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Biochemist

Biochemists study the chemical makeup and products of living matter, and the processes that occur in and between cells at the molecular level. They develop medical, agricultural, food science, pharmacological, industrial, environmental and other practical applications of biochemistry.

  • Avg. Salary $76,355.00
  • Avg. Wage $39.01
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary
  • Outlook below avg
  • Employed 2,400
  • In Demand Medium
Also Known As

Biological Scientist, Research Scientist

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

30%
30%
Average Wage
Starting
Overall
Top
  • Certification Not Regulated
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
NOC & Interest Codes
The Biochemist is part of the following larger National Occupational Classification (NOC).
Chemists
NOC code: 2112
INNOVATIVE

Interest in synthesizing information to conduct research to develop new chemical formulations and processes and to devise new technical applications of industrial chemicals and compounds; and to investigate chemical aspects of the mechanisms of drug action, the diagnosis and treatment of disease, organ function and the assessment of health

OBJECTIVE

Interest in precision working with instruments to analyze, synthesize, purify, modify and characterize chemical and biochemical compounds

DIRECTIVE

Interest in consulting in a particular field of technical expertise; and in developing and conducting programs of analysis to ensure quality control of raw materials, chemical intermediates and final products; may supervise other chemists and chemical technicians and technologists

Reading Interest Codes
A Quick Guide

The interest code helps you figure out if you’d like to work in a particular occupation. It’s based on the Canadian Work Preference Inventory (CWPI), which measures 5 occupational interests: Directive, Innovative, Methodical, Objective and Social.

Each set of 3 interest codes is listed in order of importance.

A code in capital letters means it’s a strong fit for the occupation.

A code in all lowercase letters means the fit is weaker.

Learn More

Duties
Updated Dec 19, 2016

Biochemistry is a multidisciplinary field that combines the fields of biology and chemistry, often with physics and mathematics as well.

Biochemists often work in interdisciplinary teams with physiologists, pharmacologists, plant biologists, microbiologists, chemists, agronomists and other professionals. During laboratory research, they often supervise the work of technicians and technologists.

In general terms, biochemists study the chemistry of biological molecules to better understand events and processes such as how:

  • living cells reproduce, acquire energy, grow and develop
  • enzymes function (metabolism)
  • gene regulation is controlled
  • organisms adapt to stresses and disease.

Biochemists may specialize in areas such as:

  • the chemistry of cellular processes such as metabolism, growth and aging
  • the neurochemistry of the brain
  • vitamins, DNA, RNA, hormones, enzymes and other proteins
  • the three-dimensional structure of biological macromolecules
  • the molecular basis of how the immune system functions
  • mutations in organisms that lead to cancer and other diseases
  • the way cells store and express genetic information
  • the way genetic variations affect responses to drugs
  • genetic engineering
  • biochemical diagnostic tests
  • recombinant DNA technology for the production of pharmaceutically and industrially useful proteins
  • environmental analysis of air and water quality, and the interdisciplinary study of human impacts on the environment
  • food testing and quality assurance
  • the development of new foods and food additives, health and medicinal products
  • nanotechnology and the use of molecular machines and enzymes from cells for industrial applications.

Biochemists in forensic science may specialize in the use of DNA fingerprinting techniques for identification purposes, or in the analysis of small molecular weight compounds such as alcohol and drugs. They may be called upon to give evidence in courts of law.

Working Conditions
Updated Dec 19, 2016

Biochemists generally work in office and laboratory environments. They may work in industrial environments on product development or on site conducting environmental research. When experiments do not fit into a normal 8-hour workday, biochemists may be required to work evenings and weekends. They must observe health and safety precautions when working with contaminants such as chemicals, viruses or other biohazards.

  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg
Skills & Abilities
Updated Dec 19, 2016

Biochemists need the following characteristics:

  • curiosity and imagination
  • persistence and a willingness to work long hours
  • problem solving skills
  • good oral and written communication skills
  • willingness to do the reading required to keep up with new developments and discoveries.

They should enjoy synthesizing information, finding innovative approaches, using equipment and instruments to perform tasks requiring precision, and co-ordinating and supervising the work of others.

Educational Requirements
Updated Dec 19, 2016

Most biochemists begin their post-secondary education by completing a bachelor of science (B.Sc.) degree in biochemistry or a related science such as chemistry, biology, physics, microbiology, physiology, pharmacology or genetics. Economics and management courses are a definite asset for biochemists who wish to eventually move into management positions.

