What is Biochemistry?

As defined by the Biochemical Society, “Biochemistry is the ‘Chemistry of Life.’

It is central to all areas of the biological or life sciences. The aim is to provide an understanding of every aspect of the structure and function of living things at the molecular level. It is a practical laboratory science that applies the molecular approaches of chemistry to the vast variety of biological systems. Biochemists work at all levels and with all types of biological organisms, ranging from biomolecules to man. There are close links with other specialist life sciences, such as Cell Biology, Genetics, Microbiology, Molecular Biology, Physiology and Pharmacology. In fact, in many cases the distinctions between these disciplines are becoming increasingly blurred. They use biochemical techniques, and biochemists work in all these areas. Biochemistry offers the tremendous challenge of seeking to understand the most fundamental of life’s processes at the molecular level, and to utilize this knowledge for the benefit of mankind. You will have read, for example, how biochemists, working with colleagues in other disciplines, have developed the new technologies of Molecular Biology and Genetic Engineering. These have enabled the production of therapeutically important human proteins such as insulin and blood clotting factors by cloning procedures, thus avoiding costly, time-consuming and inefficient isolation of these molecules from biological sources; the identification and possible remedying of genetic problems; and the use of DNA fingerprinting in forensic science.”

What is this career like?

“Biochemists work in many walks of life: industry, hospitals, agriculture, research institutes, education and associated areas. Many areas of everyday life as diverse as medical products and diagnostics, new food and its safety, crop improvement, cosmetics and forensic science owe their development or even existence to biochemists.

Pharmaceutical, food, brewing, biotechnology and agrochemical companies all need and employ biochemists to develop new products and monitor the production, quality control and safety of existing ones.

Hospitals, public health laboratories and medical research institutes, as well as the pharmaceutical industry, all require biochemists. Here they provide a diagnostic service, carrying out tests on blood, urine and other body fluids, alongside researching the underlying causes of disease and the methods of treatment.

Agriculture and the Environment
Biochemists and biotechnologists, who often have a biochemistry degree, working in agriculture have been responsible for many developments, such as pest-resistant crops, improvements in crop yields and tomatoes that keep better. They also monitor the environment. Employers include seed companies, local government, the Civil Service and water authorities.

All levels of education offer prospects for biochemists. The combination of biology and chemistry, along with the training in numerical and analytical skills that is given in any area of science, makes biochemistry ideal for teaching throughout the school age range. There are also opportunities for more advanced teaching, usually associated with research, in universities and colleges, and in medical, dental and veterinary schools.

Away from Science
A science background can be an excellent starting point for many other careers. Biochemistry is a numerate subject that develops analytical thinking, creativity in problem solving, and the ability to handle large amounts of complex information—skills required in jobs in all walks of life, including, for example, sales and marketing, accountancy and finance, journalism, and patent work.”

Related Career Titles (from

Agricultural ScientistEnvironmental EngineerMarine Engineering Tech
AgronomistEnvironmental HealthMarine Fisheries/Worker
Animal ScientistEnvironmental ProtectionMarine Geologist
Aquaculture FarmerErgonomistMarine Sales
Aqua culturistFish Hatchery TechMarine Tourist Worker
Aquarium & MuseumFisheries ConservationMarket Research Analyst
Aquarium TechnicianFloristMedical Illustrator
Aquatic BiologistFDA InspectorMedical Laboratory Tech
AssayerFood Scientist-TechMedical Librarian
Barrier Beach MgrForesterMedical Technologist
Bio-EngineerGenetic Eng. ResearchMeteorologist
BiochemistHealth OfficerMolecular Biologist
Boat Builder & RepairHospital AdministratorMuseum/Aquarium Admin.
BotanistHydrographic SurveyorMycologist
Chem. OceanographerIndustrial HygienistNaval Architect
ChiropractorIndustrial Marine Econ.Genetic Counselor
Coastal Resources Mgr.EntomologistNet Designer
College ProfessorForensic ChemistNeurobiologist
Color Development ChemistLimnological TechnicianOceanographer
Commercial Fishing Eng.Marine-Coastal ConsultParamedic
CoronerMarine BacteriologistParasitologist
Crime Lab AnalystMarine BiologistPharmaceutical Sales
DentistMarine EcologistPhysician
Dietitian & NutritionistPhysical TherapistSalt Marsh Manager
EcologistPublic Health WorkerScience Writer
Pharmacy TechnicianScience TeacherSoil Conservationist
Science Lab Tech.State Parks & RecreationSystems Analyst
ZoologistTest-Inspection Tech.Toxicologist
Wildlife Resources Mgr.Wildlife BiologistScience Illustrator
Technical WriterFilm MakerWater Quality Technician
Geophysicist/PhysicistSeafood Processor-ResearcherVeterinarian
Commercial Inland Water Transportation WorkerWastewater Treatment ChemistUnderwater Technician


How do you get ready?

