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Biochemist

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

Also Known As

Biological Scientist, Research Scientist

NOC Codes

In Canada, the federal government groups and organizes occupations based on a National Occupational Classification (NOC) system. This alis occupation may not reflect the entire NOC group it is part of. Data for the NOC group can apply across multiple occupations.

The NOC system is updated every 5 years to reflect changes in the labour market. Government forms and labour market data may group and refer to an occupation differently, depending on the system used. Here is how this occupation has been classified over time:

  • 2006 NOC: Chemists (2112) 
  • 2006 NOC-S: Chemists (C012) 
  • 2011 NOC: Chemists (2112) 
  • 2016 NOC: Chemists (2112) 
Interests & Abilities

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2006 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Interest Codes

Interest Codes for This NOC Group

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

Your Interest Codes

To identify or change your interest codes, complete the Interests Exercise in CAREERinsite.

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 for this NOC group 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 About Interests

Abilities

Typical ability expectations for this NOC group
Your abilities

To fill in or change the values for your abilities, complete the Abilities Exercise in CAREERinsite.

Mental Abilities

General Learning Ability

Verbal Ability

Numerical Ability

Visual Abilities

Spatial Perception

Form Perception

Clerical Perception

Physical Abilities

Motor Coordination

Finger Dexterity

Manual Dexterity

Understanding Abilities

A Quick Guide

You are born with abilities that help you process certain types of information and turn it into action. These abilities influence which skills you can learn more easily.

The abilities or aptitudes shown for this NOC group come from the General Aptitude Test Battery (GATB). The GATB measures 9 aptitudes. It groups them into 3 categories: mental, visual, and physical.

The abilities scores range from 1 to 5, with 5 being stronger.

Learn About Abilities

Duties
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Biochemistry is a multidisciplinary field that combines the areas of biology and chemistry. It may also involve disciplines such as physics, math, computing, genetics, and physiology.

Biochemists often work in interdisciplinary teams with physiologists, pharmacologists, plant biologists, microbiologists, chemists, agronomists, and other professionals.

In general, 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
  • 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 3D 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
  • How 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, food additives, health, or medicinal products
  • Nanotechnology and the use of molecular machines and enzymes from cells for industrial applications
  • The use of DNA fingerprinting techniques for forensic investigations
Working Conditions
Updated Mar 31, 2019
  • Strength Required Lift up to 5 kg

Biochemists generally work in offices and labs. They may work onsite doing environmental or agricultural research, which can include livestock or plants. They may also work in industrial environments on product development. When experiments do not fit into a normal 8-hour workday, biochemists involved in research may work evenings and weekends. They must take health and safety precautions when working with chemicals, viruses, and other biohazards.

Traits & Skills
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Biochemists need:

  • Curiosity and imagination
  • Persistence
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Communication skills

They should enjoy:

  • Synthesizing information
  • Finding innovative approaches
  • Using equipment and instruments to perform tasks requiring precision
  • Co-ordinating and supervising the work of others

Top 10 Skills Employers Are Looking For

Chemists
NOC code: 2112

This chart shows which job skills are currently in highest demand for this occupational group. It was created using this occupation's 14 most recent Alberta job postings, collected between Oct 27, 2021 and May 12, 2022.

Review these skills to learn:

  • Whether or not this occupation matches your skill set
  • What training you may need to get these skills
  • What skills to highlight in your resumé, cover letter, and interview.
Personal Suitability: Accurate
Personal Suitability: Organized
Personal Suitability: Team player
Personal Suitability: Excellent written communication
Personal Suitability: Excellent oral communication
Personal Suitability: Judgement
Analytical Techniques: Spectroscopy
Specializations in Chemistry: Spectroscopy
Business Equipment and Computer Applications: MS Excel
Business Equipment and Computer Applications: MS Word
Educational Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2019
  • Minimum Education 4 years post-secondary

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 advance 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), proteomics (study of proteins), and metabolomics (study of metabolites). All of these are commonly 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. Regulatory officers in pharmaceutical industries also need several years of industry experience. To work in a hospital or private health-care lab or in some specialized health-care industries, PhD biochemists should take an additional 2- or 3-year post-doctoral course to become certified clinical chemists or clinical biochemists. For more information, visit the Canadian Society of Clinical Chemists (CSCC) website.

Biochemists whose work falls under the activities of the professional chemist should refer to the Chemist occupational profile.

All biochemists need to keep up with new developments and discoveries.


To expand or narrow your search for programs related to this occupation, visit Post-Secondary Programs.

Completing a program does not guarantee entrance into an occupation. Before enrolling in an education program, prospective students should look into various sources for education options and employment possibilities. For example, contact associations and employers in this field.

Certification Requirements
Updated Mar 31, 2019
  • Certification Not Regulated

There is currently no provincial legislation regulating this occupation in Alberta.

Employment & Advancement
Updated Mar 31, 2019

Biochemists are employed by:

  • Universities and medical schools
  • Provincial and federal governments
  • Biotechnology companies
  • Pharmaceutical companies
  • Companies in the oil, cosmetics, environmental, and food and beverage industries

Those who have a B.Sc. or master’s degree usually work as technicians or lab 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.

With an advanced degree, biochemists can move into supervisory positions. PhD biochemists usually must have 2 years of post-doctoral training to qualify for positions in post-secondary schools, industrial research labs, or governmental agencies.

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 [pdf] in this occupation is 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 (when people leave existing positions)
  • Occupational growth (when new positions are created)
  • 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.

In Alberta, the 2112: Chemists occupational group is expected to have a below-average annual growth of 1.3% from 2019 to 2023. In addition to job openings created by employment turnover, 20 new positions are forecasted to be created within this occupational group each year.

Note
NOC groups often include several related occupations. Although there is labour market data for the larger NOC group, this occupation makes up only a part of that group. It means data for this occupation may be different than the data shown. For example, only some of the new positions to be created will be for this occupation. It also applies to other data for the NOC group such as number of people employed.

Source: Alberta Regional Occupational Demand Outlook

Wage & Salary
Updated Mar 31, 2019

In Alberta, this occupation is part of 1 or more 2016 National Occupational Classification (NOC) groups. If there are multiple related NOC groups, select a NOC heading to learn about each one.

Average Wage
$42.22
Per Hour
Average Salary
$83,174.00
Per Year
Average Hours
37.4
Per Week
Average Months on Payroll
12
Survey Methodology Survey Analysis

Source
2019 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey

NOC 2112 Wage Profile

Unless otherwise noted, the data shown here is for all industries and all regions in Alberta.

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.

To see the full survey data for this NOC group, visit the wage profile.

Other wage sources
To make an informed wage and salary decision, research other wage sources [pdf] to supplement this data.

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.


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 $17.00 $48.42 $35.46 $38.55
Overall $20.70 $62.62 $42.22 $43.00
Top $30.48 $76.92 $51.15 $51.44

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.

Pay brackets for hourly wages

  • Starting pay: average pay offered for entry-level positions
  • Overall pay: average pay across all employees in this occupation
  • Top pay: average pay offered to top-paid employees

Industry Information
Public Administration
ALL INDUSTRIES

Skills Shortage

Employers that Recruited in the Last 2 Years

24%
24%)

Recruiting Employers that Experienced Hiring Difficulties

N/A

Employers with Unfilled Vacancies of over 4 Months

10%
10%

Vacancy Rate

5%
Related Post-Secondary Field of Study
  • Sciences
Other Sources of Information
Updated Mar 31, 2019

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

Canadian Society for Molecular Biosciences website: 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

Get information and referrals about career, education, and employment options from Alberta Supports.

Updated Mar 31, 2019. 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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