Biochemist

Biological scientist

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Biochemists investigate the chemical processes that take place inside all living things, from viruses and bacteria to people.

Salary range: £26,500 to £60,000

How to become a biochemist

You can get into this job through:

  • a university course
  • working towards this role
  • specialist training with the NHS

University

You’ll usually need a science degree. For jobs in industry or research, you may also need a postgraduate qualification like a master’s degree or PhD.

Relevant degree subjects include:

  • biochemistry
  • biotechnology
  • biopharmaceuticals
  • chemical and molecular biology
  • microbiology genetics
  • molecular biology

During your degree course, you may be able to get experience of working in a laboratory through a Summer Vacation Studentship.

Some universities also offer a science foundation year as part of a degree if you have not studied science subjects to the level needed.

Entry requirements

You’ll usually need:

  • 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C), or equivalent, including English, maths and science
  • 3 A levels, or equivalent, including biology and chemistry
  • a degree in a relevant subject for postgraduate study

More information

Work

You could work as a laboratory technician and study on the job for a degree to qualify.

Other routes

In the NHS, you can train by following the NHS Scientist Training Programme (STP).

More information

Career tips

Integrated master’s qualifications like MBiolSci, MBiochem or MSci can be studied at university. These courses combine more independent research and are designed to lead directly onto further postgraduate study like a PhD.

Professional and industry bodies

Membership of a professional body like the Biochemical Society or the Royal Society of Biology may be useful to reinforce your status as a professional scientist and to help keep your knowledge current.

Further information

You can find out more about becoming a biochemist from:

What it takes

Skills and knowledge

You’ll need:

  • maths knowledge
  • knowledge of biology
  • knowledge of chemistry including the safe use and disposal of chemicals
  • excellent verbal communication skills
  • science skills
  • knowledge of physics
  • concentration skills
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

What you’ll do

Day-to-day tasks

Your tasks will vary by industry

In the pharmaceutical, food or brewing industries, your work will include:

  • developing new products
  • monitoring production
  • quality control
  • checking the safety of existing products

In a hospital, public health laboratory or research institute, your work will include:

  • carrying out tests on blood
  • researching the causes of disease
  • exploring new methods of treatment

In agriculture and the environment, your work will include:

  • genetically engineering plants to create pest-resistant crops
  • improving the quantity of crops
  • developing and extending the shelf life of produce
  • monitoring the effects of pollution on the environment

As a biochemist in education, you could work in universities or colleges, or medical, veterinary or dental schools.

Working environment

You could work at a research facility, in a laboratory or at a university.

You may need to wear protective clothing.

Career path and progression

With experience, you could become a team leader or manager, running a department, or move into research, sales and marketing, or scientific journalism.

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