Biochemist Kairarau Matū Koiora

Biochemists study the chemical structure and function of animals, plants and micro-organisms such as bacteria and viruses. They use this research to develop medical, industrial and agricultural products.

Biochemists may do some or all of the following:

  • study the chemical make-up of living cells including genes, proteins and molecules 
  • study chemical processes such as cell development and disease
  • study the effects of diseases or vaccines on living things
  • develop and test new products such as medicines or ingredients
  • write scientific reports and papers for journals
  • manage laboratory teams. 

Physical Requirements

Biochemists need to have good eyesight (with or without corrective lenses) and good hand-eye co-ordination as they work with small amounts of substances.

Useful Experience

Useful experience for biochemists includes:

  • work with medicines or chemicals
  • work as a science technician or medical laboratory technician
  • other laboratory work
  • experience writing reports.

Personal Qualities

Biochemists need to be:

  • enquiring and observant
  • self-motivated
  • patient and detail-oriented
  • creative and innovative
  • good at problem solving 
  • good at writing and communicating
  • good at planning and organising.

Skills

Biochemists need to have:

  • knowledge of biology, chemistry and statistics 
  • knowledge of chemicals  and their effects on living things
  • skills in performing experiments and operating scientific equipment
  • skills in researching, as well as interpreting and analysing research results
  • maths and computer skills
  • skills in writing grant proposals and funding applications.

Biochemists working at a senior level may also need team management skills.

Conditions

Biochemists:

  • usually work regular business hours but may work evenings or overtime to meet project deadlines
  • usually work in laboratories and offices, but some may work in the field collecting samples or performing field trials
  • may travel locally and overseas to attend workshops and conferences
  • may be exposed to hazardous chemicals, diseases and body fluids, but only in carefully controlled and well-regulated facilities.

Biochemists can earn around $42K-$75K per year.

Pay for biochemists varies depending on qualifications, experience and the type of work they do.

  • Biochemists with Bachelor's degrees can expect to earn $42,000 to $55,000 a year.
  • Biochemists with Master's degrees usually earn between $55,000 to $75,000.
  • Senior biochemists who have PhDs can earn between $76,000 to $94,000.
  • With more responsibility and experience, biochemists can earn up to $130,000 or more a year. 

Source: BioTech New Zealand, 2019. 

Biochemists may progress to senior positions from working as technicians, become project leaders or do postgraduate study to specialise in a particular research area. They may also move into biotechnology, food technology, medical sales or teaching roles.  

Years Of Training

3-9 years of training usually required.

To become a biochemist you need to have one of the following qualifications:

  • Bachelor of Technology majoring in biochemistry
  • Bachelor of Science
  • Bachelor of Science and Technology.

Postgraduate qualifications, such as a Master's degree or PhD, are recommended for those wanting to enter research-based positions.

Biochemist