Biochemists and Biophysicists

Career, Salary and Education Information

Top 3 Biochemist Jobs

  • Molecular Biologist/Biochemist - Scientist - Astrix Technology Group - Kenilworth, NJ

    Experience in

  • Biochemist - III (Senior) - Zillion Technologies Inc - Elkton, VA

    The nature of the work performed by the incumbent will normally be the solution of specific aspects of complex research problems. • The problems

  • Biochemist - Hunter International - Research Triangle Park, NC

    In addition, the Scientist, Protein Biochemist will assist in the preparation of the Final Reports for the safety studies conducted. Tasks Include

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Top 3 Biophysicist Jobs

  • Tenure - Track Biophysicist - Boise State University Alumni - Boise, ID

    Required Qualifications: The Department of Physics at Boise State University seeks an experimental biophysicistwith a PhD in physics or a closely

  • Postdoctoral Researcher-Photochemist/Biophysicist - National Renewable Energy Lab - Golden, CO

    NREL emphasizes a well-integrated, interdisciplinary team approach to addressing the unique, fundamental research challenges for developing market

  • Assistant/Associate/Full Professor - Biophysics - Auburn University - Auburn, AL

    As part of this partnership, the Department of Biological Sciences hired two tenure-track biophysicists in 2017. This is an announcement for a

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What Biochemists and Biophysicists Do[About this section] [To Top]

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 of Biochemists and Biophysicists

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.

Work Environment for Biochemists and Biophysicists[About this section] [To Top]

Biochemists and biophysicists hold about 34,100 jobs. The industries that employ the most biochemists and biophysicists are as follows:

Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 47%
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 16
Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing 14
Basic chemical manufacturing 2
Management, scientific, and technical consulting services 2

Biochemists and biophysicists typically work in laboratories and offices, to conduct experiments and analyze the results. Those who work with dangerous organisms or toxic substances in the laboratory must follow safety procedures to avoid contamination.

Most biochemists and biophysicists work on teams. Research projects are often interdisciplinary, and biochemists and biophysicists frequently work with experts in other fields, such as physics, chemistry, computer science, and engineering. Those working in biological research generate large amounts of data. They collaborate with specialists called bioinformaticians, who use their knowledge of statistics, mathematics, engineering, and computer science to mine datasets for correlations that might explain biological phenomena.

Some biotech companies need researchers to help sell their products. These products often rely on very complex technologies, and having an expert explain them to potential customers might be necessary. This role for researchers may be more common in smaller companies, where workers often fulfill multiple roles, such as working in research and in sales. Working in sales may require a substantial amount of travel. For more information on sales representatives, see the profile on wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives.

Biochemist and Biophysicist Work Schedules

Most biochemists and biophysicists work full time and keep regular hours. They may occasionally have to work additional hours to meet project deadlines or to perform time-sensitive laboratory experiments.

How to Become a Biochemist or Biophysicist[About this section] [To Top]

Get the education you need: Find schools for Biochemists and Biophysicists near you!

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.

Biochemist and Biophysicist 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.

Biochemist and Biophysicist 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 for Biochemists and Biophysicists

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 for Biochemists and Biophysicists

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.

Biochemist and Biophysicist Salaries[About this section] [More salary/earnings info] [To Top]

The median annual wage for biochemists and biophysicists is $82,150. The median wage is the wage at which half the workers in an occupation earned more than that amount and half earned less. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $44,640, and the highest 10 percent earned more than $153,810.

The median annual wages for biochemists and biophysicists in the top industries in which they work are as follows:

Management, scientific, and technical consulting services $105,430
Research and development in the physical, engineering, and life sciences 87,650
Pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturing 77,960
Basic chemical manufacturing 74,840
Colleges, universities, and professional schools; state, local, and private 55,560

Most biochemists and biophysicists work full time and keep regular hours. Some positions require additional hours.

Job Outlook for Biochemists and Biophysicists[About this section] [To Top]

Employment of biochemists and biophysicists is projected to grow 8 percent through 2024, about as fast as the average for all occupations. More biochemists and biophysicists are expected to be needed to do basic research that increases scientific knowledge and to research and develop biological products and processes that improve people’s lives. However, budgetary concerns may limit researchers’ access to funding for basic research.

The large baby-boom population is aging, and that, along with the demand for lifesaving new drugs and procedures to cure and to prevent disease, likely will drive demand for biochemists and biophysicists involved in biomedical research. For example, biochemists will be needed to conduct genetic research and to develop new medicines and treatments that are used to fight genetic disorders and diseases such as cancer. They will also be needed to develop new tests used to detect diseases and other illnesses. Currently, it is the smaller pharmaceutical companies, rather than the large companies, that tend to do biomedical research. This state of affairs helps the larger companies avoid risks and costs.

Areas of research and development in biotechnology other than health also are expected to provide employment growth for biochemists and biophysicists. Greater demand for clean energy should increase the need for biochemists who research and develop alternative energy sources, such as biofuels. A growing population and rising food prices are expected to fuel the development of genetically engineered crops and livestock that provide greater yields and require fewer resources. Efforts to discover new and improved ways to clean up and preserve the environment will increase demand for biochemists and biophysicists as well.

Biochemists and Biophysicists Job Prospects

Biochemists and biophysicists involved in basic research should expect strong competition for permanent research and faculty positions at colleges and universities. Biochemists and biophysicists with postdoctoral experience who have had research articles published in scientific journals should have the best prospects for these positions. Many biochemists and biophysicists work through multiple postdoctoral appointments before getting a permanent position in academia.

A large portion of basic research in biochemistry and biophysics is dependent on funding from the federal government through the National Institutes of Health and the National Science Foundation. Therefore, federal budgetary decisions will have a large impact on job prospects in basic research from year to year. Typically, there is strong competition among biochemists and biophysicists for research funding.

Most applied research projects that involve biochemists and biophysicists require the expertise of scientists in multiple fields, such as microbiology, medicine, and chemistry. Biochemists and biophysicists who have a broad understanding of molecular biology and its relationship to other disciplines should have the best job opportunities.

Those who gain laboratory experience through coursework or employment during their undergraduate studies will be the best prepared and have the best chances of gaining employment or entering graduate-level programs.

Employment projections data for Biochemists and Biophysicists, 2014-24
Occupational Title Employment, 2014 Projected Employment, 2024 Change, 2014-24
Percent Numeric
Biochemists and biophysicists 34,100 36,900 8 2,800

*Some content used by permission of the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor.

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