One of my good friends recently received a doctorate in biochemistry. Before he finished his education, I asked him what he was studying. His answer was that he was looking at gene sequences in fruit flies. I’ll be honest—most of what he said was beyond what I could comprehend—but I understood that the work he was doing was meant to ultimately discover truths about the human body and hopefully make life better and easier for some people.
Like my friend, biochemists delve into chemistry, biology, and life processes in living creatures. They study life at a molecular level with an eye on using what they learn for the public good. According to Career Assessment, people with INTJ personalities can make great biochemists, because they are intelligent, great at solving problems, and future-focused. INTJ personalities, also known as the masterminds of the world, could also make great lawyers, judges, mathematicians, marketing strategists, and engineers. They do well in fields like this because they enjoy using their intelligence to solve problems and ultimately make the world a better place.
There are several career paths that a biochemist could follow. Research, like the fruit fly studies my friend is involved in, is just one option. They could also dive into forensic science, patent law, pharmaceuticals and biomedicine, and education.
Do Biochemists Make Good Money?
What's The Median Salary For Biochemists?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median pay for biochemists and biophysicists in 2019 was $94,490 per year, or $45.43 per hour. This career area has an average growth rate of 4% per year, with an expectation that most biochemistry jobs require a doctorate or other professional degree.
The pay scale varies quite a bit. The highest-paid ten percent of biochemists in the United States earned more than $182,170, while the lowest-paid ten percent earned less than $50,620. This could be partially due to the types of industries that biochemists work in. The annual median pay for those working in wholesale industries is $120,240, while those working in management or scientific services earned $94,090. Biochemists working in the pharmaceutical field earned median pay of $78,820, while those working at colleges and universities earned median pay of $57,060 per year.
The location makes a difference, too. The top paying states for biochemists are Illinois, with an annual average salary of $114,300, and California, where biochemists earn an average salary of $107,830 per year. Biochemists can earn an annual average salary of more than $105,140 per year in Maryland, the District of Columbia, and Massachusetts, too. The highest-paying area of the United States is New York-Newark area, where biochemists earn an average annual salary of $147,350.
Contrast this with College Station, Texas, where biochemists earn an average salary of $46,240pe per year, or northwest rural Oklahoma, where they earn an average annual salary of $36,580.
Pay is also somewhat dependent on experience. PayScale lists the average pay for biochemists with 5-9 years of experience as $70,575, while those with 10-19 years of experience earn an average of $80,725 per year.
The above information indicates that biochemists can increase their salaries by getting more experience, moving to other areas in the nation, or working in a higher-paying industry, such as for pharmaceutical companies.
How Do Biochemists Make Money?
Biochemists have a long list of duties. These include planning and conducting complex research projects, managing laboratories and the teams that work in them, reviewing other studies and scientific literature, preparing research papers and presenting their findings, writing grants, and securing funds for further research.
The research itself can involve looking at the effects of drugs, hormones, and other chemical substances on the body. Biochemists can also study DNA and molecular processes. Some of their work could involve synthesizing, analyzing, or isolating certain chemicals, such as proteins or fats.
Research is a part of the job for around 75% of biochemists in the United States. They keep regular, full-time hours most of the time. Occasionally, a looming deadline requires biochemists to work longer hours or on weekends.
The fields they work in determine what a typical workday will look like. For example, a biochemist working at a university could split time between teaching classes and running research projects. Those working in hospitals or clinics could spend their time testing and analyzing human blood and other tissues to help diagnose illnesses. Biochemists working in agricultural industries could be working with pesticides, germicides, or genetically modified seeds, and those in forensic fields could be analyzing hair samples and other substances to help solve crimes.
In every biochemistry job, keeping meticulous notes and documenting everything is part of the process. Data validation, managing budgets, and troubleshooting problems are important, too.
Overtime pay for biochemists may be dependent on the field they work in. For example, those in forensic sciences may have more opportunities for overtime hours than those working at universities.
There are several professional organizations that biochemists can join, including the American Institute of Biological Sciences, the American Society for Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology.
Do Biochemists Have Good Job Satisfaction?
On a scale of 1-10, U.S. News ranked biochemistry careers at 5.9 for overall job satisfaction. The composite score included a job market ranking of 8, and salary came in at 7.6. Stress and work-life balance both received a 6, while future growth only received a 2.
Overall, a biochemistry career ranked #4 in the best science jobs category and #28 in the best STEM jobs category.
Career Explorers ranked job satisfaction for biochemists as 3.3 out of 5 stars, which put them in the top 44% of careers. Their overall job satisfaction was equal to or nearly equal to many other scientific disciplines, including geologists, biostatisticians, hydrologists, and foresters. In a similar survey, PayScale ranked biochemist job satisfaction at 3.7 out of 5 stars.
Job satisfaction was reported the highest with an Owl Guru survey, which showed that 70% of chemists are satisfied with their jobs. 62% of the survey respondents indicated that they felt their jobs make the world a better place.
There are definitely tradeoffs working as a biochemist. For example, the pay is great, but the educational requirements are high, too. The work is detailed and can be monotonous at times, but being able to solve problems that make a difference in other people’s lives can be extremely rewarding.
- The median pay for biochemists is more than $94,000 per year.
- Biochemists’ work revolves around understanding life processes and making life better, which can give them a sense of purpose and meaning.
- Most of the time, biochemists are able to work full-time, regular hours.
- Biochemists usually need to have a doctorate or other professional degree.
- Much of the work biochemists do is focused in deep research, so documentation and notes have to be meticulous and the data has to be validated.
- The future growth rate for biochemists isn’t as high as it is with some other jobs.
What Are The First Steps To Becoming A Biochemist?
Biochemistry jobs typically require doctorate degrees. Most Biochemists start by achieving bachelor’s degrees in biochemistry, biology, chemistry, physics, or engineering. Even before college, high school students can start learning by taking classes such as health, chemistry, and life sciences. Courses in math, statistics, and computer sciences could be helpful, too.
Lab work, math, computer sciences, and statistics become more important in college because these areas of study help prepare students for actual lab work and research. Many times, students can get extra experience by working for professors in university laboratories, and this can give them an edge on the competition. Colleges can also help by setting up laboratory-related internships with local clinics or pharmaceutical companies.
Graduate degrees include courses in more complex areas, such as toxicology, genetics, bioinformatics (think computer science specifically for biological data) and proteomics. Masters students perform a lot of lab work, while doctorate students are more involved in planning and overseeing research projects. Once they receive their doctorates, they can obtain temporary postdoctoral positions that allow them to continue their research and get published in prestigious scientific journals. This can set them up for getting a permanent position with a college or university, or they can move into other fields such as the pharmaceutical or agricultural industries.
According to U.S. News, the best biochemistry programs are found at the University of California-Berkeley, Harvard University, The Scripps Research Institute, and Stanford University. Due to the extensive lab work requirements, graduate courses and doctorate courses are held on campus. However, there are some great online undergraduate programs. These include programs from Arizona State University and the University of Maryland-Global Campus.
Do Biochemists Make Good Money?
Biochemists perform deep research in life sciences, and this can include studying everything from herbicides or protein synthesis to gene sequencing or drug interactions. These are highly specialized fields that require a doctorate degree in most cases.
But do biochemists make good money? The answer is yes, they do. In spite of the years of education required, the median pay is more than $94,000 per year, and the job satisfaction rating is high, too.