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What chemical reaction occurs when cancerous cells attack healthy ones? How exactly is near-sightedness passed from one generation to the next? Is it possible to produce a drought-resistant crop? In studying the chemical composition of living organisms, biochemists strive to answer questions such as these as they analyze the complex chemical combinations and reactions involved in metabolism, reproduction, growth, and heredity.

The majority of biochemists work in the growing field of biotechnology, along with teams of researchers from a variety of scientific disciplines. Students pursuing master’s and doctoral degrees in biochemistry typically start with a set of standard courses and a series of laboratory rotations designed to provide research experience in multiple areas. After this portion, programs focus on students’ individual research interests.

Degree Information

Master of Science (M.S.) degrees in Biochemistry usually take two years and require a thesis research project and the successful completion of examinations. In some cases, students choose between research- and literature-based tracks, the main difference being how the material for their thesis is gathered. Combined bachelor’s and master’s programs are available (but rare) and can be completed in five years. Ph.D. programs are usually completed in four to six years.

Questions to Ask Yourself When Choosing a Degree Program

  • Are the faculty members accessible? How closely do they work with students?
  • What research is the faculty doing?
  • Does the school have good research facilities and connections to employers?
  • Are laboratory rotations built into the program?
  • Does the program provide financial support?

Career Overview

Opportunities for those with a master’s degree in biochemistry are expanding along with the biotechnology industry. A master’s degree will qualify one for basic research positions as well as a number of science-related jobs in sales, marketing, and research management. A Ph.D. is required to conduct independent research. The largest employer and funder of independent researchers is the federal government, which has allocated more resources for research--but at the same time, the number of newly trained scientists has increased as fast as the research dollars.

Career/Licensing Requirements

There are no licensing requirements for careers in biochemistry.

Salary Information

In 2002, the median annual earnings of biochemists was $60,390. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $33,930 and the highest 10 percent earned more than $102,930.

Related Links

Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME)
CAHME is the only organization recognized to grant accreditation to individual academic programs offering a professional master's degree in healthcare management education in the United States and Canada.


  • Principles In Molecular And Cell Biology

  • Advanced Analytical Chemistry

  • Bioinorganic Chemistry

  • Biology And Pathogenesis Of Viruses

  • Biophysical Chemistry

  • Cell Biology

  • Enzymatic Basis Of Drug Metabolism

  • Introduction To Biochemical Engineering

  • Molecular Biology Of Gene Expression

  • Reaction Mechanisms Of Biological Molecules

  • Research Techniques (Laboratory Rotations)

  • Survey Of Immunology