Biochemists use their knowledge to understand how different scientific processes and substances work. Biochemistry jobs can be extremely rewarding and offer many opportunities for personal and professional growth.
What is a biochemist?
A biochemist is a biological chemist. They study the chemical processes and transformations in animals, human beings and plant life, as well as the chemical reactions in cells and tissue. A biochemist will work across many forms of science and industry. Biochemists have been known to work in biotechnology, genetic engineering, medicine, agriculture and veterinary sciences.
Generally, biochemists work in a medical setting. Those in this sector would research cancer treatment, Alzheimer’s and hereditary issues.
It will be nearly impossible to find a job as a biochemist without a degree of some kind.
The responsibilities you will have as a biochemist will depend on what industry you are working in and the company you work for. The most common responsibilities of a biochemist are:
- Carry out research.
- Complete technical reports.
- Contribute to research papers.
- Liaise with other scientific specialists.
- Maintain and clean equipment for use.
- Manage teams.
- Plan projects.
- Synthesise proteins.
These responsibilities may also change depending on the company you work for. As your role progresses, you may be asked to train other biochemists and work on large-scale projects.
Your salary will depend on several factors. Those working in London tend to have a higher salary than those in other areas. Your qualifications can also impact your earning potential, as can the company you work for. Your biochemistry designation is also critical; for instance, a medical biochemist may have a greater earning potential than other careers in biochemistry.
Generally, your starting biochemist salary will be around £24,000. After this, you will slowly see your salary increase. As you move into more senior roles, you can potentially earn as high as £38,000. Some biochemists’ salaries have been known to reach as high as £60,000.
This is a role that is constantly evolving. You will need to have training while on the job, provided either by your employer or that you find yourself.
It will be nearly impossible to find a job as a biochemist without a degree of some kind. This is a highly competitive industry and requires an advanced level of understanding.
The best subjects to study to become a biochemist are:
- Biochemistry degrees
- Biotechnology degrees
- Chemistry degrees
- Medicine degrees
- Microbiology degrees
- Molecular biology degrees
- Pharmacology degrees
- Physics degrees
An undergraduate degree will generally be enough for most employers. That being said, some companies are known to require applicants to have a postgraduate degree as well. It is also possible to enter this role with a foundation degree, but this will depend on the employer.
Training and development
This is a role that is constantly evolving. You will need to have training while on the job, provided either by your employer or that you find yourself. The training you can do will also depend on which industry you are working in.
Those working in the NHS will have access to several different training and development programmes. Graduates can take advantage of the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP) or the Higher Specialist Scientist Training (HSST) programme when working with the NHS.
Work experience is not essential for this role but is very helpful.
It is also possible to register with other training providers. Organisations such as the Biochemical Society offer training courses, networking events and help for those studying a continuing professional development (CPD). A CPD is not an industry requirement, though your employer may require you to complete one anyway.
There are several key skills required to be successful in this role. The most common skills needed to become a biochemist are:
- A logical approach.
- Excellent analytical skills.
- Excellent communication skills.
- Excellent mathematical skills.
- Good interpersonal skills.
- Good problem-solving skills.
- Good time management skills.
- The ability to work alone.
- The ability to work in a team.
These skills can also be further honed through training and development.
Work experience is not essential for this role but is very helpful. Experience in a biochemistry role is more of a requirement when you are applying for roles at a senior level. Experience in the medical industry, in laboratories or in any scientific-based job will help you a lot.
It is possible to apply for work experience in biochemistry as well. At a pre-university level it will be tough, but those at university tend to find things a bit easier, especially if their course contains a work placement year.
To begin with, you will likely start as a researcher. At this level, you will be responsible for helping the chemists and lab workers with their experiments and with maintaining and cleaning the equipment after each use. You will also carry out specific research tasks for scientists.
A biochemist is a biological chemist. They study the chemical processes and transformations in animals, human beings and plant life, as well as the chemical reactions in cells and tissue.
With enough experience in various research careers, you will move into the biochemist role. With a few years experience, it is possible to move into a more senior role wherein you will be responsible for training new chemists, carrying out equipment orders and managing budgets within the team.
Once you have the appropriate experience, you can move into research and development roles. Here, you will be responsible for leading research projects and for carrying out extensive research in a chosen field and presenting those findings to directors.
After years in biochemistry, you may look to move into other roles. Many biochemists decide to move into the field of teaching or lecturing to help other students to benefit from their experience. It is also possible to move into quality assurance, field services, pharmacology or data science.