachelor's degrees can teach science in middle and high schools.
Salaries for Biochemists
Salaries for biochemists average $44,859 to $59,326 but can vary widely by industry and region. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for biochemists is expected to be better than average through 2026. Job openings are dependent on geographic location and level of education earned. Work experience along with a bachelor's degree can help you advance in your career, but for better opportunities, including more responsibility and a higher salary, a master's degree is desirable. A Ph.D. in biochemistry will qualify you to direct research projects and lead research teams, with a commensurate boost in pay.
Biochemistry and Molecular Biology
Biochemistry and molecular biology are closely related fields. They both deal with processes that cannot be observed with the naked eye. Whereas biochemistry is concerned with chemical reactions, molecular biology is the study of the structures and functions of various cellular systems. Molecular biology is also closely related to the field of genetics.
What Is Biochemical Engineering?
Biochemical engineers are problem-solvers, translating knowledge and discoveries into practical applications that address challenges to human health and well-being. Biochemical engineers are involved in fields as diverse as medicine, nutrition, renewable energy and environmental pollution.
With a passion for science, curiosity about living organisms and a desire to make a difference, biochemists can find a wide range of opportunities to put their knowledge and skills to use.
- LiveScience: The Chemistry of Life—The Human Body
- Biochemical Society: What Is Biochemistry?
- University of Vermont: Undergraduate Program in Biochemistry
- University of Southern Mississippi: Biochemistry—What Can I Do With This Degree?
- News-Medical.net: What Is Molecular Biology?
- University College London: What Is Biochemical Engineering?
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Biochemists and Biophysicists
Denise Dayton, M.Ed., M.S. teaches career readiness and workplace success, along with other business courses, at a small college in New England.