In Summary - Biochemist
Biochemists typically work in the following Career Sectors:
The Work - Biochemist
Biochemistry is the study of chemical processes in organisms. Biochemists may look into changes that occur in the body due to disease, examine how hormones work, or how plants convert sunlight into chemical energy. They carry out research and development of products to solve problems in industry, agriculture and medicine.
At the start of pharmaceutical research projects, biochemists usually investigate how a disease develops and spreads. The results help to decide what biological properties and chemical structure a drug should have, and what form it should take, for example, as a tablet or lotion.
They analyse and interpret data related to patient samples, this assists with the investigation diagnosis and treatment of diseases. They are responsible for the evaluation and quality assessment of diagnostic tests.
Work on a new drug involves routine testing, often using laboratory animals. The biochemist must test the drug's strength and look for possible side effects. In their research, biochemists may work with chemists, biologists, pharmacists and medical doctors.
Clinical biochemists in the health service analyse body tissues and fluids to help with routine diagnosis, and help to monitor treatment. Biochemists test body fluids like blood to detect changes in the body caused by disease.
Biochemists use computers for data handling and routine analysis. Sophisticated equipment can carry out thousands of tests per hour. Other tests, for example to find a drug taken in an overdose, may be intricate and take several days of manual testing.
Biochemists in the agrochemical industry help develop products like insecticides and fertilisers.
Most commonly reported Work Tasks
- Study physical principles of living cells or organisms and their electrical or mechanical energy, applying methods and knowledge of mathematics, physics, chemistry, or biology.
- Share research findings by writing scientific articles or by making presentations at scientific conferences.
- Prepare reports or recommendations, based upon research outcomes.
- Teach or advise undergraduate or graduate students or supervise their research.
- Manage laboratory teams or monitor the quality of a team's work.
- Isolate, analyze, or synthesize vitamins, hormones, allergens, minerals, or enzymes and determine their effects on body functions.
- Determine the three-dimensional structure of biological macromolecules.
- Develop new methods to study the mechanisms of biological processes.
- Study the mutations in organisms that lead to cancer or other diseases.
- Study the chemistry of living processes, such as cell development, breathing and digestion, or living energy changes, such as growth, aging, or death.
Most commonly reported Work Activities
- Analyzing Data or Information Identifying the underlying principles, reasons, or facts of information by breaking down information or data into separate parts.
- Updating and Using Relevant Knowledge Keeping up-to-date technically and applying new knowledge to your job.
- Processing Information Compiling, coding, categorizing, calculating, tabulating, auditing, or verifying information or data.
- Getting Information Observing, receiving, and otherwise obtaining information from all relevant sources.
- Making Decisions and Solving Problems Analyzing information and evaluating results to choose the best solution and solve problems.
- Interacting With Computers Using computers and computer systems (including hardware and software) to program, write software, set up functions, enter data, or process information.
- Thinking Creatively Developing, designing, or creating new applications, ideas, relationships, systems, or products, including artistic contributions.
- Documenting/Recording Information Entering, transcribing, recording, storing, or maintaining information in written or electronic/magnetic form.
- Estimating the Quantifiable Characteristics of Products, Events, or Information Estimating sizes, distances, and quantities; or determining time, costs, resources, or materials needed to perform a work activity.
- Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events Identifying information by categorizing, estimating, recognizing differences or similarities, and detecting changes in circumstances or events.
Interests - Biochemist
This occupation is typically suited for people with the following Career Interests:
Not surprisingly, some aspect of the natural sciences will run through the Naturalist's interests - from ecological awareness to nutrition and health. People with an interest in horticulture, land usage and farming (including fish) are Naturalists.
Some Naturalists focus on animals rather than plants, and may enjoy working with, training, caring for, or simply herding them. Other Naturalists will prefer working with the end result of nature's produce - the food produced from plants and animals. Naturalists like solving problems with solutions that show some sensitivity to the environmental impact of what they do. They like to see practical results and prefer action to talking and discussing.
The Investigative person will usually find a particular area of science to be of interest. They are inclined toward intellectual and analytical activities and enjoy observation and theory. They may prefer thought to action, and enjoy the challenge of solving problems with sophiscticated technology. These types prefer mentally stimulating environments and often pay close attention to developments in their chosen field.
Realists are usually interested in 'things' - such as buildings, mechanics, equipment, tools, electronics etc. Their primary focus is dealing with these - as in building, fixing, operating or designing them. Involvement in these areas leads to high manual skills, or a fine aptitude for practical design - as found in the various forms of engineering.
Realists like to find practical solutions to problems using tools, technology and skilled work. Realists usually prefer to be active in their work environment, often do most of their work alone, and enjoy taking decisive action with a minimum amount of discussion and paperwork.
As a biochemist, you must be able to think logically. You will need a thorough and methodical approach to your work, a very high degree of accuracy and an enquiring mind. You must be able to plan and use practical experiments. You need good communication skills for working in a team and must also be able to work independently.
Entry Requirements - Biochemist
Biochemists typically have a degree in Biochemistry, or a related science subject with a substantial biochemical content.
Almost all of the Universities and Institutes of Technology offer certificate, diploma or degree courses leading to qualification as a biochemist. Universities offer biochemistry as an option in a B.Sc. degree.
Note: From 2018, Health & Social Care Profressionals who provide services to the public are required to be registered CORU. A degree in which biochemistry was taken as a subject in the final examination is required in order to be eligible for registration as a Clinical Biochemist.
A postgraduate qualification like a MSc or PhD is an advantage, especially when applying for research posts, because entry is very competitive.
Some employers give graduates the opportunity to work towards a postgraduate qualification while they are in employment. It may be possible to work your way up from the position of laboratory technician. You would need to study part-time to do this.
Last Updated: October, 2017
Pay & Salary - Biochemist
Salary Range (thousands per year)* 28k - 60k
CPL / Morgan Mc Kinley
Last Updated: February, 2017
* The lower figures typically reflect starting salaries. Higher salaries are awarded to those with greater experience and responsibility. Positions in Dublin sometimes command higher salaries.
Labour Market Updates - Biochemist
While the supply of graduates appears to be sufficient to meet the annual recruitment requirement (5,500 graduates in 2017), the demand is arising for roles for those with a high level of experience and/or in niche areas. The demand is for a small number of people given the relatively small size of this occupation (approx. 1% of total employment) and in the areas associated with pharmaceuticals, biopharma and food development.
National Skills Bulletin 2018