  • As an undergraduate, seek laboratory experiences such as research projects, volunteering with professors, summer jobs, or internships.
  • Participate in research programs sponsored by organizations such as the National Science Foundation and the National Institutes of Health.
  • Consider a certificate program or specialized master’s program to qualify for research technician positions.
  • Earn a master’s degree for greater variety and autonomy on the job.
  • Earn a Ph.D. to work on high-level research projects, to direct research programs, to enter high levels of administration, and to teach at four-year post-secondary institutions. Postdoctoral fellowships may also be required.
  • Learn to work independently and as part of a team.
  • Develop the ability to communicate clearly.
  • Gain competencies in computers and mathematics.
  • Read scientific journals and join related professional organizations.
  • Combine an undergraduate degree in biochemistry with a degree in law, computer programming, business, education, information science or other discipline to expand career opportunities.

Related Major Skills (from

Developing theoriesScience and math ability
Conduct researchPerseverance
Attending to dataAnalytical skills
CuriosityFollow-through skills
Utilizing formulasPerform experiments
Operate scientific equipmentInformation handling & organization
Practical knowledge and problem solvingStatistical awareness
Process dataObservation and decision making
Work independently and in groupsTechnical skills
Oral and written communicationRemain objective


What about the future?

Employment of biochemists and biophysicists is projected to grow 8 percent from 2014 to 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 additional job outlook information, refer to .

Available at Albright College Career Development’s Resource Library

  • Great Jobs for Biology Majors, by Blythe Camenson
  • Careers for Animal Lovers and Other Zoological Types, by Louise Miller
  • Careers for Environmental Types and Others Who Respect the Earth, by Jane Kinney and Michael Fasulo
  • Careers for Nature Lovers and Other Outdoor Types, by Louise Miller
  • Careers for Plant Lovers and Other Green Thumb Types, by Blythe Camenson
  • Careers for Scientific Types and Others with Inquiring Minds, by Jan Goldberg
  • Opportunities in Biological Science Careers, by Charles A. Winter
  • Opportunities in Biotechnology Careers, by Sheldon S. Brown
  • Opportunities in Dental Care Careers, by Bonnie Kendall
  • Opportunities in Environmental Careers, by Odom Fanning
  • Opportunities in Eye Care Careers, by Kathleen Belikoff
  • Opportunities in Forestry Careers, by Christopher M. Wille
  • Opportunities in Horticulture Careers, by Jan Goldberg
  • Opportunities in Physical Therapy Careers, by Bernice R. Krumhansl
  • Opportunities in Physician Careers, by Jan Sugar-Webb
  • Opportunities in Public Health Careers, by George E. Pickett & Terry W. Pickett
  • Opportunities in Research and Development Careers, by Jan Goldberg
  • Opportunities in Sports Medicine Careers, by William R. Heitzmann
  • Opportunities in Veterinary Medicine Careers, by Robert E. Swope
  • Great Jobs for Chemistry Majors, by Mark Rowh
  • Career Opportunities in Science, by Susan Echaore-McDavid
  • Careers for Competitive Spirits and Other Peak Performers, by Jan Goldberg
  • Careers for Geniuses and Other Gifted Types, by Jan Goldberg
  • Careers for Introverts and Other Solitary Types, Blythe Camenson
  • Opportunities in Chemistry Careers, by John H. Woodburn
  • Opportunities in Energy Careers, by John H. Woodburn
  • Opportunities in Environmental Careers, by Odom Fanning
  • Opportunities in Forensic Science Careers, by Blythe Camenson
  • Opportunities in Medical Technology Careers, by Karen Karni
  • Opportunities in Pharmacy Careers, by Fred Gable
  • Opportunities in Research and Development Careers, by Jan Goldberg
  • Opportunities in Science Technician Careers, by JoAnn Chirico
  • The Complete Guide to Environmental Careers in the 21st Century, The Environmental Careers Organization

Links to Internet sites are provided for your convenience and do not constitute an endorsement by Albright College Career Development Center.

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