How to Become a Biochemist
Biochemists analyze the chemical processes that function in living things and keep them alive. These scientists study various processes including metabolism and reproduction. Professionals in this area tend to work in the field of biotechnology, which aids the fields of medicine and agriculture. Becoming a biochemist takes a lot of hard work and long years of formal education and training, but with effort and dedication you can become a biochemist even if you didn’t start planning for a career in biochemistry in high school.
Preparing for a Career in Biochemistry in High School
Get a good foundation in the sciences.In high school, you should take classes in all the sciences that you can, especially the natural and physical sciences (like biology and chemistry). These classes will function as the basis of your professional learning in the future and will prepare you to begin your degree in biochemistry once you start learning at the university level.
- All science-related fields will be helpful at this point.
- Make sure you take Biology, Chemistry, Physics, Zoology, Microbiology, Organic Chemistry, and any other science-related classes you’re able to take.
- Take Advanced Placement classes when possible because they will be more rigorous and you will learn more from them.
Learn math.As a biochemist, you will need a basic understanding of math and how mathematical principles are played out in the natural world. Math knowledge will be especially useful when studying certain concepts in chemistry like electrochemistry, entropy, chemical potential, etc.
- Focus on math subjects like algebra, trigonometry, and calculus.
Learn effective oral and written communication.Biochemists need to communicate effectively with coworkers and ensure that their research is organized and easily understood by their peers. Poor communication skills could lead to potential problems with research experiments and how results are recorded.
- Take your English classes seriously to help your written communication skills. You could also take a Drama or Speech class to help you become a better public speaker which will be helpful to you in your career as a Biochemist when you need to present your work to others.
Check out potential college programs.You should start thinking about what college you’ll want to attend while you’re still in high school. This means searching out what schools you might apply to that have well-respected science programs and offer courses in biochemistry and other sciences that you’ll need to take.
- Apply to several colleges to increase your likelihood of getting accepted to a program you’re interested in.
Earning Your Bachelor’s Degree in Biochemistry
Choose your major.Sometimes you can earn your bachelor's in biochemistry, but not all 4-year colleges and universities offer these specialized degrees. Take advanced courses beyond the minimum needed for the degree and major. You will do yourself a huge favor by getting a head start and learning things you will eventually need to know sooner rather than later.
- If biochemistry isn’t offered at your university, aim for a degree in biology, chemistry, or physics.
- Make sure to take classes like General Chemistry, General Physics, Introduction to Biology, Introduction to Environmental Science, Anatomy and Physiology, Microbiology, Biochemistry, and Organic Chemistry.
Apply to be a lab assistant.Much of the work you’ll do as a biochemist will involve doing some type of research in a lab, so it’s a good idea to get some experience early on if possible. Find out if your university allows undergrads to be employed as student laboratory assistants.
- Being a lab assistant will look great on your résumé and will work in your favor when you are applying to graduate programs.
Do outside research.Doing research early is critical to ensure career satisfaction, as research is a core component of being a biochemist. Moreover, research experience will greatly increase your chances of acceptance into graduate schools.
- Seek out senior biochemistry professors and express your career interest and desire to do research. It helps to take a look at their CV and research interests before you speak with them. Ask them if they have any opportunities available for you to work with them.
Gain more experience in the field.While you are taking science courses and working toward your undergraduate degree, you also need to be gaining experience in the field of biochemistry. One of the best ways to do so is to apply for summer internships, work study programs for students in the Science department, or any other kind of job that will get you some experience to put on your CV.
Furthering Your Education as a Biochemist
Apply to graduate school.Check the admissions criteria of the schools you are interested in applying to. Make sure to get good letters of recommendations – those from senior faculty members and department chairs carry greater weight than those from research assistants or temporary faculty members.
- You may have to take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) – the general test and/or a subject-specific test – in order to apply to certain graduate programs. Make sure you find out what your desired program requires well in advance so that you’ll have time to study for the exam, register for the exam, and take the exam so that your scores will be ready before the due date for your graduate application.
Earn your master's degree.A master’s degree in biochemistry includes time in the classroom, field work, laboratory research, and the presentation of a thesis. There will be a lot of involved time in the laboratory to help prepare you for your future career as a biochemist.
- A master's degree usually takes two more years after you earn a bachelor's degree.
Continue gaining work experience.While working on your graduate degree, it is important to continue working in the field of biochemistry so that your chances of getting a job when you graduate will be improved.
- Try getting an internship at a prestigious company that is well-known for hiring biochemists or try to get a job in a lab doing research in biochemistry.
Consider a doctorate degree.You can get many entry-level jobs as a biochemist without earning a PhD. However, if you want to go on to teach at the university level or to do independent research of your own, you’ll need to consider getting a doctorate degree in your field.
- PhDs usually take four to six years past a master’s degree and require a lot of time and dedication. During a PhD program, you will put in many hours in the laboratory and you will probably be asked to teach a few undergraduate classes.
Apply for postdoctoral research positions.Postdoctoral positions are a great way for biochemists to continue their education and their research without committing to a long-term job or project. These jobs can provide opportunities to publish your research findings and gain more experience in the field.
- You usually need several published studies to find permanent work in research in laboratory settings.
Finding a Job as a Biochemist
Apply for a job as a lab technician.Many biochemists get jobs in laboratories, especially those with only a bachelor’s degree in the field. Lab technicians help with research in the laboratory, but are supervised by a more qualified scientist/researcher.
- To find these jobs, you can search various job posting websites.
Get a job with a governmental agency.Many governmental agencies want to employ biochemists for a variety of reasons. This includes things like water regulation, food and drug regulation, and other similar things that the government is in charge of.
- There are many governmental agencies to check for employment opportunities like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA),the National Science Foundation (NSF),or the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Apply for a teaching position.Another option for a job as a biochemist is to return to the university in a teaching capacity. You typically apply through the school itself for these kinds of positions.
- To teach at the university level, you will need at least a master’s degree in this or a related field.
- You will be able to teach a new generation of biochemists the skills they’ll need in the field.
- You can check postings for teaching positions directly through individual schools or on websites where higher education jobs are frequently posted.
QuestionWhere do I go to become a biochemist? Which colleges?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerThere is no specified educational institute to go to. Earn your bachelor's degree in biology or one of its sub-specialties. Sometimes you can earn your bachelor's in biochemistry, but not all four-year colleges and universities offer these specialized degrees. Do some research as to what degree course meets your interests and needs.Thanks!
QuestionWhere does a biochemist work?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerBiochemists most often work in laboratories. often these laboratories are part of a university.Thanks!
QuestionDo I need to be skilled with technology?wikiHow ContributorCommunity AnswerYes. Knowing basic computer knowledge especially will help you in the bioinformatics portion, which you might have to study as a complementary/open course in college. It's always better to keep yourself updated with most technologies, their applications, and how they can help in your field of studies. It will give you an upper hand in the job market.Thanks!
How many years does it take a student to be a biochemist?
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What can I do if I studied biochemistry?
- A Ph.D. is required most of the time to do independent research or advanced jobs in applied research or product development. This degree is usually required for management positions.
- Biological scientists need to have the discipline and patience to conduct long research projects. They should be able to work effectively as part of a team or independently.
- Graduates with a bachelor's or master's degree can work as teachers or research technicians. Sometimes jobs in applied research or product development are available to graduates at this level.
Video: How to Become a Biochemist
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