What is a Biochemistry Degree?

Biochemistry degree programs teach the chemical processes that occur in living matter. In other words, a biochemistry major learns about life’s molecular basis and the substances like proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and the nucleic acids that make up the genetic code.

This field is particularly connected to health research, to identifying the causes of disease and leading researchers to preventions, treatments, and cures. It also has applications to industry and manufacturing by producing new and more efficient materials. Forensics benefits from discoveries in the field that improve biochemical-based evidence.

Fundamental courses in a biochemistry program include the following:

• Organic Chemistry
• Inorganic Chemistry
• Analytic Chemistry
• Microbiology
• Cell Biology
• Genetics
• Physics
• Calculus

Program Options

Bachelor’s Degree in Biochemistry – Four Year Duration
The first two years of this undergraduate program are focused on courses in general chemistry, mathematics, and biology. It is typically in the second year of study that students take their first full course in biochemistry. The curriculum for years three and four is made up of lecture, laboratory, and research courses specific to the field. The following are some samples:

• Biochemistry – Proteins, Lipids, and Metabolism
• Biochemistry – Nucleic Acids and Biological Information Flow
• Antibiotics and Antibiotic Targets
• Protein Biosynthesis
• Molecular Biology
• Molecular and General Genetics
• Structural Biology – Principles and Practice
• Regulation of Signalling Pathways
• Genomics of Microbial Communities in Human Health
• Bioinformatics
• Medical Biochemistry
• Biochemistry Techniques
• Biochemistry Research Project

Graduates with a Bachelor’s Degree in Biochemistry often go on to work as research assistants and technicians with hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, and public health departments.

Master’s Degree in Biochemistry – Two to Three Year Duration
Students enrolled in a biochemistry master’s degree program specialize in a particular area of study. Branches of biochemistry include:

• Immunology – study of the immune system in a living organism
• Animal Biochemistry – study of the chemical composition and chemical reaction that occurs in the animal body
• Enzymology – study of the kinetics, structure, and function of enzymes
• Plant Biochemistry – study of structure, function, and chemical reaction in the plant
• Cell Biology – study of the structure and function of the cell
• Metabolism – study of how food is converted into energy
• Molecular Biology – study of the structure and function of macromolecules, such as proteins and nucleic acid, that are essential for life
• Genetics – study of the genes, variation, and heredity information of living organisms

Many biochemistry master’s graduates become research scientists or work for national health institutes.

Doctoral Degree in Biochemistry – Four to Six Year Duration
Biochemistry degree programs at the Ph.D. level prepare students for careers in advanced research and academia. While earning their degree, doctoral students often take on roles as teaching assistants. Much of their time is spent working with their faculty advisor on developing their selected dissertation.

Here are some examples of courses taken at this level:

• Recent Advances in Biochemistry
• Topics in Research on Polynucleotides
• Topics in Protein Research
• Topics in Research on Biomembranes
• Topics in Lipid and Lipoprotein Research
• Macromolecular Structure Analysis
• Topics in Protein Structure, Function, and Regulation
• Magnetic Resonance in Biology and Medicine

Degrees Similar to Biochemistry

A general biology degree program may include subjects like animal biology, invertebrate biology, vertebrate biology, cellular and molecular biology, evolution, microbiology, and ecology.

Biomedical Engineering
Simply stated, biomedical engineering uses engineering to solve health and medical problems. For example, a biomedical engineer might look for chemical signals in the body that warn of a particular disease or condition.

Majors in this field study engineering and the life sciences to create new products – such as vaccines, medicines, growth hormones for plants, and food additives – for the agricultural, industrial, and environmental industries. Among typical classes are biochemistry, general biology, cell biology, chemistry, and genetics.

Chemical Engineering
This degree field is focused on how the chemical, biochemical, and physical properties of substances can be changed to turn them into something else. Examples of this work are making plastic from oil, developing synthetic fibers for clothing, identifying ways to mass-produce drugs, and finding ways to solve environmental problems.

Chemistry degree programs teach students how to apply math, theory, and experimentation to study how matter or physical substance behaves, down to the atomic level.

Forensic Chemistry
Forensic chemistry applies the principle and techniques of chemistry to the testing of evidence from victims and crime scenes.

Molecular Biology
The field of molecular biology is concerned with genetics, with the structure and the relationships between four molecules in the body: proteins, fats, carbohydrates, nucleic acids.

The fields of pharmacology and biochemistry are very much connected to each other. Pharmacologists study how drugs and medicines work so they can be used in the right way. The work naturally involves an understanding of chemical and biological interactions.

Pre-Medicine (Pre-med)
This field is, of course, closely aligned with healthcare. Pre-med programs, designed to prepare students for medical school, include courses in general biology, molecular biology, biochemistry, and physics.

Skills You'll Learn

• Practical lab skills
• Safety consciousness
• Research and data analysis
• Observation, investigative, and problem-solving skills
• Communication and teamwork
• Debate skills
• Report writing
• Experiment design
• Computer literacy
• Awareness of ethical issues
• Understanding of the relationship between science and society

What Can You Do with a Biochemistry Degree?

A degree in biochemistry can be applied in several occupational categories:

• Analyzing large molecular databases for clinical or research purposes

Biomedical Engineering
• Research and development of new medical devices and products

• Product marketing and development
• Technical support and sales

Education and Research
• Teaching and research at universities and industrial laboratories

Forensic Sciences
• Application of biochemistry and science in general to legal matters and forensic investigation

• National institutes of health
• Health departments

• Scientific writing of technical news, reports, and grant requests

Medical Lab/Imaging Sciences
• Research and development of image processing and analysis systems

• Medical education (MD) programs • Undergraduate dentistry programs

• Inspecting and testing raw materials and bulk products used in drug development


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