Increasing access to large data sets obtained by genome sequencing and analysis using tools such as microarrays is making familiarity with statistics and computer programming a significant asset. Individuals with these skills can more easily work in areas such as bioinformatics, genomics (study of genomes) and proteomics (study of proteins), all of which commonly are used in academics, industry and government.

Independent investigators who determine and define research programs must have a master's or doctoral (PhD) degree in biochemistry. To work in a hospital or private health-care laboratory, or in some specialized health-care industries, PhD biochemists should take an additional 2-3 year post-doctoral course to become certified clinical chemists or clinical biochemists. For more information on clinical chemists and clinical biochemists visit the Canadian Society of Clinical Chemists (CSCC)website.

Biochemists whose work may fall under the activities of the professional chemist should refer to the Chemist profile.


Related Education

The following schools offer programs or courses that are related to this occupation but are not required to enter the field.

Concordia University of Edmonton

Grande Prairie Regional College

The King's University

For a broad list of programs and courses that may be related to this occupation try searching using keywords.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Dec 19, 2016

Below-average occupational growth is expected in Alberta for 2016 to 2020. Job openings are a result of employment turnover and newly created positions.

Biochemists are employed by the following types of employers:

  • universities and medical schools
  • provincial and federal governments
  • biotechnology companies
  • pharmaceutical companies
  • other companies in the oil, cosmetics, food and beverage, and environmental industries.

PhD biochemists usually must have 2 years of post-doctoral training to qualify for positions in academic schools, industrial research laboratories or governmental agencies. Those who have B.Sc. or master's degrees usually work as technicians or laboratory assistants under the supervision of senior biochemists. Some biochemistry graduates work in sales for biotechnology and pharmaceutical firms (for more information, see the Technical Sales Representative occupational profile).

Biochemists are part of the larger 2011 National Occupational Classification 2112: Chemists. In Alberta, 77% of people employed in this classification work in the following industries:

The employment outlook in this occupation will be influenced by a wide variety of factors including:

  • trends and events affecting overall employment (especially in the industries listed above)
  • location in Alberta
  • employment turnover (work opportunities generated by people leaving existing positions)
  • occupational growth (work opportunities resulting from the creation of new positions that never existed before)
  • size of the occupation.

Over 1,900 Albertans are employed in the Chemists occupational group. This group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 1.1% from 2016 to 2020. As a result, 21 new positions are forecast to be created each year, in addition to job openings created by employment turnover. Note: As biochemists form only a part of this larger occupational group, only some of these newly created positions will be for biochemists.

Employment turnover is expected to increase as members of the baby boom generation retire over the next few years.

Wage & Salary
Updated Dec 19, 2016

Chemists
NOC code: 2112

Survey Methodology

Survey Analysis

Overall Wage Details
Average Wage
Average Salary
Hours Per Week

Hourly Wage
For full-time and part-time employees
  • Low
  • High
  • Average
  • Median
Starting
Overall
Top
Wages* Low (5th percentile) High (95th percentile) Average Median
Starting $16.83 $49.10 $30.90 $30.06
Overall $22.60 $55.53 $39.01 $38.46
Top $26.44 $65.06 $45.80 $42.50

Swipe left and right to view all data. Scroll left and right to view all data.

* All wage estimates are hourly except where otherwise indicated. Wages and salaries do not include overtime hours, tips, benefits, profit shares, bonuses (unrelated to production) and other forms of compensation.

C: Lower Reliability
Data Reliability Code Definition

Lower Reliability, represents a CV of between 15.01% and 33.00% and/or if fewer than 20 survey observations and/or if survey observations represent less than 33% of all estimated employment for the occupation.


Industry Information
Public Administration
Manufacturing
ALBERTA, ALL INDUSTRIES
Professional, Scientific & Technical Services

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

30%
30%

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

26%
26%

Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

N/A

2015 Vacancy Rate

N/A
Related High School Subjects
  • English Language Arts
  • Mathematics
  • Science
    • Biology
    • Chemistry
    • Physics
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated Dec 19, 2016

Association of the Chemical Profession of Alberta website: www.pchem.ca

Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences website: www.csmb-scbm.ca

Canadian Society of Clinical Chemists (CSCC) website: www.cscc.ca

Chemical Institute of Canada website: www.cheminst.ca

ECO Canada website: www.eco.ca

For more information on career planning, education and jobs, visit the Alberta Learning Information Service (ALIS) website, call the Alberta Career Information Hotline toll-free at 1-800-661-3753 or 780-422-4266 in Edmonton, or visit an Alberta Works Centre near you.

Updated Mar 17, 2016. The information contained in this profile is current as of the dates shown. Salary, employment outlook and educational program information may change without notice. It is advised that you confirm this information before making any career decisions.

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