Biochemist Career Information

Biochemists study the processes of life. They're most commonly researchers, developing new materials and processes derived from their studies. Biochemistry is one of the "fashionable" sciences, derived from basic biology along with biophysics, and it's also a highly paid job with extraordinary career opportunities.

The Work Environment

As researchers, biochemists work in one of the most interesting, as well as one of the more arduous, areas of science. Research work is intensive study, but it involves huge volumes of data, collected from equally huge amounts of experimentation and research. 

This is a basic research process:

  1. Identifies the strains of bacteria required for the research. There may be dozens.
  2. Creates a series of cultures, sometimes hundreds.
  3. Finds a growth medium to produce enough of the bacteria for the necessary analyses.
  4. Applies a series of calculations to determine viable production rates. 
  5. Assesses quantity of bacteria in ratio to amount of enzyme required.
  6. Grows the cultures. 
  7. Identifies the most productive strain or strains of bacteria for use in the research.
  8. Conducts a test of the processes of enzyme extraction. 
  9. Identifies the best strain for extraction of the enzyme.
  10. Proceeds to stage 2, after successful extraction. 
  11. May or may not continue to grow the bacteria for further supplies of the enzyme. 

Literally hundreds or thousands of specific tests are conducted on the enzyme. The entire process is formally documented. Research must be validated, and scientific papers, some thousands of pages in length, may be created on one line of research.

Skills Required:

  • Biochemists must be effective communicators. Their work is detailed and involves high levels of verbal and terminological accuracy at all levels.
  • Good data management skills: The research data is vitally important, and its "number crunching" has a lot to do with verification of results and quantification of results. 
  • Excellent technical and lab skills: Quality of research is a benchmark requirement in biochemistry.

Wages: The median wage is between $90,000 up to $140,000. The hours worked depend on a project and research program times.

The Career Environment

In the US, there are relatively few biochemists, less than 50,000. Employment growth is slow and largely centered in research and pharmaceuticals. That means that career mobility is relatively easy in a growing area of science. Supply of local US graduates isn't keeping up with practical demand, and vacancies for biochemists are hard to fill. The result of that unsatisfactory situation is an "emerging" employment market, and should be considered likely to develop rapidly in the coming decade.