Biochemistry Degrees: Bachelor's, Master's & Online Degree Info

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What will you learn in a biochemistry degree program? Read about degree requirements, the pros and cons of a bachelor's and master's degree and potential careers.
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Study Biochemistry: Degrees at a Glance

According to the American Chemical Society (ACS), biochemistry includes the study of substances, such as structure and composition, in living organisms. While there are some careers outside of a laboratory, most careers available to you with this degree involve scientific research. The ACS indicates that biochemistry is applicable in many scientific areas, including toxicology, pharmacology and microbiology.

One career you may pursue with a degree in biochemistry is a biological technician. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment opportunities for this career are expected to increase 14% from 2010-2020. For other careers, the outlook isn't as good. For example, over that same time period the BLS projected that the employment of chemists would increase just four percent.

Bachelor's Master's
Who is this degree for? Individuals interested in entry-level technician positions in biochemistry or related fields Individuals interested in research positions in biochemistry
Common Career Paths (with approximate median annual salary) - Biological technician ($39,000)*
- Medical and clinical laboratory technologist ($57,000)*
- Chemist ($70,000)*
- Natural science manager ($115,000 - salary common with at least five years of experience)*
Career paths for the master's degree are similar to those of the bachelor's, although there might be more advancement opportunities for candidates with a master's degree, as well as:
Biochemist or biophysicist ($79,000 - salary common for advanced positions with a doctoral degree)*
Time to Completion Four years, full-time Two years, full-time
Common Graduation Requirements - Around 120 semester credits
- Internship may be required or recommended
- Around 30 semester credits
- Thesis or comprehensive exam
Prerequisites - High school diploma or GED
- SAT or ACT scores
- Bachelor's degree
- GRE scores
Online Availability Rare; some online courses may be available Limited

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (May 2011 figures)

Bachelor's Degree Programs

Bachelor's degree programs, which typically award a Bachelor of Science, may combine biochemistry with another form of chemistry, such as molecular biology. These programs may be ideal if your goal is to pursue medical research or attend medical school, while other programs are available to prepare you to work on the technical side of the discipline. Through any of these programs, you will learn about the design, synthesis and modification of proteins and other molecules.

Pros and Cons


  • Joint bachelor's/master's programs are available
  • You will be prepared for a variety of entry- and mid-level careers related to biochemistry
  • Your studies can be applied to multiple fields, such as medicine and food science


  • Significant lab work may be required
  • Many courses are offered as sequences and you must complete them in order
  • Fully online programs at this level are not currently available

Coursework and Requirements

In addition to the core coursework, you will need to complete requirements in calculus, physics and biology. Some programs require the completion of a capstone course or sequence. Some of the core topics you may take include:

  • Current issues in biochemistry
  • Biochemical analysis
  • Organic chemistry
  • Biophysical chemistry
  • Inorganic chemistry

Online Programs

Bachelor's programs that are offered completely online are not available. This may be due to the extensive laboratories and other hands-on training requirements. However, you may find individual biochemistry courses available online that may be transferred for credit. These courses may require prerequisites.

How to Get Ahead with This Degree

In addition to completing your coursework, you may want to pursue undergraduate research to make yourself more marketable to employers or graduate schools. This is typically performed under the guidance of a professor. Most careers in biochemistry will require the use of complex laboratory equipment. You should take advantage of opportunities to gain experience with these instruments. You may also consider joining a professional organization like the ACS. The ACS offers networking opportunities, access to news magazines related to the field and career consultation.

Master's Degree Programs

Master's programs in biochemistry typically award a Master of Science. These programs prepare you for research in public or private facilities. While most programs are research-oriented, different schools have different specialties so you may want to investigate the faculty of a prospective program. In some cases, graduate assistantships are available to you once you have completed a certain amount of coursework.

Pros and Cons


  • Concentration or emphasis areas may be available
  • May have the option of completing a thesis or comprehensive exam
  • May give you an advantage over individuals with just a bachelor's degree
  • Graduate assistantships may be offered


  • May not qualify you for a scientist position at a university
  • You may need to maintain a certain cumulative grade point average
  • You may be competing for positions against applicants with less education and more experience

Coursework and Requirements

In addition to meeting the research requirements, you will need to complete some advanced coursework. Other requirements typically include attending seminars and some programs may have internships built into the curriculum. The capstone requirement can vary but is typically either a thesis or comprehensive exam. Some of the courses you may take include:

  • Advanced organic chemistry
  • Physical biochemistry
  • Proteins
  • Enzymes
  • Biochemistry of disease

Online Programs

Due to the significant research obligations that require you to be onsite, only a few master's programs in biochemistry are available online. These programs typically have the same prerequisites and course requirements as traditional programs. Some programs may require that you are a working professional and allow you to carry out your research through the company you work for.

How to Get Ahead with This Degree

You may set yourself apart by performing research in a popular area or on a topic that is broad and can be applied to many fields. Similar to individuals with bachelor's degrees, you'll need to be familiar with common laboratory equipment. You may also consider professional certification, such as the certification offered by the American Institute of Chemists. You will only need a bachelor's degree for this certification as well as proof of participation in work with the chemical sciences.

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