Environment

Biochemist

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

Annual Salary

£25,000 to £42,000

Average UK salary in 2018 was £29,588 (source Office for Statistics)

Working hours

35 to 40

What's it all about?

Your role and 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, colleges and schools, or medical, veterinary or dental schools.

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.

You'll usually need:

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

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).

Further Information

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.

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.

You can find out more about becoming a biochemist from:

£25,000 to £42,000

Starter salary: £25,000

Experienced salary: £26,250 to £35,250

Your salary will vary depending on the area you specialise in, and whether you work in the public or private sector.

These figures are a guide.

35 to 40

You'll usually work 9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday. You may work shifts, and during busy periods may work longer hours.

You'll usually work in a laboratory. In the manufacturing industry, you'll also spend time in production areas. You'll wear protective clothing like a laboratory coat and safety glasses.

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

 

Skills required and how your skills match up

What skills are required?

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
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